For the Warriors, what’s old is new again

Updated: May 14, 2019

4:03 AM ET

OAKLAND, Calif. — Stephen Curry‘s hair was quite a bit longer when the Golden State Warriors’ run of NBA Finals appearances started back in 2015. His body was quite a bit spryer back then too. But as the basketball world focuses intently on the Warriors’ future — with Kevin Durant approaching free agency — Curry and his teammates have been looking a lot like the original group that started this dynastic run.

“That’s when we first learned to play like this,” Curry told ESPN late Tuesday night after scoring 36 points in a 116-94 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. “We’re in that flow again.”

That flow is what made the Warriors “the Warriors” all those years ago. More than Curry’s 3-point shooting or Draymond Green‘s positional versatility, Golden State’s identity was formed by its ability to flow. To move the ball. Make the extra pass. Run off screens. Create a collective energy that overwhelms defenses focused on individual matchups. When the Warriors are humming, it’s the basketball equivalent of a great jazz band. Each player has his solo moments to shine, but they have to harmonize and flow together to elevate as a group and win.

Over the five seasons, all sorts of things have disrupted this flow. Ego, hubris, complacency, fatigue. Some would point to Durant’s individual brilliance as another force that can disrupt. But that would be reductionist.

The Warriors can flow just fine with Durant. They just don’t have to.

“Kevin moves well too,” Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser explained. “But sometimes, he’s so good he doesn’t have to. You just throw him the ball.”

With Durant sidelined due to a calf injury over the past two and a half games, the Warriors have had to go back to a simpler time. To the way they played before Durant changed the NBA landscape in 2016.

The Warriors won the 2015 title playing like this. Then they won a record 73 regular-season games in the 2015-16 campaign. Curry won back-to-back MVP awards.

Clippers series, the narrative was that [Durant] is the greatest player in the world, this is Kevin’s team. Now, it’s Steph’s team. I don’t view it that way. We’re a team. The word should be T-E-A-M,” Lacob said. “When we beat LeBron [James], three out of four times. When we go up against [James] Harden and Houston.

“It’s team, versus individual. It’s team, versus isolation. That is really the story.”

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