Kevin Durant says injuries have killed Warriors' morale

NBA Rumors: Kawhi Leonard To Celtics Trade Will Happen This Summer, Dwyane Wade Predicts

And that has given the Warriors something they haven't had going into the playoffs since Kerr's first year: doubt.

The Golden State Warriors are the defending National Basketball Association champions, and returned every major contributor from a team that went 16-1 in the postseason a year ago.

The 29-year-old then took center stage against the Cleveland Cavaliers whom the Warriors extracted revenge upon from the previous year, winning the series 4-1 to secure a second National Basketball Association championship in three seasons. Pictured: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors during the first half of the National Basketball Association game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, April 8, 2018. Golden State will be without Stephen Curry to start the playoffs because of a knee injury.

Who will emerge from the competitive NBA Western Conference as the victor and move on to the NBA Finals? "It has yet to be decided what contractual route Durant will take, sources say, but there are no real incentives - for himself or for the team - to take such a drastic reduction in pay this time around".

While Curry is expected to return this postseason, the growing belief that the Warriors are vulnerable raises broader questions about how they'll round into form when the playoffs tip off on Saturday.

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Durant is earning much less than what a player of his caliber should be getting.

Curry, the engine of the Warriors, whose skill set helps generate the entire offense, apparently changes that.

"I was talking with several coaches and execs from teams in the West morass - from 3 to 9 - the fear factor for the Warriors without Curry does not exist", Lowe said.

The Rockets, who have the league's best record and Warriors are 6-5 favorites, followed by the Cavaliers at 8-1 and the East's top seed Toronto Raptors coming in at 12-5. Before this season began, many thought the Warriors winning the championship was all but ensured.

Now, Houston is a historically great team - that's not discussed enough - but there's no debating that they have the tougher path to the Western Conference Finals than the Warriors.

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