NBA Finals Game 4 : Warriors guard Stephen Curry wouldn’t use the word yet, even after the Warriors took a commanding 3-0 series lead for the second straight season with a 110-102 victory against the Cavaliers on Wednesday. Curry insists the Warriors — who could win a third NBA championship in four years Friday night — aren’t thinking that way heading into Game 4 at Quicken Loans Arena.
“Not in those terms,” Curry said. “Just Game 4 is the next one we have to play, and we want to win a championship. I don’t think any of us will — that word will come out in our celebration if we can get it done. It’s just a matter of winning four games however you can.”
That won’t stop us from contemplating how a sweep in Cavs-Warriors IV impacts the league. Is it good? Is it bad? Will this trigger another “Super Team” construction involving Cavs star LeBron James, who is averaging 37.7 points, 10.7 assists and 9.0 rebounds per game in the NBA Finals?
That’s the biggest problem with the latest installment of the Cavs-Warriors saga. James’ out-of-this-world-effort is not making a dent. It hasn’t made a dent for the last two years. James is averaging 35.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 10.3 assists in the NBA Finals the last two years, and Golden State is 7-1 in those games, winning by an average of 13.1 points. The games have been (somewhat) competitive, but the series… not so much. This is the side effect of Durant signing with the Warriors. That’s a problem for the NBA.
There hasn’t been a sweep in the NBA Finals since 2007, when the Spurs swept the Cavs in James’ first Finals appearance. Golden State can complete the ninth sweep in Finals history.
Kevin Durant’s 43-point performance in Game 3 came on a night when Curry and Klay Thompson combined to shoot 7-of-27 from the field. Even with two of the best marksmen in the world struggling to hit anything, Golden State made the big plays when it counted. James threw out a comparison that will make headlines until Friday.
“It’s almost like playing the Patriots,” James said. “You can’t have mistakes. They’re not going to beat themselves. You know, so when you’re able to either force a miscue on them, you have to be able to capitalize and you have to be so in tuned and razor sharp and focused every single possession.”
James’ comparison makes sense on a few levels. The Patriots won three Super Bowl in five years from 2002-05 and nearly won a third in four years before losing to the Eagles in Super Bowl 52. From a schematic standpoint, you have to bring you’re A-plus game to have a chance, and as these NBA Finals have proven, sometimes that’s still not enough.
The Warriors are unfair — in both a bad and good way. Durant, Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green have formed a core that continues to dominate the NBA with flair. Green was asked to describe how it feels on the winning side.
“Fun,” Green said. “Very fun. It allows all of us to play to our strengths, which is great.”
Yes, the Warriors can still be great for the league, too. It’s good to have a polarizing championship team. Some only see Golden State through the lens of sustained dominance, set to become the 13th team to win back-to-back championships with a chance to join the illustrious three-peat-or-more-club that includes the Minneapolis Lakers (1952-54), Boston Celtics (1959-66), Chicago Bulls (1991-93, 1996-98) and Los Angeles Lakers (2000-02). Ratings will go up if the Warriors are in that position next season.
James might compare the Warriors to the Patriots, but some have compared the franchise to The Beatles.
Only the Warriors now feel like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Clash and The Doors on one stage. It’s a ticket you can’t beat — even if you have the greatest solo artist in this generation in James. The Cavs have tried for two years, and they are now left fighting to rally from a 3-0 deficit, which has never been done before.
“I think particularly in Games 1 and 3 we really gave ourselves a chance to win,” Cavs forward Kevin Love said. “We’ve been in this position before and not came out victorious.”
Same goes for the Rockets, who had a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals before Chris Paul’s injury. The Warriors aren’t necessarily invincible, but the impact of a sweep could mean James moves in the offseason. Whether that’s Houston, Philadelphia or the Los Angeles, James could form the next “Super Team,” and that might be the best way to combat the Golden State machine. That’s to be determined, however, after this series.
Curry wouldn’t use that word yet, and don’t expect the Warriors to take this opportunity for granted given the 3-1 deficit the Cavaliers rallied from in the 2016 NBA Finals. Cleveland also avoided a sweep with a 137-116 victory in Game 4 last year. As the old Yogi Berra saying goes, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”