It’s the question on everyone’s mind: Can anyone beat the Golden State Warriors? After all, they’re up three games to none on the Cavaliers right now and threatening to become the first team to ever go 16-0 in a single postseason run.
We wanted to test it out. On Thursday, we asked Twitter to help us crowdsource lineups that we think could knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series.
Tweet us any starting 5 of players not in the Finals. We'll sim our favorites in @NBA2K to see if they could beat the Warriors. Be creative!— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) June 8, 2017
We included the qualifier that the team needed to include players not in the Finals, since any reasonable suggestion would otherwise involve LeBron James. Eventually, we even ran one with James, but it added more variation to the idea.
Each team suggested was created on NBA 2K17, where we then simulated one seven-game series between the two. 2K17 offers historic teams, so any historic players you see in this post were taken from there without modification.
Here’s how the Warriors fared:
CP3— martin erat ego (@soupwithsides) June 8, 2017
Results: @soupwithsides’ team in six games
What happened: Kawhi Leonard dropped 39 points with nine rebounds and eight assists in the first game, but the Warriors answered back with wins in Game 3 and Game 5. (Kevin Durant rattled off a line of 43 points, nine rebounds, and six assists in Game 5, mind you.) But another big game from Kawhi saw this team of contenders sneak past Golden State in Game 6 by a score of 102-99.
Harden Paul George Kawhi Giannis Marc Gasol— dic flair (@oblockwetwet) June 8, 2017
Results: Warriors in four
What happened: This one, uh, didn’t work at all.
Stephen Curry scored 43 points on 13-of-17 shooting in a closeout Game 4 while @oblockwetwet’s lineup only had one game with a 30-point scorer — James Harden with 34 points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals, and three blocks in Game 3. They still lost 116-104.
The other three games were within a few points, so this felt the simulation trending toward one extreme, where everything went right for the Warriors. On the other hand, we have ...
Jokić, Leonard, IT, Bradley Beal, Darell Arthur— Trey Mitchell (@TheTreyinator) June 8, 2017
Results: @TheTreyinator’s team in six
What happened: Nikola Jokic was a force in this series, averaging 18 points, 20 rebounds, and eight assists for the series. This includes triple-doubles in Game 1, Game 3 and Game 5. (Perhaps his stats got bumped up a little too high in the latest update, just sayin’.) Darrell Arthur, who we joked about, actually played well for most of the series, though he did have one dud where he fouled out with just one point in Game 5.
Still, you wouldn’t think the last team would be swept by the Warriors and this one beat them:
Cp3, Middleton, Kawhi, Giannis, Porzingis https://t.co/YxHOLXawcz— Daniel Rouse (@Daniel_Rouse) June 9, 2017
Results: Warriors in six
What happened: I really liked the idea of this one. Kristaps Porzingis can be a rangy, shot-blocking center, Giannis Antetokounmpo is a do-it-all forward whose lack of shooting is offset by the other four, Khris Middleton is a nice choice as a really solid three-and-D guy, and Chris Paul up top is an underrated choice. But the Warriors weren’t having any of that — they went up 3-0 before giving up a couple of losses, only for Golden State to finish them off in Game 6.
Speaking of: CP3 dropped 35 points and 12 assists in the closeout game.
KAT, Anthony Davis, Giannis, Embiid, Kristaps— Brandon Blagg (@beblagg) June 9, 2017
Results: @beblagg’s team in five
What happened: Antetokounmpo came 0.4 rebounds away from averaging a triple-double for the series, while the other four all averaged double-figure rebounds per game. I don’t think this lineup would work in real life. In 2K, though, all bets are off.
When you outrebound another two by nearly 19 per game, anything is possible.
MICHAEL JORDAN— BWAAAHHHHH (@BWAAAHHHHH) June 8, 2017
Results: Old Guys in five games
What happened: The way it worked for the 2K simulation, we got Russell, Jordan, Johnson, and Bird all in their primes. I was pretty sure they were going to win ... and then the Warriors won the first game.
Magic Johnson had an unusual 4-of-15 shooting night and came back with 25 points on 7-of-10 shooting in Game 2 and a win. Game 3 was a 117-69 embarrassment of the Warriors, Game 4 was another comfortable win by 16 points, and the Old Guys took it in double overtime in Game 5, winning, 134-132, while Michael Jordan had 31 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and three steals on 14-of-18 shooting.
Welp. You can’t stop that.
Dirk— Kevin Cramer (@KevinCramer5) June 8, 2017
Results: Warriors in four.
What happened: I mean ... yeah.
Sorry, European squad.
Scottie Pippen, Kawhi Leonard, Julius Erving, Larry Bird and LeBron James— Adi Joseph (@AdiJoseph) June 9, 2017
Results: Adi’s team in six
Summary: These are probably five of the best six or seven small forwards in NBA history. (Notably missing is Kevin Durant, of course, but he isn’t applicable since he’s on the Warriors.) Trying them all together is a novel approach, harkening back to when cult basketball blog FreeDarko suggested that the NBA would eventually be dominated by do-everything small forwards just like this. It’s like if the Cavaliers traded for Jimmy Butler and Paul George this summer but tilted to an extreme.
2K punishes players for playing out of position, even if it could actually work better in real life, and it still didn’t matter. Larry Bird, Julius Erving, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard, in that order, took turns leading the team in scoring in the first four games, of which they won three of them. After falling in Game 5, the squad of all-time wings came back with a 122-92 Game 6 win.
Joe Ingles and who cares who else https://t.co/QgtrhFOQfV— Daniel Hansen (@TheGrandDanny) June 8, 2017
Results: Warriors in one
What happened: We didn’t sim this one. It seemed clear enough without that.
are there 5 versions of LeBron in the game? use all of them.— Conrad Kaczmarek (@ConradKaz) June 9, 2017
There aren’t five LeBrons in the game without creating clones ... but there are five Michael Jordans.
Results: Michael Jordans in six
Summary: LEBRON COULD NEVER. (*kidding* it’s not that serious.)
As a side note, every win in this series was a double-digit victory. The Warriors shot 41 percent from the three-point line for the series, but it didn’t matter at the end of the day.
Our lesson is clear: If you are a team in today’s NBA and want to beat Golden State, just go find five Michael Jordans. Otherwise, you might be straight out of luck.