Warriors look unstoppable going into Game 4 of the NBA Finals
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Right now, the possibilities seem endless for the Golden State Warriors. Even a 150-point game doesn't seem out of reach.
"I mean, we could have gotten at least 140 the other night if we only had about 10 to 15 turnovers," All-Star guard Klay Thompson said of Sunday's game.
The Warriors have been as dominant during this year's Finals as any other team in NBA history. The best historical comparison, in fact, is probably themselves from last year.
Haunted By Last Year's Finals Loss
This time last year, the Warriors were in a similar position. After taking a 2-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers, they went on to lose four of the next five games, allowing LeBron James and company to steal the championship. The memory of that loss hangs over the series. Its ghostly presence is felt, if not always talked about openly.
This Friday, the Warriors are once again matched up against the Cavs and are going into Game 4 with a 3-0 lead. Like last year, they seem unstoppable. It there was a lesson to be drawn from the 2016 Finals, though, it was that anything is possible.
Technically, their 2017 Finals outing has gotten off to a slightly slower start than their 2016 series. They actually had a higher margin of victory through two games last year. Despite how masterful they've been so far, recent history suggests that a Warriors victory isn't necessarily a guarantee.
There's an important difference between the 2016 Warriors and this year's team, though. Last year, Golden State didn't have Kevin Durant, one of the league’s best players. Not only that, Warriors superstar Steph Curry was playing with injuries last year, but this time he's fully healthy.
Overall, the Warriors are playing much better basketball than they were this time last year.
"As a team, I think so," Thompson said. "I think we're moving the ball great, we're shooting the ball at a high clip and our defense has been unbelievable."
Cavs Seek To Slow Warriors' Momentum
The Cavaliers have to do something to change all that. That's exactly what they did last year. After losing the first two games by a combined 48 points, they dominated in Game 3 with a score of 120-90.
Despite the echoes, not everyone is thinking about the past.
"That's last year," said LeBron James, Cleveland's best player. "So I'm just mentally strengthening my mind and getting my mind ready and focused on what tomorrow's going to bring."
The Warriors committed 20 turnovers in Game 2 but simply shook that off with an NBA Finals-record 18 3-pointers in a 132 to 113 romp. It was the second time in the postseason they committed at least 20 turnovers, and yet they scored at least 120 points in both games.
"We played against good teams, and we came to the Finals undefeated, and here we are up 2-0, so we're playing amazing basketball right now. The best we probably played throughout the year," Warriors center Zaza Pachulia said.
Cavs Have Fewer Scoring Options
With a loaded lineup and enough hot hands to fill an octopus, the Warriors don't need to rely on any one player to take a lot of shots. If somebody is struggling, they can move the ball to another deadly player.
The Cavaliers don't have that luxury. They need big nights from James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in order to be competitive against the Warriors, and even then, the rest of their squad has to pick it up.
"We just need our supporting group to be themselves as much as possible," Irving said. "Understand that they have a unique opportunity to make us that much better, and for a majority of this season it's been on myself, Bron and K-Love's shoulders. And we have done a great job of getting everyone involved and making sure that everyone feels comfortable, but now we need everything and everybody."
The Cavaliers said they won't change their lineup or their gameplay. They insisted that they want to keep playing the kind of high-speed basketball that is usually the Warriors' specialty. Golden State has been punishing Cleveland with their speed, and their habit of going on quick, sudden scoring streaks. It seems to have taken a physical toll on the Cavs. There's a mental effect, too. When playing against the Warriors, it's hard for opponents to avoid feeling hopeless and losing concentration.
"But when you're the one making the run, you could definitely feel the other team looking for answers and being deflated as the game goes on," Durant said.
Golden State Not Focused On History
The Warriors made history last year by winning 73 games during the regular season, the most ever. This year, they can make more history if they sweep the Cavs. If they win Game 4, they will complete the league's first undefeated postseason.
For his part, Curry isn't thinking about the history books. He just wants to finish out the series.