In the 2016 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers, forever cementing in the minds of basketball fans the idea that the only way a series is over after Game 4 is when it ends in a sweep.
In the 2019 NBA Finals, the Warriors are hoping to reverse the script, as they find themselves down 3-1 to the Toronto Raptors after losing Game 4 105-92 Friday night with not just Monday’s Game 5 but also a possible Game 7 scheduled on the Raptors’ home floor.
Now on the brink of elimination, the Warriors seem to be making “one game at a time” their new mantra as they try to win three of them in a row.
Stephen Curry, who followed up one of the great individual performances of all time in Game 3, was listless in Game 4, scoring 27 points but needing to shoot 9-of-22 from the field and 2-of-9 from behind the arc to do it.
“We’ve been on both sides of it,” Curry said after the game, referring to the deficit his team now faces. “For us, it’s an opportunity for us to just flip this whole series on its head.”
“You got to do it one game at a time,” he added.
Draymond Green, who played well in Games 1 and 2 but has fallen back to earth in the two games since, echoed Curry’s thoughts.
“You got to take it one game at a time,” Green said.
“We’ve got to win one game. We win one, then we’ll build on that. I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before, so why not make our own history?”
3-1… Why not? pic.twitter.com/37uSMnh8QC
— Warriors on NBCS (@NBCSWarriors) June 8, 2019
Of course, the injured Kevin Durant, whose absence in this series has been a huge factor, joined the Warriors after his Oklahoma City Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to the Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals.
Curry and Green didn’t seem particularly fazed while speaking to the media, but their words won’t mean all that much if the team — outside of Curry and Klay Thompson — doesn’t play a lot better than it did in Game 4.
Golden State‘s other players combined to shoot 15-of-38 (39.5 percent) from the field, 0-of-8 from three and 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) from the free-throw line.
That’s just not going to cut it in any of the three games the Warriors now have to win.
Coach Steve Kerr seems confident that he can lead his team to three victories, reiterating the sentiment that doing so is just a matter of winning one in a row three straight times.
“We’re not thinking about winning three games, we’re thinking about winning one game,” Kerr said, according to CBS Sports.
“That’s the task. I know we’re capable. We’ve got a lot of talent, we’ve got a lot of pride. These guys have been to the Finals five straight years for a reason. They’re unbelievably competitive, and they’re together and they’re going to fight the whole way.”
Of course, lost in all this Warriors talk is potential Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s potential one-season rental, who missed 22 games during the regular season and currently looks as fresh as a player coming out for the first game of the season.
Leonard scored 36 points on 11-of-22 shooting with 12 rebounds in 41 minutes on Friday, and it seems all that load management during the regular season is paying off in a big way.
Some fans, of course, don’t like the concept of “load management” or giving players the day off even when they aren’t injured.
But you can’t argue with results, and veteran teams have historically saved an extra gear for the playoffs.
The difference back then was that stars dogged it in meaningless games.
Under the new system, stars just sit those games out completely.
Game 5 is Monday in Toronto. Whether we see a new sheriff in town or a champion-turned-underdog keeping their season alive, it’s going to be a fight to the finish.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.