Forget 'could' or 'should' -- the NBA Finals 'must' go seven games

Forget 'could' or 'should' -- the NBA Finals 'must' go seven games

This may not sit well with many Warrior fans and their concept of manifest destiny, but the NBA Finals has to go seven games.

Not “could,” or “should,” but “must.” In other words, it should scare the hell out of every basketball fan interested enough to care.

Sure, the joy of wearing a $35 T-shirt that says “Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo” (hat/tip to the estate of Moses Malone) is its own reward. And yes, being to lord your favorite team’s superiority in a convincing victory will make you the smug, obnoxious fan you’ve always wanted to be. And unquestionably not having to take a second trip to Cleveland or a third trip to Oakland is easy on the body as well as the budget.

But the hell with all that. A seventh game is the one true thing that makes being a human being worthwhile, and better still, a seventh game that ends in overtime elevates us all as a species. Even Ottawa Senators fans who watched their team miss out on a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Final in two overtimes Thursday night feel like they got their money’s worth.

And you can’t get a better deal than that.

For the record, this is not a prediction, nor is it attached to a preference for one team over another. I am rooting neither for Warriors nor Cavaliers. I’m rooting for volume. If this is the series everybody thinks it ought to be, then there ought to be so much of it that everyone should feel like they just binge-Thanksgivinged.

Only 19 Finals have gone to a seventh game, and only five in the last 30 years. But given how much discussion has been generated over the last one, in 2016, why would this series not benefit from a reprise?

Besides, until Game 7 a year ago, the series was wildly disjointed and even nonsensical; the margins of victory were 15, 33, 30, 11, 15 and 14. The 2015 series, which the Warriors won in six games, was at least more fascinating game to game (margins of 8, 2, 5, 21, 13 and 8), but the lingering memory and defining nature of those 13 games is Game 7. A weird series turned into an excellent one because Game 7 cures all other evils – a broken date, a broken heart, a broken femur, a broken computer just as you’re ready to hit “send.” All of it.

So that’s what this needs – especially after all the time the two fan bases have been asked to watch their teams sit idle because of the lack of games. Twenty-one total days between series for each team has worn even the most tortured narratives thin, and the only way the league can make it up to them is to provide a seventh game.

And when we say “provide,” we mean it in that totally-above-board, non-game-fixing way.

So should the Warriors hammer the Cavs with their superior firepower and depth and defense, while it may satisfy you, it will only serve to mark a disappointing end to what has been a disappointing postseason. And should the Cavs do the same with their superior James and Irving and Thompson, the reaction will be the same. The winners get a parade and a ring, and everyone else feels slightly jobbed.

So let the drama begin, and let it linger. You haven’t got anything better to do anyway. The Bay Area baseball teams are struggling as a daily work condition, the Indians have the second worst home record in baseball, the Browns and 49ers are horrific and the Raiders are looking to leave. Plus, we’ve got the Kings.

So with all due acknowledgement to whatever your petty needs might be, this must go seven games. In fact, it should be like the 1957 Finals between Boston and St. Louis, in which the Celtics beat the Hawks, 125-123 in double overtime for their first championship in what became North America’s most enduring sports dynasty.

After all, most games we call “epic” aren’t, but if this new rivalry is to be the equal of all those others, the way is clear, and it won’t be done by in-game pundits or off-day analytics. It will be done in Oakland June 18 – after midnight on the East Coast, just make sure everyone across the land is pot-committed to the game.

Anything short of that will feel like a bit ordering a steak and getting a sandwich. You get to eat. You just won’t remember it as readily.

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Quinn Cook states his case for spot on Warriors playoff roster

Because it’s only two games against two of the worst teams in the NBA, it’s prudent to resist the temptation to fall in love with Quinn Cook.

Putting up Stephen Curry numbers in consecutive games does not make one Stephen Curry.

It’s impossible, though, not to clearly understand why the Warriors have consistently expressed faith in Cook, the two-way point guard who has spent three years trying to make an NBA team.

Two fine games are enough, though, for the coaching staff to recommend adding him to the postseason roster. It’s wise to have a contingency in case Curry has to miss any of the games that matter most, and the Warriors are a smart bunch.

Cook on Saturday told reporters in Phoenix that the Warriors have not addressed the possibility of being on the postseason roster. That doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it.

“He’s proven that he can compete at this level,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters Saturday night in Phoenix. “The last couple games, you’re seeing what he can do. He’s a great shooter. We’ve known that."

Cook scored, on back-to-back nights, 25 and 28 points, shooting 70 percent (21-of-30) from the field, including 71.4 percent (10-of-14) from deep. That’s Curry-type quality when he’s on a roll. Cook also handled the ball well, recorded seven assists and was pesky enough on defense to nab five steals.

“Quinn is showing the world that he is an NBA player,” Draymond Green said.

Cook’s 10 3-pointers over the past two games are more than anybody not named Curry, Durant or Thompson have drained over a similar stretch -- and only Nick Young among the team’s reserves have made more over any single month.

The Warriors, it just so happens, are dead last in 3-pointers made by reserves, averaging 2.0 per game, with Young accounting for 1.5 per game.

Cook is showing he might be able to help with this.

Kerr loves 3-point shooters. General manager Bob Myers is fond of saying he can never have too many shooters.

The Warriors are discovering they can’t have too many capable point guards, particularly when Cook is proving that he, like Curry, also is comfortable playing off the ball. Pairing Cook with Shaun Livingston, the primary backup to Curry, is a nice option to have.

“I’ve said all along,” Green said. “I sit here and watch so many other teams play and I wonder, ‘How is Quinn Cook a two-way player?' And then you’ve got guys in the league that can’t dribble with their left hand, or can’t go left, can’t go right, but you’ve got a guy like that as a two-way player.

“So I’m happy for him. I pray that he gets rewarded and gets what he deserves.”

Cook had brief trial runs with the Pelicans, as a rookie, and the Mavericks last season. He played a total of 14 games with the two teams. He has played 21 with the Warriors, seven as a starter, but only in the last two has he looked entirely comfortable in his role and with these teammates.

With Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Curry out, the Warriors need Cook to score. He knows he needs to score. He is scoring. And doing a few other things, too.

“Playing in the NBA is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life,” Cook said after his 28-point performance in a win over the Suns. “I can’t really put it into words, just being able to put on an NBA jersey night in and night out, practice with an NBA team every day, has been my goal since I can remember. I’m just trying to get better every day and live in the moment. I’m just trying to win games. I’m trying to help out as much as possible, whether it’s getting guys shots, playing defense, shooting the ball.

“Lately the ball’s been going in a little bit. But with three All-Stars out, I’ve got to step up. I’m just taking it game by game and competing night in and night out.”

Sometime early next month, if not late this month, the Warriors expect to have their starting backcourt. Curry and Thompson will have returned before the playoffs begin April 14-15, and both will need to be available if for reasonable chance to repeat as champs.

But Cook is making his case for inclusion. He’ll get another test Monday night in San Antonio, where Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is sure to throw at Cook a few wrinkles he may not have seen, but the Warriors have seen enough to know he can help.

“He’s a good fit for us, too,” Kerr said. “It’s not just his ability. It’s his maturity. He’s very professional, does whatever is asked, the guys love him. They want to go to war with him.

“He’s a guy. He’s an NBA guy. We’re lucky to have him.”

That’s not an demand, or even a preference. To add Cook to the roster, the Warriors would have to shed one of their 15 players currently on a standard NBA contract.

But somewhere among Kerr’s words, I believe I see an endorsement.

Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns


Warriors need vets to bounce back against young Suns

The Warriors have lost three of their last four games, their roster is in shambles and, still, they look like pure gold in contrast to the Suns team they’re facing Saturday night in Phoenix.

Coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 6 o’clock, with tipoff scheduled for 7:05.

Reeling from the absences of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson, the Warriors (52-17) showed plenty of the scrap in losing to the Kings on Friday in Oakland but couldn’t get much offense from their veterans.

The Suns (19-51) are having the worst season since 1968-69, their inaugural season. They’ve lost seven in a row, 16 of their last 17 and 21 of their last 23.


Warriors by 3


Quinn Cook vs. Elfrid Payton: Payton bolted to a 16-point first quarter and scored 29 the last time he faced the Warriors. Quinn is coming off a career-high 25-point game. With teams relying on diminished rosters, whichever of the two young PGs can set a tone gives his team an advantage.


Warriors: G Omri Casspi (R ankle sprain), G Stephen Curry (R ankle tweak), F Kevin Durant (R rib soreness), G Pat McCaw (L wrist fracture) and G Klay Thompson (R thumb fracture) are listed as out.

Suns: G Devin Booker (R hand sprain) and F Alan Williams (R meniscus tear) are listed as questionable. G Brandon Knight (L ACL tear) is listed as out.


Warriors: 7-3.

Suns: 1-9.


Tony Brothers (crew chief), Jacyn Goble, James Williams


The Warriors won the first of four meetings this season, 129-83 on Feb. 12 at Oracle Arena. They swept all four games last season and are 12-1 against the Suns in the Steve Kerr era.


MOTIVATED VETS: Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and Nick Young, expected to generate offense, combined to shoot 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in a five-point loss Friday. They must be better; they can’t be much worse. Phoenix leads the NBA in points allowed.

THE BIG MEN: JaVale McGee started nine straight games at center, but Pachulia started the last two. The Suns are long up front, so McGee could be in line for a start or more minutes. In addition, Damian Jones, the team’s other 7-footer, also could get playing time.

STREAKING WITH THREES: The Suns own the longest active streak of games with at least one 3-point make (1,128). The Warriors are No. 2 (1,121). Both streaks are endangered. Curry, Thompson and Durant are out for the Warriors. Booker will either sit out or play with a splint on his shooting hand.