Warriors

Warriors looking barrel-first at 'Squeaky-Bum Time' if they don't win Game 5

Warriors looking barrel-first at 'Squeaky-Bum Time' if they don't win Game 5

Game Five of these NBA Finals is supposed to be the coronation of the Golden State Warriors as the new Greatest Team In The History of The Third Dimension And All The Ships At Sea.

Then again, that was Game Four’s principal function, and we all remember how that turned out.

Given the new reality, though – that the Cleveland Cavaliers are as capable of kicking the Warriors in the how’s-your-father as the other way around – Game Five has taken on a new role.

The harbinger of what the famous Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson liked to call “squeaky bum time.”

And yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.

The Warriors could have finished the job – the job of winning a championship, not the chase for historical superiority that seems to arouse us intellectually a lot more than it does them. Instead, they booted all over themselves in a 137-116 loss that was actually far closer than it deserved to be.

After all, if a team with the best defense gives up the most points in a Finals game in each of the first three quarters and the sixth-highest total over (out of 820 games), a 21-point loss is a veritable gift.

And yes, no matter what the venue, no matter what the officiating level, no matter what external pressures. It’s the Finals. Nobody grades on a curve.

So since Friday brought back such a rush of old story lines (Where It All Went Wrong, Part Deux), Monday is now a test of Golden State’s character, dignity and worth as human beings – all because they didn’t sweep a very good team on its home court, and all because if they don’t win Game Five, it’s 2016 all over again, only this time it cements their legacy as choking hyenas.

That is, if:

(A)   They have an actual legacy like that based on one win and one loss in the Finals.

(B)   You believe them capable of playing such a shoddy level of defense for a second consecutive game.

(C)   You think their bravado runs a mile wide and an inch deep.

If none of the above are true, all Game Five means merely a dream deferred three days. But if the Cavs win again, as they did a year ago?

Yep. Squeaky-bum time.

The origin of SBT was actually 2003 and the nerve-wracking Premier League. Ferguson was using the phrase to gig Arsenal, which led by as many as eight point in March but ultimately was caught by United at the end. The operative quote:

“They (Arsenal) have a replay against Chelsea and if they win it they would face a semi-final three days before playing us in the league. But then they did say they were going to win the treble (the Premiership, the Champions League, then called the UEFA Cup, and the FA Cup), didn't they? It’s squeaky bum time and we've got the experience now to cope.”

As it became prophetic – Man U won the league and Arsenal croaked up at the second group stage of the UEFA Cup, leaving them only with the FA Cup – it became a staple of sports phraseology. It was the classic example of believing nothing until it becomes fact.

And now, it is here. Maybe.

The Warriors might well hammer the Cavs Monday as they did in Games 1 and 2 and close out the title as most people expected. Indeed, the 18 games of these three finals are a study in hypercycling and therefore not a trustworthy barometer of the future.

The margins of the 17 games are, in order:

8, 2 (Cleveland), 5 (Cleveland), 21, 13, 8, 15, 33, 30 (Cleveland), 11, 15 (Cleveland), 14 (Cleveland), 4 (Cleveland), 22, 19, 5, 21 (Cleveland). If you can find a pattern in that, you’re a little too conversant in the ways of the ganja.

But the Warriors have always created suspicions that they give in to their comfort level a bit too readily, believing, sometimes prematurely, that they can break a team’s will at will.

This is most likely a delusion created by the fact that they haven’t lost 50 games in the last three years, a first in this sport. But there is a sense that if the Warriors do not finish the Cavs Monday, they go back to Ohio finding the oxygen getting thin and the lungs starting to self-sear.

Yep. Squeaky-bum time.

The solutions are easy – defend fiercely from the start and make early shots; ignore the fans and the blathering class, and view this as a game that demands immediate and unabating ruthlessness. Stay out of early foul trouble (which is very much in their control no matter what you may think otherwise) and make the Cavaliers do the reacting and chasing.

You know. Play Games 1 and 2.

Otherwise we are looking barrel-first at Squeaky Bum Time as Sir Alex Ferguson actually defined it – as that time when those who have dared to presume start wondering if their presumptions were, well, presumptuous.

Steph Curry sheds light on Game 1 trash talk with LeBron James, promises there are 'adversarial relationships' in NBA

Steph Curry sheds light on Game 1 trash talk with LeBron James, promises there are 'adversarial relationships' in NBA

Do you remember what happened with about 35 seconds left in OT during Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals?

In case you forgot:

The Warriors led by 11 points and with the shot clock winding down, Steph Curry attempted a driving layup and LeBron James blocked it.

LeBron proceeded to talk some trash to Curry and even used a little forearm to nudge him away when Curry said something in return.

On the most recent episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast, Curry shed some light on the exchange.

Simmons: "He blocked you and he talked sh*t to you. I thought you guys were gonna fight."

Curry: "It was never going to spill over to that. But it was an interesting moment ... I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn't see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.

"And I was like, 'That's what we're really on right now? We're about to win and you're worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?' And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, 'Yo, what's up? Is this really what we're about right now?'

"And he was like, 'I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I'm a mentor' and it's a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, 'I don't want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.' (laughter). Come on man, that's messed up."

Simmons: "I want more of it. I don't want you guys to like each other. This is my biggest problem with this decade. I like that I'm not positive you and LeBron like each other (Curry starts laughing). Watching from afar, it doesn't seem like you like each other. I'm sure there's a mutual respect."

Curry: "There's definitely a mutual respect. I would say though when you see guys working out with each other in the summers and you see guys playing pickup and all that -- when you step foot on the court during the season, it's a totally different environment.

"Guys can be buddies and friends and whatnot and have whatever type of relationship they want to have in the summer and off the court, but the rivalry and competition and egos and all that stuff that lives in an NBA game and when you're trying to hold that trophy ... it's really there and it's not going anywhere."

Simmons: "I don't want you guys to get along. I want adverserial relationships."

Curry: "They're there. They're there. I promise you."

Good. That is awesome.

A couple other takeaways from the podcast:

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Steph Curry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him: 'I hope it's true because that's hilarious'

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AP

Steph Curry unveils story behind why the Wolves didn't draft him: 'I hope it's true because that's hilarious'

With the fifth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select... Ricky Rubio.

With the sixth pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select... Jonny Flynn.

With the seventh pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select... Stephen Curry.

And the rest is history.

As you all know, the man in charge of those selections -- David Kahn -- was fired in 2013 and no longer works in the NBA.

"My guy David Kahn. I don't know where he's at right now," Curry said on The Bill Simmons Podcast. "I don't know if that ever came out -- there's a story. Everybody knows how much I love golf -- play it in my spare time and what not.

"I think the word on the street was that he didn't draft me because in Minnesota it's cold and I wouldn't be able to play as much golf so I would have been miserable."

A shocked Simmons asked Curry: "Is that true?"

"I hope it's true because that's hilarious (laughter)," Curry said. "That's hilarious."

To which Simmons responded: "It was idiotic in the moment. I did a draft diary. I was going nuts. Because if you're gonna take two point guards, how are you not one of the two? And then if you're gonna go all-in on Rubio and you don't even know if he's gonna come over..."

Rubio didn't leave Spain for the NBA until the 2011-12 season, and a hip injury unfortunately ended Flynn's career after just two plus seasons.

There's no way we will ever find out if that golf story is true, but just like Steph... we certainly hope it is.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller