OAKLAND – This, of course, is where it all started last season; LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, on the verge of extinction, made history by overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals.
That painful memory is still fresh in the minds of the Golden State Warriors, who never recovered from Draymond Green being suspended in Game 5 and then melted in the final minutes of Game 7. They are in the same position now except for a few significant changes.
For one, Green is available for Game 5.
And so is Kevin Durant.
“This year’s a totally different year,” Stephen Curry said on Sunday. “I’m energetic and positive about the opportunity we have in front of us tomorrow. The past is the past. It’s definitely fueled us all year, just trying to keep that hunger to get back to the stage. But we understand we’re one win away from getting the job done, and we have a chance to write our own story this year, so this is going to be a fun night and want to just keep a clear focus to what’s going on in the present, for sure.”
There hasn’t been a championship clinching victory in this city or across the Bay in San Francisco since 1974 when the Oakland A’s won the World Series right next door to where the Golden State Warriors will attempt to end that 43-year-old drought on Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors had two chances to celebrate a championship on their home floor only to lose both Game’s 5 and 7.
“We haven’t had that experience before, so it would be a great night to get it done, to take advantage of the home crowd, the energy, how poorly we played in Game 4, to try to make the necessary adjustments energy-wise and focus-wise to get it done,” Curry added.
The Warriors and the city is bracing for an epic celebration. They are 8.5 point favorites to capture their second title in three years. But the Warriors also recognize that the series can take a dramatic turn when LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are on the floor.
The Cavs’ two All Stars dominated the final three games of last year’s Finals and they’re starting to find their groove. Irving averaged 39 points in the last two games while LeBron set an NBA Finals record with his ninth triple double in Game 4.
“We knew coming into the Game 5 last year if we don’t protect the ball, we don’t limit their three-point shooting, then we can get blown out the window and blown out of this arena,” LeBron said.
“It’s the same way. If we don’t protect the three-point line and if we turn the ball over, then we don’t stand a chance. So we know what our keys to victory is. 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.”
The Warriors were 15-0 before losing last Friday in a game that included a few questionable calls, plenty of scoring and almost as much trash talk, including Durant and LeBron going to nose-to-nose. The Cavs avoided the sweep by ending Golden State’s quest for a perfect postseason.
On Sunday, when LeBron was asked about the Warriors place in history considering that Durant joined a 73-win team, the Cavs superstar took a pass, saying that he’s going to “give you my opinion on how I can see it from both sides. I will at some point in my career.”
“But they’re a great team. They’re assembled as good as you can be as a professional team, and they’re on a quest to win a championship. You can respect that.”