A perfect postseason run was within the Warriors' grasp. All they had to do was win Game 4 in Cleveland to complete a historic championship run at 16-0. Instead, the Cavaliers held their ground with a record offensive display to win, 137-116, and send the series back to Oakland for Game 5.
Now, the Warriors lead the Finals 3-1 -- just like they did last year -- and that.
Also like last year's Finals, the Warriors have a chance to clinch the title on their home floor. Here's how they can do it.
Paging Stephen Curry
The reigning two-time league MVP was spectacular in the first three games, averaging 28.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 9 assists, while shooting better than 48 percent from 3-point range, continuing what has been the best postseason run of his career.
In Game 4, Curry was out of sorts, scoring only 14 points on 4-of-13 shooting -- and only 2 of 9 from beyond the arc -- while turning the ball over four times.
With all the additional firepower at their disposal, the Warriors don't need Curry to go off for 40 points, but they need him to play closer to his form from the first three games.
Win the 3-point battle
Through first four games, the club making the most 3-pointers has won.
In the first three games, the Warriors they averaged 15 made 3-pointers and shot better than 42 percent from downtown. As for Game 4, however, the 3-point battle went to the Cavaliers in spectacular fashion, as they set a new Kevin Durant also went 2 of 9 from beyond the arc.. Meanwhile, the Dubs struggled from outside, going only 11 of 39. Like Curry,
Improved perimeter shooting, especially from Curry and Durant, would go a long way toward the Warriors winning Game 5 and their second NBA championship in three seasons.
In each of the first three games, the Warriors started fast, leading by an average of six points at the end of the first quarter. Game 4, however, was all Cavs from the jump, as LeBron James and Co. took a 16-5 lead after the first three minutes, and led 49-33 after the first quarter.
So the Warriors need to make sure the first quarter is more like the first three games. If they let the Cavs, who will be boosted by their performance Friday night, to get off to another great start, Cleveland's confidence will continue to build.