CLEVELAND -- The Golden State Warriors had an advantage from the jump this season. They brought in the most talented team ever assembled.
Then they got better.
Their defense started out shaky. Maybe that would be the weakness. Nope, they fixed that. Then it was the balance between Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry. Perhaps there really wasn't enough ball to go around. Nope, they solved that. Last year they were complacent, especially in Game 3s. They've now swept Game 3s.
The last single, solitary weakness they had left to conquer was this: In the regular season, the Warriors were 4-9 (17th-best win percentage) when trailing by five points or less with less than five minutes to play -- i.e. clutch time. They didn't value the basketball in those situations. They lost Game 7 in that same situation in last year's Finals. If there was any hope, for any team, remaining, it was that the Warriors didn't execute well in possession-basketball situations. They were vulnerable if you could just, somehow, get a lead with five to go.
The Warriors' formula was clearly to wear out the Cavaliers. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry rested to start the fourth quarter, while LeBron James and Kyrie Irving both played over 44 minutes. Steve Kerr said after the game that exhaustion was part of the game plan.
"We kept telling our guys, 'they're going to get tired, they're going to get tired,'" Kerr said after the game.
"When you get guys playing 45, 44 minutes, basically attacking one-on-one (as James and Irving did) the whole game, it's going to take its toll."
Superior depth, superior gameplan, superior top talent, and a team that adjusts and adapts to every situation.
"I think we're a better team, partly because, obvious reasons -- we have Kevin Durant on our team -- but I think we'e better from our experiences. You win a championship, then you lose one in heartbreaking fashion, you've pretty much seen it all at that point."
It's that special combination: a team with unreal talent and a brilliant system that added the second-best (or best?) player in basketball, that has improved on every weakness throughout the season. Now they're on the verge of an unbeaten, undefeated, perfect postseason, 16-0. That.
LeBron James likened it to a make or miss league. And indeed, if Kyle Korver, a knock-down shooter, lands the shot with 52 seconds to make it a 5-point game? Everything's different. If LeBron James is able to once again find a way to a bucket. If Durant misses one shot.
Or if Kevin Durant had stayed in OKC or gone to Washington. Or if Stephen Curry had gotten a max contract. Or if Steve Kerr had passed on the Warriors job for the Knicks job in New York (something that was amazingly on the table).
Here's what is.
"It's the most firepower I've played in my career," James said of what the Warriors bring to the table.
It's the most firepower, but it's also a team that has adapted and learned to improve on every weakness they've had. They are not just what they are. They are a fluid organism, a bio-mechanism that continues to find ways to cover for anything that presents challenges. That's different from other great teams we've seen. They are maybe the first team in NBA history to win a championship after coming in as the heavy favorite and only continually gotten better.
"The moment never overwhelms any of us," Steph Curry said, and he was right.
The Warriors never panicked the way they seemed to in Game 7 last year. They were never rattled. Kevin Durant had shot 33 percent when down in a five-point game coming in. Instead, the Warriors were nearly flawless, creating defensive stops, getting out in transition, finding the shots they wanted.
They were the best team coming in. They got better. They haven't lost a playoff game. They are on the verge of sweeping the best player of this generation, the best player in the league over the past 10 years. Here's the thing.
Even if you think the Warriors aren't the greatest team, ever? They've got one more game. Who's to say they can't get better?
The future of the NBA is uncertain. What this unprecedented run means for the sport, and for the Warriors' place all time, is uncertain. But what is certain? The Warriors are 3-0. They are undefeated.
And they are getting better.