ONE step at a time. And they all lived happily ever after. These are all cliché. But with the way game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals went, the Warriors did just that. They won the game on the road and are poised to make it even better if they manage to win game 6 at home.
Draymond Green said they were once on the wrong side of a 3-1 but they managed to pull through by winning the 2016 Western Conference Finals 4-3 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that series, Kevin Durant scored 40 points for Oklahoma in a losing cause in game 5. Klay Thompson erupted for 41 points in the game 6 GSW victory while Steph Curry went for 36 points in the game 7 clincher.
What’s interesting in those 2016 Western Conference Finals games was the performance of Klay Thompson. Game 6 was supposed to be the Warriors’ demise. The Warriors were trailing the Thunder 3-2 in the series and facing elimination for the second straight game. Game 6 was taking place in front of a raucous Oklahoma City crowd, where the Warriors had just been pummeled in Games 3 and 4. And for much of the game, it looked like the 73-win Warriors wouldn’t even make it back to the Finals.
While it was a close game, the Thunder held a slight edge, continuing to stifle the Warriors in the paint while outworking them on offense. With five minutes to go, after Kevin Durant knocked down a jumper, the Thunder led 96-89. That’s when Klay Thompson - who had been having a monstrous game, single-handedly keeping the Warriors in it with a bevy of difficult, contested three-pointers - nailed a deep three-pointer to quell the Thunder. It marked a strange atmospheric shift in the game. Those final five minutes saw the entire series reverse course. The Thunder became stagnant and tentative, while the Warriors, playing for their lives, became the aggressors.
The ironic thing is that the Warriors went up 3-1 in the 2016 Finals against the Cavs. In that series, however, fortunes were reversed and the Cavaliers won the next three games to become the first team in Finals history to successfully overcome a 3-1 deficit. It also marked the first time since 1978 that Game 7 was won by the road team. The win by the Cavaliers was the first major professional sports championship won by a team based in Cleveland since 1964, and the first-ever championship won by the Cavaliers franchise.
Fast forward 2019. Kevin Durant is now with Golden State. The Warriors entered game 5 with a 1-3 deficit. KD went down (again) but Curry and Thompson shot the lights out helping them come out victorious albeit bruised and battered. In my book, Toronto lost the game because they did not play with urgency. I think it was only Kawhi who seemed to want the championship - especially after his 10-point outburst that gave them a six-point lead. Then came the splash brothers.
The Raptors need only one win to claim the Larry O’brien Trophy. The Warriors need only one win to force a game 7. The whole world is watching, one game at a time.
“They played exquisite basketball in this series and in particular these last three games. They are the better team. There is no other way to say it. They played great basketball, and we couldn’t respond to it.” ~ Erik Spoelstra
“The taste of defeat has a richness of experience all its own.” ~ Bill Bradley
“I have one thing to say to those non-believers. ... Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” ~ Houston head coach Rudy Tomjanovich, after the Rockets won the 1995 NBA Finals
“These guys have been criticized the last few years for not getting to where we’re going, but I’ve always said that the most important thing in sports is to keep trying. Let this be an example of what it means to say it’s never over.” ~ Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan after his team defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals to advance to the 1997 NBA Finals