No matter who the Warriors end up facing in the 2019 NBA Finals, it wasn't going to be a walk in the park, especially without Kevin Durant.
While the Warriors were able to eliminate the Houston Rockets and roll over the Portland Trail Blazers without Durant, the two-time defending NBA champions have been adamant that they do in fact need Durant and are better with him in the lineup.
Many perceived the Warriors' constant gushing about the mercurial injured star as a way to try and convince him to stay in free agency, but that apparently wasn't the case.
The Warriors reportedly were very aware of how difficult their NBA Finals task would be without Durant, and have been worried about the prospect of playing either the Toronto Raptors or Milwaukee Bucks without him for some time, ESPN's Ramona Shelburne reported Friday.
"Privately, the Warriors had been concerned about their chances to beat Toronto or Milwaukee in the Finals if Durant wasn't able to play," Shelburne writes. "They knew they needed him as a failsafe on offense and maybe even more at the defensive end, given potential matchups with Kawhi Leonard or Giannis Antetokounmpo."
That private concern was warranted as seen Thursday night when the Raptors controlled most of the game en route to a 118-109 win in Game 1 at Scotiabank Arena.
While the Warriors' plan to swarm Leonard early and often was effective, the Raptors star was more than willing to pass out of the crowd and let Pascal Siakam (32 points), Marc Gasol (20) and the rest of Toronto's role players go to work.
It was on the offensive end where the Warriors missed Durant the most in Game 1.
Toronto's lengthy, athletic defense was focused on not letting Steph Curry get any open looks from 3-point range. The Raptors mixed up their coverages on Curry, doing everything they could to force him inside the 3-point line. While Curry still dropped 34, Klay Thompson (21) and Draymond Green (10) were the only other Warriors to score in double figures. Green struggled for most of the night, and Thompson was frustrated by the Raptors' defense from the opening tip, He knocked down a few in-rhythm jumpers, but was otherwise ineffective in Game 1.
Golden State desperately needed their cheat code in Game 1. No one truly can stop Durant, he just sometimes misses shots. The ability to throw Durant the ball on the wing or at the elbow when things aren't going well and have him get a quality look is something the Warriors missed in Game 1 and will continue to miss until Durant comes back, if he does return at all.
Despite the Game 1 loss, the Warriors remain outwardly confident they can complete their three-peat.
But it won't be easy, especially without Durant.