The Golden State Warriors completed their historic postseason campaign in June by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers four games to one in the NBA Finals to capture their second championship in three seasons.
With Kevin Durant joining the Warriors last summer, the result wasn't really a surprise. Though, according to the Cavs' Richard Jefferson, the series was a little closer than people remember. The veteran forward made his claim during a recent appearance on the Bill Simmons Podcast recently:
Simmons: I went to three of those games. That series was way closer than people remember now.
Jefferson: It was way closer. Like Kyle [Korver], who was one of the great shooters in the history of the game of basketball, like in the history of the game, he has a good look, it doesn't drop. That's part of it.
Simmons: Or even two minutes before, J.R. has a wide-open 3 and he takes a hop step to the left and missed it.
Jefferson: And missed it.
Simmons: But if that goes in, the game is over.
Jefferson: And KD hits a tough shot over LeBron on a dribble-up.
Simmons: And then you mess up the two-for-one.
Jefferson: But that's what I'm saying. People don't understand. "Oh, 4-1 they killed you!" It's literally one shot here, one shot there, then you go 2-2. If it's 2-2, you go there, it's Game 5. I still stand there. There is zero chance -- very similar to the year before, we do not lose on our home court in a Game 6 situation, right?
Jefferson: Now you go Game 7. Anything can happen. That's how close it is. It's literally a difference between three shots playing in a Game 7 and losing 4-1.
It's true that there were a few key plays that swung the series, and Game 3 especially. And the series was a bit closer than it will be remembered, but you really can't go back and re-engineer the series by flipping the outcome of only the moments you want while assuming nothing else changes.
For example, take Korver hitting that 3 late in Game 3. First of all, that doesn't guarantee a Cleveland win, and even if it does, the series being 2-1 Golden State instead of 3-0 Golden State going into Game 4 completely changes how the Warriors play that night. Do the Warriors get run off the floor if they're up one game instead of three? It seems highly unlikely.
All of this is to say the Finals very well could have still finished 4-1 Warriors even if the Cavs win Game 3.