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On Pro Basketball: Can Winning Become Rollicking Fun Again for the Warriors?

There are very rational explanations to account for the cloud that suddenly hangs over the league’s overwhelming preseason favorites heading into the start of the 2018 playoffs.

Stephen Curry, the two-time M.V.P. guard, played in only one of Golden State’s final 17 games after suffering a knee sprain just as he’d recovered from a sprained ankle. Curry’s absence, combined with a nagging flurry of injuries around him, rendered the Warriors’ last dozen or so games meaningless; catching Houston in the race for the West’s No. 1 overall seed was, realistically, out of reach. Those factors inevitably combined to chip away at the Warriors’ intensity, discipline and focus and, by season’s end, dropped them from their customary top-five slot in defensive efficiency all the way down to No. 9.

Golden State’s hope is that a return to high-stakes basketball, after grinding through a seemingly interminable regular season to get there, will usher this team back to its usual standards and thus back to its happy place. But a measure of gloom, for all the rationalizations, has been hard for the Warriors to shake as Saturday’s Game 1 against the pesky San Antonio Spurs…

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