The Golden State Warriors ultimately advanced to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals with a 101-92 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 7 on Monday, but if his team had been healthy, Steve Kerr believes the Warriors would've ended the series quicker.
Golden State held a 2-1 series lead through the first three games only to have veteran forward Andre Iguodala miss the final four games due to a left lateral leg contusion. If the former NBA Finals MVP hadn't gotten hurt, Kerr thinks there wouldn't have been much drama out West, via Reuters: "We would have won the series in five if Iggy played."
Houston, of course, dealt with injuries of its own. As he led his team to a 3-2 series lead, Chris Paul suffered a Grade 2 hamstring strain near the end of a Game 5 victory. The All-Star point guard would miss the final two games of the series, both losses.
Spears noted that Kerr's comments were in response to Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni telling Kevin Durant during Game 7 that the series would have ended differently had Paul played the final two games. Houston guard Eric Gordon echoed similar sentiments after the season-ending loss.
"It sucks because you know you could win this series if we just had one more playmaker," Gordon said, via ESPN's Tim MacMahon. "If we had Chris, if he was out there, we'd have been playing on Thursday. It's just tough."
Paul averaged 19.8 points, 4.6 assists and 6.8 rebounds per game against the Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference finals.
Both sides are left wondering "what if" injuries hadn't played a factor in the series. Houston will forever believe it would have won this series with a healthy Paul, while Golden State will point out the Iguodala injury was a series-changer of its own. With a healthy "Hamptons 5," the Warriors had stolen home-court advantage and had two double-digit victories in three games, including a 41-point blowout in Game 3.
The Rockets would squeak out the next two games by a combined seven points.
It's possible Golden State would have won one, if not both, of Games 4 and 5 with a healthy Iguodala. While he only averaged 6.0 points per game this season, his defense and ball movement (3.3 assists) cannot be undervalued.
Kerr may wish that his team had more than two days to rest as it chases its third title in four years, but he has to be grateful for the fact that the Warriors are once again one of the last teams standing.