It wouldn’t have been a complete NBA title run without this game, a 118-113 win that makes a sweep inevitable and probably cemented Kevin Durant as the series MVP (more on that in a bit).
A sweep with four blowout wins would’ve produced a degree of sadistic symmetry, but there would’ve been something hollow in the minds of some, because they never got tested or some hogwash. (This isn’t my take, just looking ahead to hypothetical takes that we’ll never hear now. Sportswriting gets weird sometimes.)
The Warriors’ brilliance is so overwhelming at this point that it doesn’t ebb and flow depending on the score or circumstances of each win. They frighten everyone. The NBA doesn’t know how to proceed, and there’ve been times this spring when you didn’t want to touch the screen during a Warriors run, for fear of getting zapped by your TV.
This win is still going to go down as the greatest win the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors had, though.
As Brian Windhorst says often, the NBA is all about quantity, not quality. So Golden State was up against the pride of LeBron James, one last great game from Kyrie Irving before he packs it in for the season, and no discernible reason for the NBA to give the Warriors a break.
C’mon, admit it. A less-than-friendly whistle made this game a little more fun for the Warriors. They had to actually fight.
“Overall, it was just an incredibly tough, resilient performance. It wasn’t our smartest game that we have played all year, but it was maybe our toughest in terms of our ability to just hang in there,” Steve Kerr said.
“And nothing was really going our way, but we were still there. And we just had to kind of stay with it, and I thought our guys did a really good job of that.”
“Nothing was really going our way” pretty much means Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee were worst-case scenario bad, and Draymond Green couldn’t do much of anything without hearing a whistle, just like he hasn’t been able to do much of anything this entire series. Green must have tested very poorly in the NBA’s focus groups … or he’s committing too many unnecessary fouls partly because he hasn’t yet read the room and realized they aren’t going to allow much contact in the first 10 minutes of each quarter because they want the pace to be fast, fast, FAST.
Nevertheless, the Warriors persisted.
The Warriors would’ve won this series in five if they lost tonight, because they would beat any NBA team that has ever existed in a seven-game series. Yet, this was an especially fun way to keep 16-0 not just alive, but likely.
The Warriors were down six with three minutes left, and all it took was a Steph Curry layup, a Durant baseline shot from 13 feet that looked like it was a six-footer due to Durant’s length, then the biggest three of Durant’s career. Oh, and some defensive stops against Cleveland’s exhausted dynamic duo.
Durant was the headliner, because he finished this game like he started. If Curry’s threes make you question physics, Durant’s threes make you question the point in even trying. How are you going to stop someone with his size, mechanics, consistency and confidence?
This was also a KLAY game. He was very, very good overall in Game 2, and it seems like his shooting troubles actually motivated him to defend harder and rebound more than ever before. But every crazy Klay game/quarter is like secret holiday only Warriors fans understand or get to celebrate. His floor is still pretty high because he is so durable, low-maintenance, and strong defensively. But no one’s peaks are like Klay’s peaks.
Then Andre Iguodala ended the game with a steal that solidified a championship, and afterward made that hand motion he always does when he wants everyone to calm down. Meanwhile, LeBron James was slamming the ball off the floor in a way that generally equates to a technical foul, but there was no point in humbling him any further.
The Halloween party he threw, just so he could troll the more talented Warriors one last time, probably seems like five years ago.
The Warriors didn’t play fantastic defense in this game, although their superior conditioning (an issue the entire series, which is what Cleveland’s ego-driven decision to push their own limits on pace so silly) led to a late defensive uprising.
However, the Warriors were able to muck through a game that was actually competitive, even though their defense wasn’t in top notch form and LeBron and Kyrie finally had a fantastic game together that made everyone remember last year’s Finals. And that’ll actually raise their Legacy Quotient higher than four blowout wins would’ve, as crazy as that sounds.
— The one thing everyone will seize on in the next 48 hours is how the Cavaliers will set the internet on fire if they win Game 4, which would put the Warriors’ lead at 3-1, which means …
Nah. The internet memes don’t mean as much to the Cavs, because they already won. Plus, who wants to fly back to Oakland just to have your eardrums blistered by the biggest party in Oracle history?
— Game 4 is going to be the Draymond Game. Triple-double alert, unless the Warriors build a large lead heading into the fourth quarter.
— The Warriors shot 48.2%/48.5%/91.7% (40-83 on FGs, 16-33 on threes, 22-24 on FTs).
— One almost got the feeling that Patrick McCaw got minutes in the tensest game of the Finals to prepare him for Finals minutes in each of the next three-six seasons.
— Irving was 16-for-22 on twos, 0-for-7 on threes.
— Cavs bench went just 2-for-11 on threes.
— Quietly, this was an Iguodala (four steals) game, too.
— Steph with the 26/13/6 with only one turnover.
It’s hard to imagine the writers going against Durant in the MVP battle unless Curry goes off for 25 in the first half. Which is quite possible! But the Durant story is just too strong, with the criticism he dealt with all year and the way he played in all of these games. But Curry is still the guy who makes this whole thing go.
It doesn’t matter, really. These guys do care about making history and winning awards, but we’ve seen selflessness throughout this entire season from every Warriors player, and recently Durant made it clear that he would settle for less than the max-of-the-max, which should allow Golden State to keep this team together for a while.
Live it up, Warriors fans. There is absolutely nothing to complain about. Most people never get to experience this.