Warriors now have a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals … let the excuses and memes commence

You just knew they were going to face this situation again. A meme that strong could never die without one last gasp. We’ll see on Monday how much the Cavs believe in the idea that miracles can occur on an annual basis, each one sounding more ludicrous than the one before.


Juuuuuuust kidding. The Warriors weren’t going to get the benefit of the doubt in Game 4, but that’s a challenge they should’ve been able to face.

The temptation to fall into the conspiracy vortex is strong, I admit. Last night I listened to Zach Lowe’s podcast. He was talking to Howard Beck about how perturbed NBA big wigs were after Game 3 of the NBA Finals, due not to the lack of competition or ratings, but the lack of high-revenue games. As another ESPN guy, Brian Windhorst, always says, the NBA is all about quantity, not quality. So the idea that they would be limited to only four Finals games, and only 16 Warriors postseason games, couldn’t sit well.

The officiating was very tight early in Game 4, so when the Cavaliers blitzed the Warriors, it seemed like every Cleveland possession ended with a made three or two free throw attempts. There were some weird non-calls, several delays in the third quarter, and a backcourt violation committed by Kyrie Irving that wasn’t called.

THAT BEING SAID … the officials didn’t cause the Warriors to lose Game 4 by 21 points. The Warriors met every postseason challenge before Friday night’s game, and tonight they didn’t have it in them to stand up to Cleveland’s opening punch. Their defense, which seems to have gotten incrementally worse throughout this series, was atrocious in Game 4. They seriously allowed 49 points in the first quarter and 86 in the first half? The free throw totals were silly, and made the game ugly to watch (the Cavs always seem to win the ugly ones), but those point totals are mighty embarrassing nonetheless.

Golden State’s offensive effort wasn’t a lot better. They couldn’t keep pace with Cleveland in the first half, but they still managed to score 68 points. Steph Curry, who angered the Cavs with his silly squat (did he mean testicles or did he mean poop?!?!) when Kevin Durant hit the three to ice Game 3, had a game reminiscent of last year’s Finals. Durant made up for it over the last three quarters, mostly, but in the first quarter he looked like a guy who was a little too hyped or tight with the championship/Finals MVP finish line in sight.

And I’m not sure what’s up with Draymond Green in this series, but Cleveland is more than happy to see him with the ball in his hands because he’s not doing much with it. He went 3-for-6 on threes in Game 2, but in the other games he’s 2-for-14 (1-for-6 tonight). His passing is usually fantastic for a power forward, positively brilliant for a center; that hasn’t been the case in this series.

That’s why Green had more touches than Curry in this game, something Danny Leroux mentioned in tonight’s episode of the Locked on Warriors podcast (my first time as a guest). The Cavs like it that way.

The Cavs also like it when the Warriors stick with Zaza Pachulia, who played almost 16 minutes in this game. And this is where we wonder if Steve Kerr is going to stay the course with a commanding series lead, or take a few chances in Game 5 in hopes of avoiding another game in Cleveland.

  • It’s time to make sure Curry and Durant never sit at the same time … unless the Warriors have a huge fourth quarter lead.
  • It’s time to give some of Pachulia’s minutes to David West.
  • It’s time to put the ball in Curry’s hands more often, especially when the officials deem the Cavs as “the aggressors” and allow them a little more leeway with contact away from the ball.

But just like the Warriors can’t blame the officials for their first loss in these playoffs, they can’t blame Kerr either. The Cavs were on fire, especially Kyrie Irving, but they were also the better defensive team, the team that doled out more physical punishment, and the team that pushed themselves harder to get deflections, strips and loose balls.

Why did they seem to want this game more, even though they seemed so deflated (and exhausted) after losing Game 3? Apparently Curry’s silly celebration was part of it, and Irving referenced all of the “chatter” from the Warriors’ locker room giving him “extra motivation,” which seems odd since they’re in the NBA Finals, but whatever. These teams can’t stand each other, the pettiness level can always go up another notch, and Cleveland probably believes they can make history again.

Dub Steps

— How disappointing for the fans who attended the viewing party at Oracle Arena — especially the people who bought tickets on the secondary market for several times the original price.

— Weird stat: just four rebounds for Durant.

— Weirder stat: neither team hit double-figures in fast break points.

— Weirdest stat: there were seven technical fouls. Seems like a lot for a Finals game.

— Stat that told the story of this game, perhaps even more than the Cavs’ gaudy 3-point figures: LeBron James had only two turnovers after averaging 5.7 per game in the first three games.

— I was kind of thinking a comeback was possible when Patrick McCaw hit that long jumper from the corner. That’s how good this team is, they were getting their asses kicked for a while and just about everyone watching this game expected Golden State to make it a close game eventually, at the very least.

— Wasn’t Irving dealing with a knee injury that’s been giving him problems since the end of the regular season?

— A game like this will remind you that the Warriors, for as good as they are, may be one of the worst teams at flopping. Cleveland is pretty good at it, especially James and Iman Shumpert. After losing Mo Speights, the Warriors don’t have a single guy who can sell a flop.

— I think we’ve learned our lesson: LeBron James lying on the floor and appearing to be in pain simply means he’s going to drive really hard to the basket on his team’s next possession.

— Is Andre Iguodala not healthy enough to guard James for very long, or not healthy enough to play big minutes in general? Just 21 minutes tonight.

— A lot has already been made — and for good reason — of the fact that it’s been 43 years since a Bay Area team (the A’s, in this case) clinched a title in their own building. If the Warriors come out strong in the first quarter, the Cavs will fold. If the Cavs have another first quarter that’s even close to what we saw in Game 4, the crowd will do that nervous murmuring thing and Cleveland will grow stronger by the minute.

(I’m expecting the former to occur. The Warriors are too good to lose this series, they just lost themselves for a night during a game they didn’t need to win.)

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