At the break update: With a close loss in Portland, the Golden State Warriors dropped to second place vs. Houston, in the competition for home court throughout the playoffs. There are several ways to look at that loss. On the one hand, on a night when the entire team shot poorly, the Dubs came within a few points of winning anyway, due to a 50 point performance by Kevin Durant. On the other hand, even the Durant insurance policy wasn't enough to offset subpar performances by the other stars and the bench. Is there a problem in team dynamics? That possibility can no longer be ignored.
Meanwhile Houston looks invincible, as do the reborn Cavs. The championship is really not a foregone conclusion, the playoffs aren't going to be as smooth as last year, and if there are weaknesses they need to be identified before it's too late.
As the fallout from trades and signings around the NBA trade deadline continue, some conclusions can already be drawn. For the Golden State Warriors, they mostly reinforce what's become evident over the past month.
The wholesale changes in the Cleveland Cavs lineup suggest the team may yet get into the playoffs and make some noise. But until the new Cavs can prove otherwise, the Celtics remain the only (remote) challenge to the Warriors in a finals series.
The Warriors are very likely to get their major challenge from Houston in the Western Conference playoffs. With the addition of another big man, Houston added to its formidable scoring machine. Houston is performing better than the Dubs right now, and they look likely to first of all challenge for home court throughout the playoffs. They appear to be the only team in the NBA that can hang with the Dubs for a seven game series, although when the Warriors aren't playing well (not enough defense, too many turnovers), they are vulnerable to teams like OKC and Boston.
The Warriors have made zero moves so far. Neither did the Spurs, and they are fading. So the season and the playoffs are shaping up to be Houston v. Golden State.
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