After overcoming all obstacles this season, Warriors want perfection in sweeping Cavs

After overcoming all obstacles this season, Warriors want perfection in sweeping Cavs

CLEVELAND -- They are one win from history, and it has become apparent nothing will stop the Warriors, as long as they are healthy, from getting that victory.

Through three games of the NBA Finals, they have walked through every bit of ammo Cleveland has, from its ferocious rebounding and physicality to Kevin Love’s three double-doubles to Rodney Hood coming from the far end of the bench to drop 15 points to, of course, a 51-point game by LeBron James.

As the Warriors look ahead to Game 4 on Friday, they know they can close it out immediately and return to the Bay Area with their third title in four seasons.

They beat the Cavaliers in six games in the 2015 Finals, lost in seven in 2016 and won in five last season, winning the first three games, being pounded by the Cavs here in Game 4 and then returning to Oakland to win Game 5.

Well, here the Warriors are again, in Cleveland, up 3-0 for the second straight year, with Game 4 on deck.

“We want a different outcome. We want a different outcome,” Shaun Livingston said Thursday, repeating for emphasis. “We want to have a chance to sweep.”

Though most of Livingston’s teammates avoided using the word “sweep,” there is no question that’s what they crave. And it’s something very much within their grasp.

The Warriors approach Game 4 being driven by two factors. They’d like to perform at peak level, and they don’t feel they have. And, yes, they’d like to complete a four-game sweep of The Finals, something they’ve not done.

“We were here last year, a 3-0 lead, and we just kind of laid an egg,” Draymond Green said. “So we understand that and you learn from it.

“I don't think we've put our best game together yet, which is encouraging, because what better time to do that than tomorrow?”

It’s almost the poetic way to exact revenge for the burn of 2016, when the Warriors went up 3-1 on the Cavs before becoming the first team ever to blow such a lead in The Finals.

“Obviously with that happening, it gives you a little more focus,” Green said.

“We've never done that in our four years; sweep The Finals,” Livingston said. “It's an incredible opportunity, incredible opportunity. Had the shot last year, and I think it's a challenge. It's like the game within the game.” What could bring a more gratifying conclusion to a season of highs and lows, with more questions and concerns than any of the previous three under coach Steve Kerr, than winning via sweep?

“It's been our most inconsistent season,” Kerr said. “It's been our most difficult season. But our guys sense the finish line, and they turned it on right from the beginning of the playoffs defensively. That's been what's been key, I think, to get us to this point where we're on the cusp.

“So that's why we're here. Now that we are one game away, we'd like to eliminate that inconsistency and put forth our best effort, our best game tomorrow.”

The Warriors got back-to-back extraordinary performances from Kevin Durant in Games 2 and 3. They got a record-setting effort from Stephen Curry in Game 2. They’ve gotten consistent energy and two-way effectiveness from Green.

The Warriors also were forced to go the first two games without Andre Iguodala, who was injured in Game 3 but is listed as probable for Game 4. Klay Thompson sustained a leg injury in the first quarter of Game 1 but is playing through the pain.

The season, unfinished, is already enough to bring out Curry’s philosophical side.

“At the end of every season and run that we've had, there is always an appreciation for things you learn, things you've gone through,” he said. “Going into this season, I don't think anybody could have guessed or predicted the ups and downs and the roller coaster we've been on.

“So, it’s definitely a different year, just overall, personally with injuries, as a team with dealing with injuries, dealing with the kind of expectations that have been placed on us from the outside and the noise around us as a team. Trying to understand that throughout the regular season we had to continue to get better, whether that was a slow process or not, and understand when the playoffs came around that probably wouldn't go 16-1 to win a championship. That it's probably going to be a lot harder because teams are keying in on us and shifting their lineups and stuff like that. That's been how it's been.

“For us to do what we did in the Conference Finals and win a Game 7 on the road, we had never done that before. And now to be one game away, it's been a crazy ride. So now we've just got to finish the job.”

The Cavaliers don’t have enough firepower to win Game 4. Kyrie Irving, who hung 40 points in Game 4 last June, is not an option. James has carried this team so far, and is beginning to look weary.

The stage is set for a perfect finish for the Warriors. They’re built to do it.

Game Result/Schedule
Game 1 Warriors 124, Cavs 114 (OT)
Game 2 Warriors 122, Cavs 103
Game 3 Warriors 110, Cavs 102
Game 4 Cleveland -- Friday, June 8 at 6pm
Game 5 Oakland -- Monday, June 11 at 6pm
Game 6 Cleveland -- Thursday, June 14 at 6pm
Game 7 Oakland -- Sunday, June 17 at 5pm

Warriors consider lineup change vs. Clippers as they seek ruthlessness

Warriors consider lineup change vs. Clippers as they seek ruthlessness

OAKLAND – The Warriors wouldn’t ever acknowledge that they have reached the point of desperation in a first-round series. Too proud. Too accomplished.

But that’s where they are as they approach Game 6 against the Clippers, who have lost three of the first five games but never once shown any sign of surrender.

The Warriors are not necessarily desperate to win Game 6 because, should they lose, they still have Game 7.

They have to be desperate to reestablish the identity they have forged over the vast majority of Steve Kerr’s five-year run as head coach. Talented, skilled, smart, unified and ruthless.

They’re still talented and skilled. They’re generally smart. The unity has become uneven. That ruthless thing, however, has never been more elusive than this season – and it has carried over into the first five games of these playoffs.

So, on Thursday, before the team left Oakland for Los Angeles -- where Game 6 will be played on Friday -- Kerr uttered phrases that serve as euphemisms for desperation.

“Everything’s always on the table,” Kerr said. “Every playoff game, everything is always on the table. We consider everything. We go over every possibility. We hash it out. We ask the players their opinions on stuff and we make adjustments.

“That’s how the playoffs work.”

Kerr said the staff is evaluating rotations and units. Asked about a possible change in the starting lineup, he played coy.

“We could,” he said. “You never know.”

If there is a change, it will come at center. Andrew Bogut, who played so well in Games 3 and 4, struggled in the 129-121 loss in Game 5 on Wednesday. He had six points, five rebounds and two assists. He played 17 minutes and was minus-15 in the plus/minus.

Backup Kevon Looney was, by contrast, effective, as he has been for most of the series. Playing 22 minutes, he scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds, finishing a team-best plus-15.

But the issues with this team run deeper than can be solved with a single change. The Warriors have not been able to sustain the “killer instinct” required on championship teams. They’ve had it in the past, so it’s still somewhere within their collective DNA

They’re often playing it cool, even as LA is running hot. And they’re no more tired, at least physically, than the Clippers.

“I didn’t see fatigue (in Game 5),” Kerr said. “I just saw a lack of urgency, and you can’t win a playoff game without urgency. It’s not that easy.”

The first indicator of ruthlessness is effort. The Warriors brought it in Game 1 and for the better part of Game 2, before they completely and inexplicably lost it – and the game. They hit 10 on the ruthless meter in Game 3 and brought enough of it to squash a Clippers rally and prevail in Game 4.

It never appeared in Game 5.

“When we get a nice lead, we just tend to relax a little bit,” Kevin Durant said after Game 5, which the Warriors never led by more than four. “I’ve said it before, teams are looking for something just to get them back into the game.”

The Clippers didn’t so much as look for something in Game 5 as come and take it.

“More than anything, they played harder than we did,” Kerr said. “Schemes go out the window when a team plays harder than you. Schemes don’t matter unless you compete. I always say it, every year, that the first adjustment you have to make is to playing harder. And then you can get into switching rotations and matchups.

“In LA, we played really hard. In our last two home games, we let our guard down. The one thing you should know from watching the Clippers all years is that this is a competitive, fun team that enjoys playing together. They’re not going to go away. You’ve got to put them away by competing.”

[RELATED: Beverley's grit and hustle has Clips on Dubs' heels]

The Warriors in Game 5 met most of their offensive goals. They had 31 assists and eight turnovers. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Durant combined for 91 points on 49.1-percent shooting. They know they have the Curry/Durant pick-and-roll, and they’ll use it if a boost is needed. But the problem in Game 5, as well as the pivotal portion of Game 2, was an utter lack of defensive focus, execution and effort.

They fixed it last postseason and won a championship.

The Warriors know the formula. Desperate times in the NBA playoffs call for an inspired defense. Without it, even the Warriors are vulnerable.

Montrezl Harrell has message for Warriors after Clippers' Game 5 win

Montrezl Harrell has message for Warriors after Clippers' Game 5 win

The Los Angeles Clippers are feeling themselves, and for good reason.

Given zero chance to beat the Warriors heading into their first-round NBA playoff series, the Clippers have pushed the two-time defending champions to a Game 6 back in Los Angeles on Friday.

Down 3-1 in the series, most expected the Clippers to roll over Wednesday in Game 5 at Oracle Arena. But Lou Williams dropped 33 points and Montrezl Harrell added 24 as the Clippers grabbed a 129-121 win.

After the victory, Harrell had a quick, NSFW message for the Dubs and he screamed it as he sprinted back to the locker room.

"Bring that ass back to LA" Harrell shouted, via The Undefeated's Marc Spears.

Be careful what you wish for.

While the Warriors have admittedly been looking past the Clippers to a potential second-round date with the Rockets, the Dubs likely will be locked in Friday. Golden State has all the firepower needed to smolder the pesky Clippers, and the last thing they want is to have an unnecessary Game 7 because they were unfocused at the task at hand.

[RELATED: Lou Williams thinks Dubs made mistake by looking ahead to Rockets]

Harrell has been an issue for the Warriors all series, tormenting them in the pick-and-roll with Williams. His energy and ferocity have been unmatched by anyone on the Warriors, including Draymond Green. 

But with the Dubs having to bring their derrieres back to Southern California, we expect the Warriors' energy level will be a little different in Game 6.