No team in NBA history has recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series, but then again, no team in NBA history had recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals … until the Cleveland Cavaliers did it last year.
After a remarkable show of champion's resiliency in Game 4 on Friday night,, 137-116, , the Cavs find themselves in the same spot as last year, heading to Oakland down 3-1.
The chances of Cleveland completing this comeback remain very slim; Vegas has the Warriors as 9-point favorites in Game 5. But with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving playing the way they've played the past two games, especially if the Cavs' shooting remains even close to as sharp as it was Friday, this thing coming back to Cleveland for Game 6 is within range. And if that happens -- whoa, baby, will some ghosts be stirring.
For much of this series, we have felt comfortable in saying it's not the same as last year, mostly because the Warriors were 15-0 in the playoffs with Kevin Durant this time around. But the Cavs still have a blueprint for beating them. With 71 combined points -- 40 for Kyrie and 31 for James, who finished with yet another triple double -- the Cavs' cornerstones were the best players on the floor in Game 4. When that's the case, they can beat Golden State. It was that simple last year, and it's that simple this year.
Remember, the Warriors barely pulled out Game 3. We were really close to this thing being tied at 2. Cleveland can play with, and beat, this team under the right conditions. And in one sudden shift, those conditions are starting to feel eerily similar to last year.
Think about it: Back in Cleveland, the Cavs look like an entirely different team than they did in the two opening blowouts, same as last year. Kyrie and LeBron start asserting themselves at home, same as last year. Look even deeper, at Steph Curry not playing up to par (14 points on 2-of-9 from 3-point range), at Draymond Green failing to control his emotions (picking up two techs only to have one mysteriously changed, thus avoiding an ejection), and is a faded memory starting to re-bloom?
Are the Warriors unraveling? Not so fast. The Cavs won Game 4 like men. They shot the lights out. They won loose balls. Their energy was off the charts for a team that easily could have been making vacation plans. And Golden State wasn't terrible. Curry was off and the team as a whole didn't shoot to their capability, but they only turned it over 12 times and generally got good looks. Cleveland just beat them.
That's going to be tough to do three more times, but don't say you're not thinking about it. When LeBron and Kyrie are playing like this, anything can happen. The Warriors know that all too well. If this thing goes back to Cleveland for a Game 6, Quicken Loans Arena, with the possibility of another Game 7 in sight, would register on the nearest Richter scale. Durant on board or not, Golden State does not want any part of that.