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.

Steph Curry among Warriors at Juan Toscano-Anderson's Oakland protest

Steph Curry among Warriors at Juan Toscano-Anderson's Oakland protest

How did Warriors superstar Steph Curry spend his Wednesday afternoon?

He took part in a peaceful protest against police brutality and systemic racism at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Golden State forward -- and Oakland native -- Juan Toscano-Anderson organized the event.

"No matter the color of your skin, where you're from, how much money you got -- it doesn't matter," Toscano-Anderson said to those who gathered. "We're all human beings. We're all here for the same purpose.

"Right now, it's about black people. But for humanity -- there's people all over the world being oppressed. We're just trying to take a step in the right direction."

[RELATED: Brees still believes kneeling is 'disrespecting the flag']

Protests around the country continue in response to George Floyd's tragic death last week while in police custody in Minneapolis.

 

What if Warriors had traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

What if Warriors had traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

Editor's note: Twice a week, NBC Sports Bay Area will look back on biggest "What If?" moments in Bay Area sports history in our "Hindsight 2020" series. The first installment: What if the Warriors had actually traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love in 2014?

Klay Thompson permanently has etched himself into Warriors lore over the last decade, using his superior shooting ability to help win, and even save, the Warriors dynasty. Thompson, along with Steph Curry, has given the Warriors a backcourt never before seen in basketball.

But back in the summer of 2014, the Warriors' eyes were on their first title in 40 years, and Thompson's place in the said mission was murky. His standing in the franchise was uncertain when Golden State dangled his services to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a deal for Kevin Love

For Golden State -- who ended up winning three titles in five seasons with Thompson -- Love provided star power that would have validated Warriors' rise. For the pre-dynasty Warriors, Love provided something Thompson has never been: A double-double threat not seen in the Bay Area since Chris Webber. 

Despite never making the postseason to that point, Love would bring an established name to a new ownership group led by Joe Lacob looking to make a statement to the rest of the league. However, the deal got nixed when team consultant Jerry West reportedly threatened to quit if Golden State went through the plan. 

But what if Thompson's talents were traded for Love? What if Golden State gave up on the Splash Brothers too early?

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

For context, the timing of the trade is noteworthy. While the San Antonio Spurs won the title with a modern offense in 2014, the league still put a premium on traditional big men who could roam the paint. In the same offseason, the Washington Wizards signed big man Marcin Gortat to a five-year, $60 million dollar deal.

But more importantly, the thought of adding Love -- a three-time All-Star at that point -- allowed Lacob to get the star power that'd spurned Golden State for years. Love was the prize, and the Warriors were eager to acquire him. 

But for Golden State, it would have made the team destined for dynastic glory merely a solid regular-season team. Spacing was a catalyst for the Warriors' success, and Love was most effective in the paint during his time in Minnesota.

Love's presence would have made Draymond Green expendable. At the time of the trade discussions, Green hadn't broken out as a bonafide starter. That wouldn't happen until the start of the 2014-15 season, only after David Lee was sidelined with a hip injury.

With Thompson off the roster, Curry would not have the necessary spacing or the heat-check partner Thompson provides. Love's defensive deficiencies would drive assistant coach Ron Adams insane. 

[RELATED: Six reasons why Warriors will play in 2021 Finals]

In Minnesota, Thompson would have been the franchise pillar leading a rebuild, a distinction he's never had the opportunity to live up to. But alongside Zach LaVine and Shabazz Muhammad, he'd have little chance of success in his first season.

In 2015, he'd likely be joined by draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns. But as we learned in the Bay Area, Thompson is best served as the second or third-best player on a championship roster. The presence of Curry and Kevin Durant allowed Thompson to flourish on his own terms. On Golden State's stacked roster, Thompson's scoring binges and defense set the Warriors apart from the rest of the league. In Minnesota, his contributions alone wouldn't yield a title.

Trade notwithstanding, both players ended up on the right side of history. Love ultimately was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning a title with LeBron James in 2016, beating the Warriors along the way.

Meanwhile, Thompson won three titles in the Bay Area and has become an organizational pillar. The 2014 trade proposal looks preposterous in hindsight. 

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]