Warning: What you’re about to read is going to sound ridiculously pessimistic, because I tend to veer that way when it comes to a team I’m really rooting for. I enjoy watching LeBron James play basketball; he’s probably my 3rd favorite player to watch right now, and definitely in my Top 5 all-time. But sometime in the last three years, Stephen Curry became my favorite player to watch in NBA history, yes, more than Magic Johnson.
And I’m genuinely worried what the mindset of Curry and the Warriors will be if they somehow don’t win Game 5 in Oakland tonight. The spread opened at six and has soared to 8.5. The Warriors have beaten the Cavaliers by an average of 25 points per game in three games at Oracle this year. Positive signs!
The Warriors hadn’t lost a game the big four had started and finished since February. The Warriors hadn’t lost a playoff game this postseason. After winning Game 3, the players flew dozens of family members into Cleveland to celebrate what they thought would be a sweep. This team, for the longest time, was so dominant it expected to win, and then did just that. Often convincingly.
How will they respond to a beatdown in which they gave up 137 points? I’m reluctant to even bring up the 3-1 collapse last year because I know Draymond Green was suspended and Andrew Bogut was injured, but it still happened. And mentally, neither I nor anyone could possibly know the state of mind of the Warriors heading into Game 5.
It’s almost certainly confident, as it should be. But Kevin Durant’s never won a title and was part of a historic collapse last year (different team, different circumstances, etc). And there’s the aforementioned Golden State collapse.
And let’s be honest – as poorly as Game 4 was officiated, the Cavs did hit 24 three-pointers. There are two ways to look at it: 1) Was Cleveland’s record-setting night an aberration? or 2) Have the Cavs finally found the groove they were in dismantling the Raptors and Celtics?
I’ve had plenty to say about Durant taking the torch as the best player in the NBA from LeBron. I stand by it. But who’s to say LeBron can’t summon his greatness from last year’s Finals and pull off a repeat performance? What if the Warriors – who did a phenomenal job against Kyrie Irving over the first 2.5 games – have no answer for him again?
With any luck, I’ll be able to look at this and laugh at tonight’s end, and the Warriors will be crowned champions. But if they don’t …