The Warriors couldn’t make history in Game 4, and now they’re going to try to prevent history from repeating itself.
With a chance to not only win the NBA championship but go undefeated in the playoffs, the Warriors got run over by the Cavaliers, 137-116, on Friday night. Golden State still is in control of the NBA Finals, though; the Warriors are up 3-1, with the series shifting to the Bay Area.
Of course, some variation of those words was written or uttered somewhere a year ago. The Warriors led last year’s Finals 3-1, with the series moving to Golden State for Game 5, and the rest became history. The Cavaliers won the next three games and the championship. So they have the Warriors right where they want them, right?
“No, they got us where they want us,” LeBron James said. “At the end of the day, we want to just try to put ourselves in position to play another game. We did that, and hopefully we can do it Monday night.’’
It was stunning when the Cavaliers came back to win last year after Golden State followed its 2015 championship with an NBA-record 73 wins in the regular season. No team had ever squandered a 3-1 lead in the Finals and lost. But it was a perfect storm for the Cavaliers as so many things contributed to the Warriors’ collapse.
Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5, Steph Curry wasn’t healthy throughout the playoffs, and the team was mentally and physically fatigued after chasing the regular-season record.
“Different team, man,” Curry said.
There is a lot different about this year’s Warriors, namely Kevin Durant, who has been the MVP of the Finals thus far. Overall, they have more weapons and appear to have grown and matured from last year’s meltdown.
“We obviously know you can’t just go home and expect to win,” Curry said.
But if history somehow repeats itself, it actually would be a bigger collapse than last year, given that the Warriors led this series 3-0. In 126 tries, no team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA postseason series.
It would be epic if the Cavaliers did it and would forever taint this group of Warriors, who had won 30 of their last 31 games entering Game 4.
“We’re in a great spot and now we have to capitalize,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I’m pretty sure Draymond won’t be suspended for Game 5. Maybe he will, I don’t know. But we’ll go tee it up again.”
Kerr was joking about Green. Last year, he hit James in the groin area when James stepped over him, but Green didn’t do anything in Game 4 to warrant a suspension.
Green, however, nearly was ejected from Game 4 after apparently being charged with two technical fouls. The officials said the scorers’ table mistakenly gave a first-half technical meant for Kerr to Green.
“We got a golden opportunity going home on Monday to close one out,” Green said. “I’ve won one on the road. I want to see how it feels to win one at home. Got to come out with some fire and get it done.
“Thank God I get to play.”
If Green hadn’t been suspended for Game 5 last year, the Warriors might be going for a three-peat right now.
The current series could be tied 2-2, but after leading by six in Game 3, the Cavaliers went scoreless in the last 3:08 and the Warriors ended the game on an 11-0 run.
The Cavaliers made sure there were no comebacks in Game 4. They scored 49 points in the first quarter and 86 in the first half, both NBA Finals records. Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and James had his third straight triple-double with 31 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. “Every game is do-or-die, and we understand that,” Irving said. “We’re ready to live in it.”
Cleveland is 4-0 the past two years when facing elimination against Golden State, but it probably will take another gargantuan performance from James and Irving in Game 5 to keep the series going. They did it last season, as James and Irving each scored 41 points in a 15-point win over the Warriors.
James has grown accustomed to being in this situation, but he wishes the Cavaliers would stop digging themselves such a big hole.
“I don’t like it,” James said. “It causes too much stress, man. I’m stressed out. Keep doing this every year. But listen, at the end of the day, we got some resilient guys. The Warriors have championship DNA and we do as well. We’re battle-tested, they’re battle-tested.
“So our mindset is to try and go up there and get one, which is probably one of the toughest environments we have in this league, along with our building. We look forward to the challenge.”
Here we go again.