Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors have accomplished just about everything a basketball team can accomplish in a season. Win 73 games? Check. First unanimous MVP in league history? Check. Come back from a 3-1 series deficit to book a seat in the Finals? Check. The only other item that needs to get ticked off in that imaginary checklist is win the NBA title and the Warriors, after a gritty win in Game 4 of the Finals, already have the Sharpies in their hands.
It was a dramatic turnaround for a team that got shellacked in Game 3 by 30 points. Curry said all the right things after that game, asking for patience from the suddenly jittery Warriors fans. "I like our chances of being able to figure it out," he said. And just like what an MVP is supposed to do, Curry figured it out on his way to a 38-point performance in Game 4. Curry admitted that he hadn't played like an MVP in the first three games of the series, but when the Warriors needed him to play like best player in the league, he responded in kind...one rainbow three at a time.
It wasn't just Steph, either. Klay Thompson also had his best game of the series. Draymond Green was all over the place. Harrison Barnes hit crucial shots. Shaun Livingston was his usual efficient self. Oh, and give Steve Kerr a lot of credit for recognizing the need to have his best players on the floor at all times. Look at the Warriors' box score in that game and you'll see that three players—Curry, Barnes, Green—logged at least 40 minutes with Thompson and Andre Iguodala not far behind at 39 and 37 minutes, respectively. Kerr knew it was a make-or-break game for the Warriors as much as it was for the Cavs and he made the right adjustments at the right time to wear out LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, both of whom, not surprisingly, barely rested at all.
To be fair, fatigue wasn't the only reason the Cavs came unglued in the fourth quarter. Execution and rebounding were Cleveland's biggest culprits and it showed when they let Anderson Varejao of all people hustle his way to extra possessions for Golden State. And when the Warriors' fourth-quarter flurry took hold of the game, the Cavs responded by running one predictable ISO set at a time, leading themselves right into Golden State's hands.
We all remember Rudy Tomjanovich's words. Golden State proved the old sage's words prophetic when they played with the heart expected of a championship team. It would've been easy to give the game away, especially after what happened in Game 3, and settled for a best-of-three series with two of those games in Oakland. After all, Cleveland would've still needed to win on the road to win the title.
But the Warriors would have none of it. Once they had the opportunity to put a stranglehold on the series, they wasted little time choking out what’s left out of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Sure, the series is still not over (This writer, for one, foolishly predicted the Cavs to win in six games. Whoops.) but history paints a pretty clear picture on teams down 3-1 in the Finals. It's happened 32 times and of those 32 times, the number of teams that have made the insurmountable comeback rests at zero.
It seems fitting that for a team lauded as one of the greatest single-season teams in history, the Golden State Warriors will have to play Game 5 without the services of the suspended Green. It's another obstacle that has become one of the defining points of this postseason run. The team has checked off a lot of items on that list, and now that the Warriors are literally a win away from claiming their second straight NBA title, they're going to have to do it without their do-it-all ace.
Can they do it? That's the question and we'll know the answer soon enough. But if history has taught us anything about these Golden State Warriors, it's that there's no obstacle high enough for them to climb over. They've done that throughout the playoffs and as the spectre of Game 5 looms, this record-setting team has a chance to once again prove their weight in championship gold.