Because his Golden State team squandered a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals a year ago, Warriors coach Steve Kerr knows how important it will be to finish off the Cleveland Cavaliers tonight at ORACLE Arena.
Even if Game 5 is on the Warriors home floor, it’s the Cavaliers and LeBron James who can claim to have the momentum after cruising to a 137-116 victory with a record-setting performance Friday night in Game 4 of the best-of-seven series. Among the NBA Finals records the Cavs set: 24 3-pointers.
Golden State can’t risk having the Cavs get that hot again and force the series back east for a Game 6. If that happens, another Game 7 back in Oakland would almost all but be assured, right?
But that’s exactly what Cleveland did last year, capping their remarkable championship run by winning the decisive contest on the Warriors’ home court. And yes, Golden State did the same on the Cavaliers’ home court in 2015.
Kerr would rather not tempt fate in another Gane 7, preferring that the Warriors get their collective acts together tonight.
“Coming into this series, in every series we play, first round, second, Finals, whatever, you want to do exactly what we have done, win the first two and get a split,” said Kerr. “So we’re right where we want to be.
“Disappointed that we didn’t play better the other night, but aware that we are playing a great team. And they were desperate, and they outplayed us. So we’re where we need to be. We would love to take care of business (Monday).”
That’s what happened in the first two games of this series with Golden State winning by 22 points in Game 1 (113-91) and by 19 points in Game 2 (132-113). But after hanging on for a 118-113 win in Game 3, the Warriors didn’t respond when James & Co. seemed to be a step quicker in opening up a big lead after just one quarter in Game 4.
Kevin Durant believes the Warriors need to respond with a similar sense of urgency tonight from the opening tip.
“We know that anything can happen in this league, and we know that champions just don’t lay down and die. So you know they’re going to come out and play with a sense of urgency, play with that energy from the beginning,” said Durant. “We just need to take it a possession at a time, just focus on what we have to do every time down the court on both ends of the floor, and we’ll be fine.
“We can’t worry about the games that happened before, or we can’t worry about what will happen in the future. We just have to stay in the moment and help each other out each and every play.”
Since the Cavs are still one loss away from the series being settled, James said the Warriors don’t have any reason to panic. Not yet..
“No, I feel like this is the game we’ve got to get or it’s over with,” he said. “If we don’t protect the 3-point line and if we turn the ball over, then we don’t stand a chance …That’s going to give us the best possible chance to go back home with a Game 6.
“And if we don’t stick to stick to that game plan, then we’ll be going back home without a game.”