How Warriors benefited from missing NBA’s Orlando bubble in 2020:

How Warriors benefitted from missing NBA bubble in 2020 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea:

SAN FRANCISCO – From 2015 through 2019, a five-year span where the Warriors reached five straight NBA Finals – winning three of them – Golden State played an extra 105 games in the playoffs. That’s an extra regular season, plus another 23 games.

They were worn out, in every sense of the word.

Kevin Durant tore his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, and Klay Thompson tore his Achilles in Game 6. The Warriors ran out of gas and saw another title fall out of their grasp for reasons they could not control.

Then came the 2019-20 regular season.

Durant had already departed in free agency for the Brooklyn Nets. Thompson was set to miss the entire year. Four games into the season, Steph Curry fractured his hand and would play one more game the rest of the way. The Warriors finished with the worst record in the NBA at 15-50, before the league shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That season was nothing short of a new low for these Warriors, and they’re now reaping major rewards with their return to the Finals. Players like Jordan Poole had to learn on the fly during that season. He struggled without Curry and Thompson by his side, just like most rookies would. Now as a third Splash Brother and integral part to Golden State’s success, Poole sees the bigger picture.

“It was huge,” Poole said Wednesday, when asked about how important it was for him to get playing time as a rookie. “Being able to pick and choose my spots, feel the flow of the game and see the difference between college and the NBA. Finding ways to incorporate that to better my game with the 15-win season that we had.

“It was a blessing in disguise, for sure.”

Another blessing in disguise was the Warriors missing the NBA’s Orlando bubble once the season resumed.

The bubble consisted of 22 teams, with 16 already in playoff position and six more within six games of the playoffs. The Warriors, clearly, weren’t one of them. For three months, with training camp beginning on July 9 and the Finals set to run through Oct. 11, the NBA isolated itself in Disney World.

Kerr could not be happier the Warriors weren’t a part of it. That’s the last thing they needed.

“I think the pandemic year when we had the worst record in the league, I think it was very helpful to not go to the bubble,” Kerr said Monday to reporters. “I think our frankly guys were kind of fried emotionally from that five-year run going to the Finals every year and being injured. I think being away was the best thing for our guys to kind of be re-energized.”

There were talks about a Chicago bubble for the eight teams that weren’t invited to Orlando, but that never turned to a reality. More than six months after the pandemic-shortened regular season ended, the Warriors gathered as a group for the first time at Chase Center for a voluntary minicamp from Sept. 23 through Oct. 6. Curry and Draymond Green weren’t there, but Thompson was, which was a sight of what the Warriors could be in the near future before he unfortunately tore his Achilles in late November of 2020.

But Kevon Looney looked as healthy as ever after appearing in only 20 games during the 2019-20 season, and Poole was opening numerous eyes during the minicamp with his work ethic.

The final four teams from the Orlando bubble were the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Lakers, with the Lakers beating the Heat over six games in the Finals. Anthony Davis averaged 25.0 points and 10.7 rebounds per game for the Lakers in those six games.

In the last two seasons, he has been limited to only 76 games, which isn’t even one full season.

The Lakers had to beat the Warriors in the play-in tournament the season after winning the championship, and then lost to the Phoenix Suns in the first round. The Nuggets beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round over six games before being swept by the Suns. The Celtics and Heat both lost in the first round – Boston to Brooklyn in five games, and Miami was swept by the Milwaukee Bucks.

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Over the last three seasons, the Heat have played 43 playoff games. The Celtics have played 40, and the Warriors have played 16. The Heat finally flamed out in seven games to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, and rest, recovery and health could play major roles in the Warriors and Celtics fighting for the ultimate prize .

Going into the Finals, the Celtics had to endure a back-to-back seven-game series. Their brightest star, Jayson Tatum, has spent three-plus more hours on the court than Curry. As the Warriors hope to have the return of Gary Payton II, Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Iguodala, with all three going into Game 1 as questionable, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams II are also questionable to open the series and are expected to be day-to-day the rest of the way.

The Warriors would never trade any of their previous five trips to the Finals or the extra 105 games they played in that span. But taking a breather and being able to reassess from top to bottom has brought them back to the mountain top. Maybe rest really is good every once in a while.

That word is about to be an afterthought, though. Especially if it means another championship parade in The Bay.

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