Over the course of a season that has spanned roughly eight months, the NBA Finals has become a race to winning two games.
At the very most, we only have one more week of basketball, as Game 7 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, if necessary, would be played on Friday.
Momentum is said to be one of the most important factors of the postseason in any sport (just ask the Kansas City Royals), and it has practically dictated how this series has gone thus far. Following a Game 1 loss to the Warriors, the Cavaliers seemed to snatch the series momentum in a Game 2 overtime win and a Game 3 victory. I say this as objectively as possible for a Cleveland fan, but the Warriors absolutely stole the momentum right back following a 103-82 blowout at Quicken Loans Arena in Game 4.
That’s terrifying for a Cleveland fan, because two of the potential three games necessary to crown a world champion are in Oakland. However, it’s not Oracle Arena that really keeps Cleveland up at night—the Cavaliers have, again objectively, actually fared quite well there thus far this postseason.
It’s the thought that they could be seeing an exhausted and banged-up Cavaliers team match up with a Warriors squad that, for the first time, has the momentum in this series.
Think about it: Golden State hasn’t truly had momentum in a series since the Warriors went up 3-0 on the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals. Even though Steph Curry and his crew won Game 1 at Oracle, it took overtime to do it, and it was in spite of their inability to close out a game and the Cavaliers’ inability to score from the 49th minute onward. Since then, all the Warriors had heard was about the brilliance of LeBron James, the implosion of one of the best shooters of all-time and the Australian guy most teams didn’t account for this season.
But on Thursday, between splitting my time watching the game and heading over to theaters to see Jurassic World, Cleveland fans saw a different Finals matchup. Their Cavaliers had a chance to essentially clinch the series, but the Warriors came out with a much quicker approach and caught the Cavaliers off-guard.
We’ll know Sunday if the Cavaliers didn’t respond in Game 4 because their playoff hopes were sleeping or because they’re dead.
The Cavaliers need to come out Sunday completely rejuvenated, and there’s no question about it. The Warriors can dash any hope for a Cleveland championship with another big shooting performance on Sunday, and by bullying the six men who are running on fumes. But the Cavaliers can head to Cleveland for Game 6 with a 3-2 series lead, and a chance to show the home fans that the 51-year championship drought was worth the wait. LeBron can put on his best Game 5 impersonation from his stint with the Miami Heat, or he can allow the fatigue of carrying an entire franchise on his shoulders finally weigh him down for good.
Sure, Cleveland can win the series if Sunday doesn’t go well, but the likelihood is pretty slim. Then again, who knows? Nobody can question if the Cavaliers’ heart is in this series, Game 4 be damned. This is a race to two wins, and if Cleveland can cool off the Warriors (or just hold them just twice more like they had in the first three games), it could very well be Cleveland’s time to shine.
Momentum will yet again decide this series, and Game 5 may be the last chance for either team to set its pace in their favor.
Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected]