If you follow professional sports as a whole, even only superficially, then it’s impossible not to be aware of the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals. There were memes and jokes on social media for months, and it was an inescapable topic in the sports world and beyond well after the new NBA season had gotten underway.
Any team with three chances to win a championship would be absolutely crushed after failing like this, and rightfully so. But if the 2017 playoffs are any indication, it appears as though Golden State has moved on, and has absolutely learned from that painful mistake.
The Cavaliers didn’t just get lucky to win the 2016 title, and Golden State wasn’t victimized by supernatural forces conspiring against it. The Warriors let a very good team back into the series when it should have finished the job, and the lesson that Cleveland taught them has carried over into the current postseason — because there’s been none of that this year.
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Golden State jumped all over the Jazz early in Monday’s 121-95 Game 4 victory, just as it did in a close-out game against the Blazers in the playoffs’ first round. Before Utah knew what had happened, the Warriors were up 24-7, then 39-15 before the first quarter mercifully came to a close with the Jazz trailing by 22 points. All of this while Kevin Durant went scoreless during the game’s first 12 minutes.
Utah rallied to cut the deficit to single-digits by halftime thanks in part to some energizing play from Dante Exum off the bench, but that was hardly the point. The Warriors are too deep and too talented to give back all of a lead that large, and once they blitzed the Jazz like they did in the game’s opening minutes, the final result was a foregone conclusion.
In Game 4 of the first round series against Portland, we saw a similar result. Golden State grabbed a 28-point first-quarter lead in that one by hitting 62.5 percent of its shots — including 72.7 percent of its 3-point attempts — while scoring a ridiculous 45 points in the game’s first 12 minutes.
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The deeper we get into the playoffs, the more talented the opponents become. And you have to slam the door on them the moment you get the chance, otherwise they will find new life and come back to beat you — as the Warriors found out the hard way in last year’s Finals.
But so far in these playoffs, things are looking different where Golden State is concerned. There’s been a real sense of urgency from the moment they’ve taken the floor with a chance to close things out, and that should be absolutely terrifying for any team that should have the misfortune of trailing the Warriors in a series the rest of the way.