The Golden State Warriors haven't had star forward Kevin Durant for their series against the Portland Trail Blazers because of a calf injury. They haven't needed him, though, as the Warriors went up 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals on Saturday night with a 110-99 victory.
The reality is that, while Durant may be the best player in basketball, Golden State can still be the best team in the NBA without him. As long as Steph Curry is healthy, the Warriors are a force to be reckoned with.
Curry has dropped at least 36 points in each game against Portland, and he continues to be a nearly unstoppable force in the playoffs. This is fortunate for the Warriors because there's no guarantee that Durant is going to return to play in the NBA Finals.
"There's a big range of how long it could be depending on how he responds and how bad the strain is," Golden State head coach Steve Kerr said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN.com. "This one is taking a little bit longer than the ones he's had in the past."
Barring an epic collapse, Golden State is headed to a fifth straight finals appearance. The question is whether it'll face the Milwaukee Bucks or the Toronto Raptors—and if the team coming out of the Eastern Conference has a legitimate shot of knocking off the champs.
What chance do the other three teams have of knocking off Golden State? Well, according to OddsChecker.com, Milwaukee is the most likely competition.
2019 NBA Championship Odds
Golden State Warriors: 11-25
Milwaukee Bucks: 7-4
Toronto Raptors: 18-1
Portland Trail Blazers: 125-1
Milwaukee has a chance to grab its own 3-0 series lead Sunday night. While the Bucks haven't appeared quite as dominant as Golden State has over the last few games—they won by just eight points in Game 1—they do appear to be the best team in the East.
"After the Bucks defeated the Raptors, 125-103, in Game 2 on Friday night, there is little doubt: The Bucks are real, and they are fantastic," Sopan Deb of the New York Times wrote.
The Bucks are definitely for real. They've lost just one game during the postseason—a 22-point defeat against the Boston Celtics—and they feature Giannis Antetokounmpo. If there's anyone who can rival Durant as the best player in the NBA, it's the Greek Freak.
Antetokounmpo isn't the only player on Milwaukee's roster who has been dangerous in the playoffs, though. Brook Lopez established his own dominance in Game 1 with a 29-point outburst, while it was Ersan Ilyasova who showed out in Game 2 (17 points). With strong contributions from George Hill and Khris Middleton, the Bucks have been playing true team basketball, and they appear to be a worthy challenger to Golden State.
The Raptors have a chance to get back into the series, of course, especially with the series now shifting to Toronto. The Trail Blazers shouldn't be counted out either. However, it seems like Milwaukee and Golden State are on a collision course to the Finals, where the real drama will unfold.
Prediction? The Bucks and the Warriors are the two best teams in the sport right now and will battle for the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Milwaukee will get a couple of wins, but it's hard to believe anyone can take a full series against the latest—and an all-time great—NBA dynasty.
Warriors in six, with or without Durant.