Finding themselves in a familiar 2-0 advantage, the Golden State Warriors must do this to avoid history repeating itself in the NBA Finals.
The Warriors are now two wins away from achieving their ultimate goal of avenging last year’s debacle by recapturing the Larry O’ Brien trophy. But it’s going to take more than becoming the first team in NBA history to start the postseason 14-0 for Golden State to convince the masses this series is over.
Blowing a 3-1 lead in the Finals after winning 73 games during the regular season sabotages even the most pristine credibility. In fact, Cavaliers supporters have gravitated toward last year’s series to provide hope that it’s not yet time to bury the defending champs.
Through two games a year ago, the Warriors looked like they would sweep LeBron’s Cavs, dropping him to just 2-5 in the Finals. It didn’t happen, and the similarity? Golden State had a point differential of plus 48. This year it’s plus 41.
But wisdom comes from being able to decipher between reality and false equivalencies.
GS lost its heart and soul for Game 5 when Draymond Green was suspended. The reigning two-time MVP of the finals was hindered by injuries to his ankle and knee that clearly limited his mobility and explosiveness. And Andrew Bogut, who was their best rim protector and a valuable piece in pick-and-roll situations on both ends, went down and was sorely missed the final two games of the series.
This time around, Draymond isn’t getting suspended. Steph is 100 percent healthy. And oh, by the way, the Warriors replaced Harrison Barnes, who scored 65 points on 71 shots in the Finals last year with the second-best player in the NBA in Kevin Durant, who has 71 points in the first two games.
So the “well, the Cavs proved they could come back last year when no one believed in them” narrative is severely flawed. The circumstances are different this time. The likelihood of a Cleveland team that is allergic to defense beating these Warriors four times in the next five games is right on par with that of the probability we won’t see Round 4 of this rivalry next year…incredibly low.
Here’s how Golden State avoids history repeating itself in embarrassing fashion. It starts and ends with playing with a sense of urgency and having a universal assassin’s mentality that has customarily escaped this team in these situations.
Coming into this postseason, the Warriors have gone just 2-6 under Steve Kerr in Game 3s. Now, we are quite possibly witnessing one of the greatest teams in NBA history. They’ve won the most games ever in a three-year period and are doing it with a high-octane, transcendentally great offense.
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But in those six losses, they’ve averaged just 96.5 points per game, which pales in comparison to the level of productivity they’re capable of.
All of these games have been played on the road since they’ve had homecourt advantage in each of the 12 series the last three seasons. Four of the six losses have come after they took a 2-0 lead in the series, which is where they now stand against the Cavs.
If they play with that fiery edge and effort needed to withstand the raucous, hungry Cleveland crowd, they certainly have enough to emerge victoriously.
Durant has answered the bell, putting up 35.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.5 blocks and 1.5 steals on 56% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc. He’s been tremendous in his inaugural season in Oakland and the Cavs have simply had no answer for him.
Even LeBron James has struggled trying to contain Durant, who’s now averaging 32 points in seven career Finals games. The Warriors as a team are actually shooting 67 percent when guarded by LeBron. It’s tough to overcome your best defensive player playing this poorly. Advantage Warriors.
And how about Tristan Thompson, remember him? He’s being paid $80 million to basically rebound and defend. Yet, through two games he has eight total boards compared to Curry’s 16. That’s another advantage for GS.
Steve Kerr told reporters in the media availability that they haven’t really discussed going 16-0, their main focus is getting to 15-0. But the blueprint is there for them to achieve both feats in successive games.
The 2-0 series lead should be that of a commanding one. Will history repeat itself? I highly doubt it.