“You need luck in the West,” he says. “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”
That set off a minor firestorm, with multiple Warriors taking offense.
Rivers clarified his comments.
Rivers, via VL Sports:
No, I don’t think the Warriors were lucky to win. I think they deserved to win. I wish we could have played them – or the Spurs – but they still were the best team. They earned it.
Rivers’ initial remarks have been misinterpreted.
1. The Warriors were the NBA’s best team last season.
2. They were lucky not to face the Clippers or Spurs in the playoffs.
Those are hardly mutually exclusive statements.
The best team doesn’t always win the title. The better opponents it faces in the playoffs, the more likely it is to stumble.
I think the Warriors would have beaten the Clippers or Spurs, but I also think those two teams would have presented a bigger challenge in the Western Conference finals than the Rockets did. That’s a lucky break for Golden State – which benefited from a seeding system the NBA has since abolished and the Clippers not taking Houston seriously enough.
The Warriors’ championship was not predestined once they entered the playoffs as the clear best team in the league. They avoided injury, got favorable matchups throughout the Western Conference playoffs and saw the Cavaliers lose Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. With the partial exception of avoiding injury, those things are luck. Golden State had no control over them.
That good fortune coupled with the Warriors’ outstanding ability made them champions. Acknowledging their luck doesn’t minimize their accomplishments.