With Warriors' pursuit of perfection over, only Cavs can now make history

With Warriors' pursuit of perfection over, only Cavs can now make history

CLEVELAND -- Game Four of these NBA Finals was a clear triumph for the Cleveland Cavaliers, chaos and conspiracy freaks, and a momentary defeat for the Golden State Warriors, historical inevitability and the league’s judgment on official selection.

Now while you argue about the proper ratios between these six factors, we will remind you that in the wake of Cleveland’s richly merited 137-116 victory Friday night, there is a Game 5, it is Monday night, and the game officials will be Joey Crawford, Joey Crawford and Joey Crawford.

(We’re lying, of course. The three officials will quite likely be Monty McCutchen, Danny Crawford and Scott Foster, because result aside, this game was a hot, fetid mess, and cooler, smarter heads will have to be imposed).

And we will remind you of one other thing. The right team won Game 4, and any bleating about the officials changing the game misses the greater point. Cleveland came out with the proper level of desperation-fueled energy, made a disproportionate number of its shots both inside and outside the arc, set records for points scored in each of the first three quarters (49, 86 and then 115 points), got to rest LeBron James for more than two minutes, and comprehensively overwhelmed the Golden State defense throughout the game.

That’s just to cool your roll on blaming the officiating crew of Mike Callahan, Marc Davis and John Goble. Callahan, a veteran of such games, was mostly undone by Davis and Goble, the latter working his first Finals game ever, and the game spiraled out of control early and stayed that way.

That being true, Cleveland was still better, again and again. I now refer you to Warrior coach Steve Kerr:

“Give them a ton of credit. They made a bunch of tough shots, but we not sharp defensively. It’s never one thing. They played a tremendous game. But the biggest thing was that they brought a level of physicality that we didn’t match.”

“(That physicality) It benefited them tonight, for sure. I don't think they're necessarily a more physical team, but they were the aggressors, they came out, hit us first, and they deserved to win because of that physicality and aggressiveness.”

And when asked a more pointed question about the officials, he responded the only way a man who likes to keep $25,000 in his pocket whenever possible, he responded only with a sardonic laugh and a “Nice try.”

Now that we don’t have to keep track of 16-0 postseason series, we can get back to the matter of the Warriors and Cavaliers, and more to the point, how the Cavs took a look at their own doom and shoved it back with a vengeance.

LeBron James (31/10/11) and Kyrie Irving (40/7/4) finally got measurable and visible contributions from Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson and Richard Jefferson (an aggregate (51/20/8) at the same time, set Finals records for points scored in each of the first three periods, and Golden State responded either tepidly or petulantly to Cleveland’s seemingly endless rushes.

At the opposite end, the Warriors were only 11-for-29 from three, their best defenders were well into the minus (Kevin Durant, -22, Draymond Green, -19, Klay Thompson, -9), and they let the chaos of a poorly officiated game affect their attention spans.

If there are things the Warriors can draw to this other than reminding themselves that closing is hard work and that the Finals are typically about testiness, it’s that Green didn’t get tossed due to some legerdesifflet (whistle magic) that changed a first half technical credited to Green was assigned to head coach Steve Kerr, thus making Green’s second-half technical a relative insignificance.

There are now two days for those messages to be absorbed, and for the Warriors to re-establish their superiority, even if it won’t be a historical wonderment any more.

Instead, the only history that can be made from this point on is by Cleveland, and only if the Cavs win the next three games. They’ve already become the third NBA team (and seventh professional team) to avert a sweep in the Finals, at least temporarily, with the others being:

* The 1947 Chicago Stags, who won Game 4 of the first-ever BAA title series but lost in five to the Philadelphia Warriors. The BAA later morphed through merger with the NBL into the NBA

* The 1949 Washington Capitols, who won Games 4 and 5 but lost the BAA finals in six to the Minneapolis Lakers.

* The 1951 New York Knicks, who won Games Four, Five and Six but lost to the Rochester Royals in seven.

* The 1974 Utah Stars, who prolonged the ABA finals to five games against the Julius Erving New York Nets.

* The 1975 Indiana Pacers, who cheated death for a game against the ultimate ABA winners, the Kentucky Colonels.

* The 1996 Seattle SuperSonics, who beat the fourth Michael Jordan championship team in Games 4 and 5 before succumbing.

Of those teams, only the Knicks, Bulls and Pacers still exist in their current locations and names, so history just got ancient as well as irrelevant.

Indeed, we will be burden with no more team-of-the-epoch narratives, no more comparisons with the favorite teams of the guardians of yesteryear. There is just the hard painful slog of finishing off a very good team, or expiring in the attempt. The very basis of the NBA Finals.

Except, of course, for one last swing at the unprecedented. At game’s end, the fulfilled Quicken Arena crowd chanted, “Cavs-In-Seven” repeatedly, but for the first time it was done with gusto rather than blind loyalty. True, the Cavaliers still have a long way to go to become the 1951 New York Knicks, let alone the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, but at least we have the germ of a series now, at the relatively inexpensive costs of a record that cannot be, and the momentary deferral of years of dynasty talk.

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

Hopeful night at Oracle turns solemn after Curry sprains left MCL

OAKLAND -- The words came dribbling out slowly, ruefully and with more than a trace of despair.

JaVale McGee, the 7-foot accidental villain, could barely speak about his role Friday night in the moment that left the Warriors pleading for mercy while their fans were screaming at the sky.

Stephen Curry, returning to the lineup after a six-game absence due to a right ankle sprain, lasted 25 minutes before sustaining another injury, this one a sprain to his left MCL. The two-time MVP will undergo an MRI test Saturday.

“I pray to God,” McGee said, “that nothing’s wrong with him.”

The injury occurred with 3:09 left in the third quarter. After biting on a pump fake by Atlanta forward Mike Muscala, McGee wound up tumbling backward, with his 270 pounds landing directly at the front Curry legs. Curry immediately started limping away, with the sellout crowd at Oracle Arena gasping in horror.

“I was trying to block a shot,” McGee said beneath a vacant stare, “and I ran into him.”

That’s the kind of month it has been for the Warriors. All four of their All-Stars have been knocked out of action by an array of injuries.

Curry went down March 8 after tweaking his surgically repaired right ankle. Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson were injured March 11 at Minnesota, Durant sustaining a rib cartilage injury after taking a elbow from 7-foot Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns and Thompson spraining his right thumb after making contact with Minnesota point guard Jeff Teague.

Draymond Green began the next week as the team’s only healthy All-Star, a distinction that lasted eight days before he was struck down with a pelvic contusion Monday night in San Antonio.

“It’s like a juju or something on us,” McGee said. “I’ve never been part of a team where everybody just got injured, especially the starters. It’s kind of scary to tell the truth.”

Durant, Thompson and Green were unavailable Friday night, which is why Curry’s return was so encouraging. After a 2-point first quarter during which he went 1-of-6 from the floor, Curry found his stroke and over his next 16 minutes scored 27 points on 9-of-12 shooting.

Then came the most frightening moment of the night, throwing a massive damper on a 106-94 victory.

“I assumed it was his ankle when he came out hobbling and I found it was his knee,” coach Steve Kerr said. “We will see what the MRI says tomorrow.

“There is not a whole lot we can do or predict. It’s kind of a strange, cruel twist of fate. He rehabs his ankle for the last couple of weeks and gets that strong and the knee goes. We’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed.”

The Warriors came out of the All-Star break fairly healthy and ready to make a run at the No. 1 overall seed. They’ve achieved it in each of the last three seasons, coming away with two championships.

Hopes of getting there this season have disappeared under a pile of injuries, all of them coming over the last 16 days. As of late Friday night, there was no knowing how serious Curry’s injury is, or how long he might be out.

What’s known is that it was another in a succession of frightful moments.

“It’s a little somber in there,” Kerr said of the locker room. “Everybody feels for Steph. But it’s more a case of just keep going and keep pushing forward. We’ll come into tomorrow, short practice and get ready for Utah.”

That’s at the request of the schedule. That’s a dose of NBA reality on a grim night.

McGee didn’t seem ready for that. He was feeling awful about the entire episode.

“I can’t describe it,” he said of the play that followed everyone into the night. “Everybody has a TV. I fell into him and . . . I know y’all (reporters) don’t think I’m standing here like, ‘Yes, I fell into him.’

“That’s a star player. Of course, we don’t want him to be injured, especially after he came back. So I feel very bad for the fact that I was a part of that.”

McGee said he hopes Curry is out no more than a couple games.

The Warriors would be ever so pleased if it’s a couple weeks. They want to be whole for the postseason,, the only season by which they will be measured and a season that, on this night, nobody was of a mood to visualize.

Curry limps to locker room with left MCL sprain, does not return vs Hawks

Curry limps to locker room with left MCL sprain, does not return vs Hawks

OAKLAND -- Stephen Curry lasted 25 minutes Friday night before limping out of another game.

He was diagnosed with a sprained left MCL and did not return after sustaining the injury.

Curry came up limping after center JaVale McGee, leaping for a rebound, tumbled backward into his lower legs with 3:09 remaining in the third quarter of the Warriors-Hawks game at Oracle Arena.

Immediately, the sellout crowd let out a collective groan.

Curry, his face a mask of dejection, headed for the bench, where he was examined by Warriors physical performance specialist Chelsea Lane. The two then headed into the locker room.

Curry scored a team-high 29 points and grabbed seven rebounds before leaving the game. This was his first appearance since March 8, when he tweaked his surgically repaired right ankle, causing him to miss six games.

Curry has missed 21 of the team’s 71 games. He will undergo an MRI on Saturday, and his status beyond that is yet to be determined. 

This story is being updated.