So the Golden State Warriors took a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers Friday night behind a 108-97 victory in Game 4, moving to within one win of capping their fairytale season and entering "dynasty territory" with their second consecutive title.
Over Final history, teams are 32-0 all-time when leading 3-1, so based on historical precedent, matchups, statistical analysis and common sense, the Warriors are taking the title, in Game 5 or beyond if necessary.
So it's time to start looking at who will win Finals MVP. Unlike last year, LeBron James will not be a candidate in a Cavs loss. He's averaging 5.8 turnovers per game, shooting just 31 percent from 3-point range and the Cavaliers have been outscored with him on the court. He has not had the same herculean effort we saw last year, in part due to the presence of Kyrie Irving and in part due to the Warriors having perfected their defense on him (though James is still shooting 48 percent in the Finals).
Oddly, despite Stephen Curry's brilliant Game 4 (38 points, six assists, five rebounds, 7-of-13 from 3-point range), the two-time league MVP still won't lead the top of our list, though he still does have a chance to win. Without further ado, here's the list of where the select group of voters for Finals MVP should look if the Warriors clinch in Game 5.
1. Andre Iguodala: For the Finals, Iguodala is averaging 10 points, five rebounds, four assists and 0.5 steals while shooting 50 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3-point range. But his best work, as usual, has been done on the defensive end, where he has severely impacted LeBron's game. James is shooting 49 percent from the field, and until Friday had led the Finals in scoring (Kyrie Irving passed him in Game 4 after James "only" scored 25), but Iguodala's defense has made him work for all of it and has been truly brilliant in stretches that fueled Warriors runs.
All told, the Warriors have outscored the Cavaliers by 19.5 points per 100 possessions in this series with Iguodala on the floor. That's not an accident. Plays like this shows what he does for the Warriors' defense:
And Iguodala continues to just come up with huge play after huge play. He snagged a grand total of two offensive rebounds Friday night in Game 4, but one of them provided the Warriors with this, which was essentially the backbreaker.
It's those kinds of plays that you absolutely need, and Iguodala in this series has not only played precise, efficient basketball, but has helped to break the spirit of the best all-around player in the world. For that, he could wind up winning his second Finals MVP.
If he does, it might be time to start talking about Iguodala as a Hall of Famer. He's only had one All-Star appearance, but a guy as respected as he is, with the versatile game that he has, who wins two Finals MVPs? How do you keep that player out of the Hall of Fame? Iguodala could literally punch his ticket to the Naismith Hall with a strong Game 5.
2. Draymond Green: Averaging 14.8 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks on 41.7 percent shooting, 31.8 percent from 3. Green has the statistical profile, has made a huge number of key plays, has been the most consistent Warriors starter, and is a known name. Green has gotten into LeBron James' head, outworked Tristan Thompson and is basically 50-to-70 percent responsible for ending Kevin Love's time in Cleveland most likely.
A strong performance from Green in Game 5 (20-plus points, multiple defensive plays) could put him over the top based on name recognition, but if he's suspended for his swipe to James' groin in Game 4, that could end his candidacy, even if he bounced back with a big Game 6 to clinch.
3. Stephen Curry: Averaging 21.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.8 assists on 43.8-percent shooting, 44.7 percent from 3. I know, those numbers sound way better than what it's felt like for Curry, right? It seems like Curry's struggled, and he has, but then, he didn't have many signature games last year in the Finals and his numbers were great then, too. It helps everything when you just hit an absurd percentage of 3-pointers (which is basically how Curry won unanimous MVP). Still, Curry's bounce-back Game 5 was memorable, if not one for the ages (38 points, six assists, 7-of-13 from 3-point range), and if he follows that with another typical Steph-gonna-Steph bombardment in Game 5, then he can clinch.
Curry is always going to get the benefit of the doubt because voters know the impact he has on the team, and how he opens the floor for everyone else. Green and Iguodala get open because of Curry. Offensive rebounds happen because of Curry. Everything good that happens stems from the threat of Curry, even when he's not himself taking over, as evidenced by Games 1 and 2. Curry goes to the top of the list with a strong finish to this series, and if he were to cap this season with a Finals MVP, it would have to be considered one of the greatest individual seasons of all time.
4. Klay Thompson: Averaging 15.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1 steal on 40.5 percent from the field, 34.5 percent from 3-point range. Thompson's best game was the Warriors' 30-point loss, and while his 25-4-4 performance in Game 4 was great (50 percent from the field, 4 of 9 from 3-point range), his overall numbers don't clear the bar. A great Game 5 might push him, though, with no clear candidate running away with the award. Bear in mind that even with how well Iguodala has played, Thompson may have been the better LeBron-stopper in this series. His defense on not only the bigger James but the faster Kyrie Irving has been terrific.
Thompson would need something crazy to go his way, but in the absence of a clear-cut winner, and given that he's been the Warriors' best overall player throughout the playoffs, he deserves consideration.
5. Shaun Livingston: Averaging 10 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists on 64-percent shooting. No way this stat line gets him in real consideration for this award, but the Warriors have been even better per 100 possessions (plus-22.5) with Livingston on court as compared to Iguodala. He led big bench performances in Games 1 and 2 when Steph and Klay were off, and he's played great defense the whole way. It's unlikely, but the way Livingston has ran the second units has been flawless, and he's stepped up and hit big shots. All of his buckets feel like killers for Cleveland's hopes.
Crazier things have happened, I suppose. But my pick, as of now, is Iguodala.