CLEVELAND: A year after making history but falling one game short of an NBA title, the Golden State Warriors are focused on capturing the crown, not a possible unbeaten playoff run.
The Warriors remained perfect in the 2017 post-season by sweeping the first two games of the NBA Finals at home and enter Game 3 Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) at Cleveland on a record 14-0 playoff win streak — two wins shy of the first undefeated run to a championship.
“We want 15-0. That’s what we want,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday, his version of taking one win at a time.
“We literally have never once mentioned 16-0. To me it’s a miracle that it’s even a possibility. It’s so hard to do.”
The difference between making history and taking the title was put in clear perspective last year when the Warriors won an NBA record 73 regular-season games but lost the finals to Cleveland, squandering a 3-1 edge in the best-of-seven series and falling to the greatest comeback in finals history.
“We’re more focused on what happened last year in terms of we were up 2-0 and we came here and the series shifted,” Kerr said. “That’s the important lesson, not any historical benchmarks or anything like that. It’s definitely not something we’re focused on.”
The Warriors, who won 113-91 and 132-113 at home over the Cavaliers, swept Portland, Utah and San Antonio to reach the finals.
They surpassed the 13-win streaks of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers and the 2016-17 Cleveland Cavaliers to set the record, although “Showtime” Lakers star Magic Johnson claimed Monday his squad would have swept the Warriors in a series.
Hearing that, Warriors forward Draymond Green began a long period of laughter before saying, “That’s my thoughts.”
The best record for any champion in NBA playoff history belongs to the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, who went 15-1 to claim the crown, their only loss in the opening game of the finals.
A huge hurdle
The Warriors know history can be bittersweet. There are four championship banners in the team’s practice facility and a much smaller one to commemorate 73 wins.
“We have a huge hurdle to get over tomorrow,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “To give ourselves a chance at even coming close to thinking about (16-0), we need to really just lock in on how hard this 48 minutes is going to be to really seize control of this series.
“We talked about it before — 16-0 doesn’t matter in any stretch of the imagination unless that’s a closeout game. And that’s the opportunity in front of us, because all it is is just winning a championship and doing what you need to do to get that done.
“Tomorrow is another step in that direction that we need to be ready for.”
Complacency will not be setting in for the Warriors, Green vowed.
“There’s no feeling of we’re almost there. You’ve got to play every game like you’re down. If you can keep that mindset you’ll eventually reach the goal,” Green said. “But to say we’re up 2-0, we’re good, we still got two more games to win and those two will be way harder than the first two.”
Green had said that the effort to win 73 games might have taken focus on the title quest last year, but Curry said he had no regrets about how Golden State handled the situation.
“That was a decision that we had talked about and we had discussed as a group,” Curry said. “I don’t know if there may be have been a little bit of a mental fatigue when it comes to just how much it took to get that 73 done and then having to restart and go to the playoffs.
“But honestly I wouldn’t regret those decisions at all. We were one game away from winning a championship, so I don’t think you can second guess that that much.
“This situation, it’s nice to be able to just turn the page and focus on winning the championship and in its purest form and that’s what we’re about right now.”