The Golden State Warriors won the NBA Finals 4-1, winning the first two games by 22 and 19 points, and for the series outscoring the Cavaliers by 6.7 points per 100 possessions. The Warriors were the better team.
Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson thinks the Finals were closer than you do.
Jefferson went on the Bill Simmons podcast at the Ringer and talked about the Finals (hat tip NBC Sports Bay Area).
“Fans don’t fully grasp it. We lose 4-1, right. We didn’t play great. But KD hits that huge shot. Kyle (Korver) — who is one of the great shooters in the history of basketball — he has a good look, it doesn’t drop. That’s part of it.
“And then KD hits a tough shot over LeBron on a dribble-up. That close. You win the next game and it’s 2-2.
“People don’t understand: ‘Oh 4-1, they killed you.’ It’s like dude, it’s literally one shot here, one shot there.”
“If it’s 2-2, you go there it’s Game 5. There’s zero chance — very similar to the year before — we do not lose on our home court in a Game 6 situation,” Jefferson said. “Now you go Game 7 — anything can happen.
Jefferson is talking about the dramatic end of Game 3 in Cleveland. Kevin Durant knocked down a pull-up jumper over LeBron James to put the Warriors up by 1 with 47 seconds left (a shot that made him the Finals MVP favorite). Kyle Korver later had a clean look at a shot he makes 7 or 8 times out of 10, but missed this one. It’s a make or miss league, and the Warriors hit their shots and got the win.
Jefferson thinks if that game ends differently, the Cavaliers go on to win Game 4 and it’s an even series. Would the Warriors have played with more urgency in Game 4 if they had lost Game 3? Maybe. Cleveland may have as well. This is a “Flash” like case of multiple timelines that become impossible to predict and control. The bottom line is predicting what would have happened in Game 4 — or, as Jefferson does, Game 6 — based on Game 3 is a leap I’m not comfortable with.
Bottom line, the Warriors were the better team. They earned the ring, and likely would have no matter what happened in Game 3.