OAKLAND — Golden State earned their 73 regular season wins, and their 15 through the playoffs that has them on the doorstep of back-to-back NBA titles. But there were plenty of nights through the NBA season when they didn’t bring their “A” game, and counted on a red-hot Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson in the second half to bail them out. They are a team that can lose its focus when comfortable.
The suspension of Draymond Green for an accumulation of technicals – capped by contact below the belt with LeBron James — ended any chance of that happening up 3-1 in the NBA Finals. The Warriors have turned that into fuel — they feel the Cavaliers lobbied and pressured the league to suspend Green because they can’t beat the Warriors on the court.
“I think what we’ve learned the last couple of years is that we’re a team that sometimes lets down when things are going well, but we’re also a team that has responded every single time we’ve been faced with adversity in the Playoffs the last two years. Never more so than the Oklahoma City series…” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said pregame.
“I mean, I’d be disappointed if we had to worry about that anyway. It’s a close-out game in the NBA Finals. Who can’t be ready for that? But, yeah, we’re definitely ready to roll. And if there was any edge missing, it’s definitely there now.”
For the Cavaliers part, the motivation is obvious — win or you fall a step short of your goal for a second straight season. Tyronn Lue wasn’t concerned about what motivated Golden State.
“I don’t care about Golden State. I mean, we’ve got a fire lit too. We’re down 3-1,” Lue said. “So, I mean, that’s the decision the league made, and it’s unfortunate on a big stage like this, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to win the game. We’ve got to come out and play and take the game.
“With Draymond being out, it hurts them defensively, but we’ve still got to come and play. So that has no bearing on the game. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
The pattern has been the Warriors staying afloat during Cavaliers early runs, then coming back to win the game. The tables on that scenario might flip — there could be a motivated Warriors team making an early push in Game 5. The question is how the Cavaliers respond.