There’s really no way to say it, other than someone’s going to be really ticked off after Game 7.
It will go beyond players, deeply into fan bases and even the psyche of an entire city when the Golden State Warriors play host to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday.
This series was supposed to end almost a week ago, when the Warriors were heading home with a 3-1 lead and an 11-point road victory fresh in their memory.
More sadness was destined for the Cavaliers in their 46th year without a championship, while the city of Cleveland itself would continue to sputter in sports, unable to gain any title of note since the Browns won a 1964 NFL championship. That was three years before the first Super Bowl.
But then Draymond Green struck LeBron James in the groin toward the end of Game 4, was suspended for Game 5, and here we are in the final game of the NBA season. That, and back-to-back 41-point games by James, who’s trying very, very hard to not fall to 2-5 in the Finals.
Nobody would be surprised if James was the Finals most valuable player; win or lose, his play has been that subliminal.
“I came back for a reason, and that is to bring a championship to the city of Cleveland, to northeast Ohio and all of Ohio and all Cavaliers fans in the world,” James said Saturday, knowing full well an NBA team has never come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the Finals.
“I don’t think people imagined it this way, the route that we’ve taken, and that’s fine. Like I always say, every day is not a bed of roses and you have to be able to figure out how to get away from the thorns and the pricklers of the rose and things of that nature to make the sunshine.”
Golden State has experienced late-onset June Gloom.
Game 6, like Game 5 before it, was all Cleveland. James had his way beyond the arc and on seemingly downhill drives and, in Game 6, took particular delight in ferociously blocking Stephen Curry’s layup attempt.
Curry was ejected a bit later for the first time in his career, punctuating it with a well-documented mouthpiece throw that hit a taunting fan. The rare outburst cost him $25,000 in a league-imposed fine.
The season that looked so great for Golden State with a record-setting 73-9 mark before playoffs would be a failure if the Warriors didn’t win. So says Curry.
“Yeah, pretty much because that was our goal from the beginning,” Curry said. “We’ve had two chances already and haven’t gotten it done. So if we come up short, we’ll all be very, very disappointed. No two ways around that.”
The Warriors, in fact, have never lost three consecutive games in Coach Steve Kerr’s two-year tenure.
Reserve Andre Iguodala, the main defender on James, was bothered by a sore back in Game 6 but “progressing well” Saturday, Warriors publicist Raymond Ridder said. He’s expected to play, which can only help the Warriors pull out of whatever Finals flu they’ve caught.
Curry has had one great game this round and suddenly can’t stay out of foul trouble. Some of the calls on him annoyed Kerr enough to publicly complain and subsequently suffer a $25,000 fine.
Said Curry: “I need to play my best game of the year if not my career because of what the stakes are.”
The Warriors looked a little shell-shocked after Game 6 as fans outside Cleveland’s arena giddily high-fived police officers and hoped the drought would finally end.
In a cautious note to Cleveland followers, the road team hasn’t won a Game 7 in the Finals since 1978 (Washington at Seattle). Road teams are 3-15 overall in Finals Game 7s.
If the Warriors want to repeat as champions and shatter Cleveland’s comeback, they’ll need to find the trademark outside touch that abandoned them the last two games — 35% from three-point range.
“I don’t know why we haven’t been ourselves,” Curry said. “The only thing that matters is we have one game left to figure it out. At the end of the day, if we’re standing on a podium [Sunday], who cares how we got there? We got there.”