We asked the question in the Wednesday blog: Can the Golden State Warriors close out the Cleveland Cavaliers?
Good question, but not the right question. The real point of inquiry should have been: With the NBA Finals back in Cleveland, and the Warriors relatively untested in these playoffs, could they survive a desperate team and handle the final minutes of a tense game?
Uh, yes. Yes, they can. Down six points with 3:09 left on Wednesday night, the Warriors did not allow another Cleveland score, ran off the last 11 points of the game and defeated the Cavs 118-113. It was the Cavaliers, not the Warriors, who fell apart at the end. The Cavs played 45 fine minutes of a 48-minute game and came unglued at crunch time.
What went right for the Warriors? “We didn’t panic,” said guard Stephen Curry, who scored 26 points.
The Warriors now lead the series 3-0; no team has ever surmounted that deficit to win the NBA title. Yes, we remember last year when it was 3-1 in favor of the Dubs and the Cavs ran off the requisite three straight victories to grab their first championship, but there was no Kevin Durant to cope with then. Durant scored seven straight points late in the fourth quarter of this game – he finished with 31 – and the Cavs were ruined at home, their fans silenced.
It’s a quick turnaround – relatively speaking – for the teams, with Game 4 on Friday night. The Warriors need to win once to pick up their second title in three years; the Cavs need to win once for the sake of dignity, and must win four times to repeat.