Warriors

3-1 again? Adversity comes hissing back to Warriors in worst possible way

3-1 again? Adversity comes hissing back to Warriors in worst possible way

CLEVELAND -- A long, long time ago Indiana Jones was always griping about snakes.

Snakes. Why did it always have to be snakes?

After Friday night’s loss in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Warriors fans know the same feeling all too well after missing out on a sweep of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

As in, 3-1, why did it have to be a 3-1 series lead?

On the verge of being spared from reliving the torment that was the 2016 NBA Finals, the Warriors failed to close out the annual showdown with LeBron James in tidy fashion. Instead, they had their doors blown off as the Cavaliers rolled to a 137-116 victory in front of a raucous crowd.

The Warriors still have three more chances to complete their championship quest against the Cavaliers, including two at Oracle Arena.

But make no mistake -- Warriors fans wanted this one over and they wanted it now.

They wanted to avoid what comes with this loss, the nonstop razzing associated with the possibility of blowing yet another 3-1 series lead.

Instead, they’ll be subjected to three days’ worth of internet memes, jokes and GIFs about how the 2016 team collapsed and blew a 3-1 lead despite the presence of unanimous MVP Steph Curry.

Oh, the horror. 

Look, this isn’t the same scenario as last June.

It’s not even close.

Curry clearly wasn’t himself last postseason after he suffered an MCL sprain in Game 4 of a first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets. After a four-game absence, Curry returned to the court. But he never appeared to have the same explosiveness the rest of the way and it was never more evident than in the final minutes of their back-breaking Game 7 loss to the Cavs. Curry is the antithesis of that guy this postseason as he’s slicing and dicing his way across the court once again, leaving opponents in his wake.

Then there’s the little matter of Kevin Durant playing in the same role previously held by Harrison Barnes. This is the very reason Durant spurned Oklahoma City last offseason and joined the Warriors, to offer an-already outstanding offense yet another unstoppable force and putting the final piece for a dynasty in place.

Durant has already proven to be the kind of difference-maker in the series that Barnes wasn’t ready to be in 2016. The 2013-14 MVP did irreparable damage to the Cavaliers’ chances in the final two minutes of the Warriors’ stunning Game 3 comeback victory on Wednesday night. Unlike Barnes, who was allowed to shoot from the outside at will during the 2016 NBA Finals, Durant requires a minimum of one defender in his face at all times. He gives the Warriors an overwhelming additional boost they need and they’ve responded so far with one of the most dominant postseason performances of all time. The Warriors have looked unstoppable throughout the playoffs aside from being dominated by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard in the first half of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

But that’s where this all bogs down.

Until Friday, the Warriors were on the verge of becoming the first team in NBA history to go undefeated in the postseason. Fans had yet to experience any emotion except for the joyful bliss of victory.

Adversity has been scarce.

And now it has come hissing back in the worst possible way.

The Cavs brought an intensity unlike any they’d put forth in the series so far but eerily reminiscent of last year’s comeback. They made an NBA Finals-record 24 3-pointers and got 71 combined points from Kyrie Irving (40 points) and James.

If that weren’t enough, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green looked out of sorts in a disjointed game marred by foul calls.

The trio combined for 43 points on 14-of-40 shooting.

Sure, no NBA team that has ever faced a 3-0 deficit in the Finals has come back to win the series. But this is almost exactly the same Cavs team that slithered its way back from a 3-1 deficit last year to stun everyone and send the Warriors home empty-handed.

Then came the clever memes. And the GIFs. And every terrible joke in the book.

Your friends reminded you every step of the way, kind of like falling into a snake pit.

Warriors' Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 vs. Blazers with left leg soreness

Warriors' Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 vs. Blazers with left leg soreness

The expected became a reality in Portland on Monday.

After leaving Game 3 of the Western Conference finals with soreness in his Achilles region, Warriors forward Andre Iguodala will not play in Game 4 at Moda Center on Monday night, head coach Steve Kerr announced.

Iguodala had an MRI on Sunday that came back "clean," but the two-time defending NBA champions don't want to risk losing the forward for an extended period of time.

[RELATED: Steph not worried Iguodala's injury could derail NBA title hopes]

The Warriors holding a three-games-to-none series likely plays a role in Iguodala sitting Monday. Had the Dubs not erased double-digit deficits in Games 2 and 3, he likely would tough it out. 

But with a fifth straight NBA Finals appearance looking like a sure thing, the Warriors are choosing to rest the 2015 NBA Finals MVP so that he is ready to go when the lights are brightest. 

Warriors-Blazers Game 4 watch guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

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Warriors-Blazers Game 4 watch guide: Lineups, injuries and player usage

PORTLAND – The aches and bruises of 97 NBA games have the Warriors longing for a few days of rest and recovery. A win Monday night would grant them more than a week.

That’s the goal for the Warriors as they approach Game 4 of the Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers. They have a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, and nothing would feel better than a sweep.

[RELATED: How to watch Warriors-Blazers Game 4]

Pregame coverage on NBC Sports Bay Area begins at 4:30 with Warriors Outsiders, followed by Warriors Playoff Central at 5, with tipoff of the ESPN telecast from Moda Center scheduled for 6:10.

The Warriors followed the 82-game regular season with 15 postseason battles – six games against the Clippers, six against the Rockets, three against the Blazers – and there are signs of wear and tear. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant are injured, and Andre Iguodala limped into the locker room in the third quarter of Game 3 on Saturday.

“It’s very motivating for us, to try and sweep the series and have that time off,” Draymond Green said. “We’re a little banged up. Nine days off would be great for us. It would allow Andre time to heal. Shaun (Livingston) is old. It would give him a week off. But also, it would allow the possibility of Kevin and DeMarcus to get healthy and come back as well.

“It’s very important for us to come out (Monday) with the right mindset. We didn’t do that against the Clippers. We extended the series, and all of a sudden Klay (Thompson) and Steph (Curry) were going into the Houston series questionable because of ankle injuries they suffered in a series that should have been over.”

PROJECTED LINEUPS

Warriors
F Andre Iguodala or Alfonzo McKinnie
G  Draymond Green
C  Andrew Bogut or Damian Jones
G  Klay Thompson
G Stephen Curry

Blazers
F Al-Farouq Aminu
F Maurice Harkless
C Meyers Leonard
G CJ McCollum
G Damian Lillard

INJURY REPORT

Warriors: F Andre Iguodala (L calf tightness) is listed as questionable. C DeMarcus Cousins (L quadriceps tear) and F Kevin Durant (R calf strain) are listed as out.

Blazers: C Jusuf Nurkic (L leg fracture) is listed as out.

PROJECTED ROTATION

Warriors: If Iguodala sits, expect McKinnie to start at SF. He was solid in Game 3, hitting a couple shots, grabbing nine rebounds and posting a plus-24 over 21 minutes. Thompson also is capable of putting in time at SF, which he normally does when playing alongside reserves Quinn Cook and Livingston . . . Damian Jones was a surprise starter at center in Game 3. Activated May 14 after missing five months with an injury, he was whistled for three fouls in the first three minutes and spent the rest of the game on the bench. Coach Steve Kerr could try that again, but it seems unlikely. That leaves Kevon Looney and Andrew Bogut as possible starters, and Kerr prefers to have Looney coming off the bench . . . The 3-point barrage that seemed inevitable after Game 1 has not materialized. Since going 17-of-33 in Game 1, they are 17-of-55. Curry is 10-of-30, Thompson 5-of-13. Though Portland has patched up its defense, the Warriors also have missed numerous open looks from deep.

Blazers: Lillard is playing through a “separated rib” sustained in Game 2 and clearly is hampered. He’s shooting 32.6 percent from the field and has committed 14 turnovers. If he can’t play at an All-Star level, it’s tough for Portland to succeed . . . The Blazers have faded in the second half of all three games, averaging 42.7 points. Part of the struggle can be attributed to the Warriors hiking their intensity, but it’s also apparent the team is affected by the grueling seven-game series against the Nuggets in the previous round . . . With the Warriors rightfully placing most of their defensive focus on Lillard and McCollum, it has created opportunities for others. It paid off in Game 3, as Leonard -- making his first start this postseason -- scored 16 points. That’s a tradeoff the Warriors will take every time, as they believe the path to victory is through containing the guards, either of which could ring up 40 points . . . Coach Terry Stotts made liberal use of a three-guard lineup, with Seth Curry joining Lillard and McCollum. Why? Because three guards comfortable launching from deep, as is Leonard, it greatly aids floor spacing. Expect to see plenty in Game 4.

Officials: Mike Callahan (crew chief), Jason Phillips, Kevin Scott. Alternate: Sean Wright.