By Jared Peterman
After being buried 3-1 by Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals, many people doubted and ridiculed the Golden State Warriors for likely not even making the NBA Finals after setting a regular season record of 73-9. The Warriors saw the end of their season minutes away in each of the final three games of the Western Conference Finals, but didn’t budge. The resilient group from the Bay Area not only came back and won the series, they set up a guaranteed repeat of winning an NBA championship in my eyes.
Going down 3-1 was the best thing for the Warriors and the worst thing for their Finals counterpart, the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors already hold a 1-0 lead in the NBA Finals, but these are the reasons why they benefited from being down 3-1:
Challenged. The Warriors finally faced a challenge in the Thunder. All season long you saw the starters resting during fourth quarters of regular season blowout victories. For the most part, the Warriors strolled to 73 wins without breaking a sweat. Steph Curry getting injured in the playoffs broke the metaphorical sweat. The Warriors lost a game to Houston and Portland in each series, but it wasn’t anywhere close to the challenge they were going to face with OKC. The Thunder’s stars and credentials alone were a challenge, add in a 3-1 deficit and it seemed like an almost impossible task. The Warriors overcame the deficit, living to play in another NBA Finals against an inferior opponent than the Thunder.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers simply faced zero challenges throughout their postseason run. Even when Toronto knotted the series at 2-2, did anyone really think it would go to a deciding game seven? No. They breezed their way to the finals only to run into a juggernaut that they hardly have a chance against. Cleveland is facing the challenge of the century: Beat the 73-9 Golden State Warriors in a seven game series who have regained every bit of confidence and swagger known to man.
Refocused. The OKC series simply refocused the Warriors. Their backs were against the wall. They needed a historical performance by Klay Thompson to even play a Game 7. They saw their historic season crashing down without a NBA Championship ring or banner, let alone a Western Conference Championship. Now they’re here, in their second straight NBA Finals against the same opponent from the year before (just at full strength this time). They simply won’t face pressure in this series because they weren’t supposed to be here after being down 3-1. Game 1 showed this. Steph and Klay shot miserably and they still won by 20. The Warriors are locked in on winning three more games to have another ring, another banner, and another drunken speech by Draymond Green at their parade ceremony.
Oracle Arena. Home court is crucial in the playoffs, but protecting home court is the difference between winning and losing a series. The Warriors have protected home court throughout the playoffs going 9-1. I previously mentioned Cleveland being tied 2-2 with Toronto, where Cleveland lost at Toronto twice in front of a monstrous crowd. How do you think Oracle Arena compares when the crowd thought their season was over, but now finds itself in the finals again? Well, let’s put it this way: it doesn’t favor Cleveland. OKC stole Game 1 in Oracle, but couldn’t steal another one after that. I can’t see Golden State losing on their home floor again this season after winning Games 2, 5, and 7 in Oracle during the Western Conference Finals. The jolt in Oracle may be even louder now with the confidence gained from the OKC series, and after watching Game 1? Cleveland doesn’t stand a chance in the Bay Area.
I predicted the Warriors to win the series in five games before the series started:
As of now, it looks great with the Warriors holding a 1-0 lead without having a good first game from Steph or Klay, but getting Lebron James down 0-2 will be the most difficult thing of this series.