Here is a link to my Wednesday column about Warriors-Cavaliers Game 3. The full text runs below:
This is a great opportunity for the Warriors. Seriously. No irony intended.
The Warriors have a chance to become the right kind of team. After losing to the Cavaliers 96-91, after losing two games in a row in these NBA Finals and falling behind 2-1, it’s clear the Warriors are not the right kind of team. They need to grow into the right kind of team. And they can.
Right now, the Warriors are what you call a frontrunner. It’s not good to be a frontrunner. A frontrunner is great when everything is going great. Looks like a champ when it’s easy to be a champ. When things are comfortable and come easily and gracefully.
But what happens to the frontrunner when things don’t go great? Like what’s happening to the Warriors now. What happens when the Warriors fall behind and things get tough and, yes, rough and people get hurt and feelings get hurt and people dive for balls — must dive for balls — and guys fight for rebounds, just fight?
We’re talking about things not going the Warriors’ way. They aren’t. The Warriors are facing — let’s use that old cliché — adversity. I mean, what happens now?
This is the question the Warriors must answer in Game 4 on Thursday night and after. Must answer definitively in an arena as loud as a nightmare. These Warriors never have faced this kind of pressure. Never have been in a game as hard as Game 3, a game in which they didn’t do well despite their 36-point fourth quarter. They didn’t cope at all.
All hell broke loose right away and, until it was too late, the Warriors became spectators, victims, marks. The game got away from them and they have to wonder if the series got away from them. Or if they can grab it back. If they do, they will be heroes.
The Cavs, the wounded, depleted, under-talented Cavs are the “No” to the Warriors’ “Yes.” A No can be powerful. The Warriors want to play fast. No. The Warriors want a bucket-load of fast-break points. No. The Warriors want to score lots of points. No. The Warriors want to overwhelm the Cavs with 3s. No. The Warriors want to achieve a high scoring percentage. No. The Warriors want to make that brilliant quick pass underneath to a cutting teammate for an easy layup. No. The Warriors want to make multiple passes — bang, bang, bang — leaving the defense bewildered and freeing up a shooter. No. The Warriors want their superstar to dominate the game. No. The Warriors want to keep the Cavs’ superstar from dominating the game. No.
The Cavs keep saying No, No, No, No, No. And the Warriors Yes is a mere peep. A whisper. Inaudible. The Warriors can change that. It is possible. They need to shout Yes.
Coach Steve Kerr was not pleased with his team. Listen to what he said after the game: “I mean, you want to show some fight. And I thought in the third quarter we were hanging our heads.”
Later, Kerr said, “I didn’t like our energy. I didn’t like our body language for much of the first three quarters. This is what we have to fight through when things aren’t going our way. It doesn’t matter. You’ve got to fight through. You’ve got to bring energy. You’ve got to bring life. You’ve got to bring some emotion.
“Obviously, when the shots go in, it’s easier to do that. But you’ve got to do that when the shots aren’t going in as well, and that applies to all of us. We can’t get our heads down. This is a tough series. It’s the Finals. There is a lot at stake so we’ve got to compete every second.”
You know what Kerr was talking about, right? Frontrunners. He meant the Warriors have to be good when things are bad — can’t be good only when things are good. Have to grow into a grownup team. Have to do what the Cavs are doing.
The Cavs are missing three important players. They say Yes. Yes. Yes. They say Yes because of LeBron James, who should wear the word Yes on his forehead. No way the Cavs could lose Game 3. James returned to Cleveland for this very game, returned for this series, for all of this. You feel his whole life came down to Game 3, and he willed the win even though he missed 20 shots. He didn’t care. He didn’t care when he got hurt in the fourth quarter and limped and the Cavs had to call timeout with fluttering hearts. He didn’t care. He was OK.
Fans in this town do not see James as a player or even a superstar. He is a savior. The savior for them and for Cleveland and for life itself. Can he continue to play like that, to make two more supreme efforts? It’s unclear. The Warriors have to say No.
After the game, Cavs coach David Blatt said of James, “He understands the moment. He understands the situation. He is a big, big, big-time player.”
He sure is.
Now Curry has to be a big, big, big-time player. Kerr specifically said Curry looked beat. “I’ve got to be aggressive,” Curry said. “I hit a stall in the second quarter. Whether I’m making shots or not, I’ve got to stay vibrant. I’ve got to find different ways to get us going. I like that challenge.”
James is vibrant. Curry needs to be vibrant.
Now is Curry’s chance and the Warriors’ chance to show they have grown, can absorb body blows and come back fighting heads high. To show they can spit in the eye of fate and the Cavs and even LeBron James.
Can they? Will they?
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.