SportsPulse: The Warriors dynasty has reached its fifth straight Finals. And by the looks of it, they look primed to win the third straight title.
USA TODAYPORTLAND, Oregon – The Golden State Warriors are tough to beat when they’re tired, tough to beat when they’re beat up, tough to beat when they’re missing key players and even tough to beat when you’re leading by 17 points.As if that wasn’t enough, after their sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals, whoever faces the Warriors for the championship will have to contend with a version of the two-time defending champions that is fully rested and recharged. And, in theory, stronger.Wrapping things up in the shortest possible time against Portland has afforded Golden State nine full days of downtime before it has to take on either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Toronto Raptors, who are meanwhile doing their best to grind each other into the dust.The possibility of a meaningful amount of empty days became serious once they went up 3-0 on the Blazers and was a genuine point of encouragement going into Monday night’s clincher.“It is very motivating for us to try to sweep the series and have that time off,” Draymond Green said. “We understand that. We have got a great opportunity.”The Finals begin May 30, by which time Kevin Durant will have had extra time to rehab his damaged right calf and Andre Iguodala’s soreness in his lower leg should have dissipated. DeMarcus Cousins may be nearer to a return. Stephen Curry will no longer be gassed after his extraordinary Game 4 effort Monday when he played the entire second half and all of overtime. Klay Thompson will have had time to meditate and ruminate and go for walks on the beach to clear his mind.Story continues below galleryAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideIt is a scary proposition. For while Golden State has done an excellent job of making do amid adversity, it likely wasn’t sustainable long-term. These six straight wins since Durant went down have been as impressive a stretch as coach Steve Kerr has had during his tenure, considering the obstacles.Alfonzo McKinnie and Jordan Bell were starters at the Moda Center on Monday. Kevon Looney played 29 minutes. Portland’s Meyers Leonard put on a remarkable big-man shooting clinic. Damian Lillard had two separate chances to win it. The Warriors withstood it all. Expect them to be ready for what comes next.“The NBA Finals have an experience with it,” Thompson said. “It is such an emotional roller coaster. It is nice to get away from the game a little bit before it starts, because emotions run high and it takes a lot out of you.”The state of the East’s finals takes on more intrigue. Had the Bucks shaken off the Raptors in Game 3 and built a 3-0 advantage, the rest differential likely would have been minimal. Now, however, the possibility that the series goes six games or deeper is real.Game 6 in the East is scheduled for Saturday, if it goes that far. By the time tip-off comes, Kerr’s men will be wrapping up their fifth straight day of chill time. Whichever team emerges from the East will host Games 1 and 2 of the Finals.The Warriors got a 10-day break in 2017, and came storming out of it, winningthe first two games of the Finals against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers by a combined margin of 41 points. They are the first team to go to the Finals five years in a row since the Boston Celtics in 1966, and on three of those occasions have had at least a week off.RAPTORS: Are they finished? Injuries, playing time adding upCURRYS: NBA’s royal familyWARRIORS’ DYNASTY: Closer look at Golden State’s NBA Finals runCLICK & ROLL: Sign up for our exclusive newsletterSuch things should be kept in perspective. Last year there was a gap of only two days as a result of the seven-game conference finals struggle against the Houston Rockets, but that didn’t prevent a four-game sweep of the Cavaliers in the Finals.Rarely has rest been more welcome than now, however. On a daily basis, Kerr fields inquiries about the health of Durant and Cousins, with Iguodala’s issue coming more recently and not deemed to be particularly serious.Simultaneously, he has had to find new solutions and formations, using a total of 11 players in the last game and 12 two days earlier.“Happy to get a little rest,” Kerr said, with raised eyebrows to emphasize the understatement.Sometimes boredom is a factor and a winning team in many cases just wants to keep playing. Given the battles overcome to get to this point, though, the healing powers of rest would seem to override the danger of rust, as the Warriors look to add another chapter to their continuing dynasty.Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter @RogersJourno