OAKLAND -- When the Cleveland Cavaliers set foot in Oracle Arena late Monday afternoon, the Warriors and their fans will be waiting, along with the NBA, basketball nation and beyond.
So let’s dispense with the pretense, the clichés and claptrap about how this is just another regular-season game, or that it will be meaningless if these teams reconvene for the NBA Finals in June.
For the Warriors, this will be no less than a moment of truth -- even if they say otherwise three days out.
“I’m more excited about having an off day tomorrow,” Kevin Durant said late Thursday night, after the Warriors posted a 127-107 win over Detroit.
“I’m very excited about that,” Draymond Green said of the down time before Monday. “I don’t remember the last time we had that, so I’m not mad at all. I don’t think there will be any rust built over the course of three days. If so, who cares? I’ll take my three days.”
The Warriors are completely off Friday -- Klay Thompson will be in Southern California for a ceremony retiring his number at Santa Margarita High School -- with coach Steve Kerr planning a full, live practice Saturday and light workout Sunday.
In the wake of the Christmas Day Collapse, the game on Monday is about as big, at least for the Warriors, as any regular-season game that doesn’t involve clinching a playoff berth. The last time the Warriors needed a win this badly, they failed. It was against the very same Cavaliers last June, Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
They already had failed in Games 5 and 6 before that, losing all three and, in the process, becoming the first team in NBA history blow a 3-1 lead in The Finals.
The four consecutive games to Cleveland is the longest streak by a Warriors team against any opponent, under any conditions, since losing seven straight to the Spurs spanning the 2013 playoffs and the first month of the 2014-15 regular season.
It would seem to be of some appreciable benefit, at least psychologically, if the Warriors were to defend their home court and snap the streak, rather than see it extended and possibly still active should the teams meet in The Finals.
“I don’t look at it that way,” Kerr told CSNBayArea.com late Thursday night. “I really don’t. Last year was last year. This year is a new year, with a different team. We blew a lead. We should have won the (Christmas Day) game and we didn’t. So let’s bounce back and get a win.
“A year ago, just about now, we went to Cleveland and beat them by 40 (actually 34, but a rout just the same). I don’t remember reading anything about it, but I’m sure everybody was saying, ‘Oh, Cleveland can’t beat the Warriors.’ And, then, in The Finals they got us.
“So . . . things change, and they can change quickly and dramatically. Momentum, injuries, suspension . . . stuff happens.”
The Cavaliers, underdogs last season, made an epic comeback that shed lifted spirits throughout Northern Ohio. They shed the ghosts of Cleveland failures past. They want another championship, just because.
The Warriors want to prove that they not only have the best record in the league but also are capable of thriving despite the burden of being favored, as they were last season, to win it all.
That’s the KD Effect.
“I know the talk around us is we have this super team and we have 12 superstars on one team,” Durant said. “I hear that all the time. But this is an adjustment.”
Well, yes, adjustments were made after the loss 19 days ago in Cleveland. More adjustments were made after the Warriors blew another double-digit lead, against Memphis, a week ago in Oakland.
The Warriors are three days away from seeing if the adjustments pay off. All eyes will be on them.