Ailene Voisin

Warriors don’t need to be perfect to be considered among greatest teams in history

Golden State Warriors dominate their way to title

The Golden State Warriors lose just once en route to their second NBA title in three seasons. Take a look at their path to the championship.
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The Golden State Warriors lose just once en route to their second NBA title in three seasons. Take a look at their path to the championship.

So much for perfection, right?

Although Draymond Green might disagree – the Warriors forward did, after all, suggest that folks in Cleveland “don’t seem to be the sharpest people around” – Cavs fans presumably can count to four, which means Golden State is one victory shy of their second NBA championship in three years.

Those who bet heavily, favor the Warriors.

Those who don’t bet heavily, favor the Warriors.

The Warriors’ 137-116 loss at Quicken Loans Arena Friday was their first defeat (15-1) in almost two months, ending their chance at becoming the first team to sweep through the NBA postseason. Just think about that for a moment, and about some of the other weird developments that have affected our country during these frenetic several weeks: The president fired his FBI director, withdrew from the Paris accord on climate change, shoved the prime minister of Montenegro aside at NATO meetings in Brussels – in the NBA, that would have been a flagrant foul – and tweeted so often, and with such ferocity, his fingers threatened to go on strike.

I am not sure about that last part, but to be fair, there is no normal these days, not even in sports. The defending champion Cavaliers got steamrolled in the first three games of these much-hyped NBA Finals, and just when much of the world is prepared to anoint the Warriors as the greatest team ever, the greatest show on the planet plummets back to earth with a terrible performance in Cleveland.

“We were not sharp,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr acknowledged. “(But) I don’t think there was any concern or thoughts about history. I think it was that we played a desperate team on their home floor, a great team, with great players, and they came out and handed it to us.”

In something of a role reversal, the Cavs set NBA Finals records for points in a quarter (49) and a half (86), and most three-pointers in a game (24).

But enough about a one-game hiccup and about last year’s champs, who benefited enormously from Green’s Game 5 suspension en route to their first NBA title. If the Warriors recover and resemble the squad that led the league in offensive efficiency and ranked second defensively, they can walk back over to the water cooler and rejoin the debate about their standing among all-time great teams. They can surpass the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers (15-1) for the best postseason record by winning Game 5 on Monday at Oracle Arena.

The combination of Green, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant, whose acquisition in free agency last summer was the equivalent of a palace coup, is a recurring nightmare for 29 other franchises. Were it not for Green’s suspension a year ago, we would talking about three rings and a dynasty, or as Pat Riley used to say, the “Threepeat.”

“I can’t remember a team dominating like this,” said Jerry West, the architect of Riley’s “Showtime” teams and current adviser to the Warriors. “I don’t think I’ll see this again in my lifetime. But this is a different team and a different era. The game is so different, primarily because there are no more back-to-the-basket centers. Even (DeMarcus) Cousins is out there shooting 3s. You build accordingly.”

In any discussion about all-time great teams, the Warriors are competing against dominant big men and franchises with an almost disdain for the 3-point shot, among them: the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers of Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones; the 1982, 1985 and 1987 Lakers squads that included various combinations of Magic Johnson, Norm Nixon, Byron Scott, James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes, Mychal Thompson, A.C. Green and Michael Cooper; the 1986 Celtics of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Danny Ainge and the late Dennis Johnson, with Hall of Famer Bill Walton coming off the bench; the San Antonio Spurs of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and earlier in their dynasty, Hall of Fame center David Robinson.

The 1996 Chicago Bulls of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc and Ron Harper are clearly an exception. In Phil Jackson’s triangle – the offense his New York Knicks love to hate – centers were relied upon primarily to screen, defend, pass and stay out of the way. “Everyone wants to shoot the 3 now,” West added.

The Cavs do, too. But if northern Ohio residents are smart enough to winter elsewhere and welcome back LeBron James, they also realize these Warriors aren’t last year’s Warriors.

Fool these Warriors once, maybe. Fool them twice? With K.D. in the lineup?

Nah. Not again.

Ailene Voisin: 916-321-1208, @ailene_voisin

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