I’d be lying if I told you I was looking forward to tonight’s game. Motivation tends to drain after watching the Cleveland Cavaliers get scorched for two straight games by the Golden State Warriors. What flickers of it were left got erased by the sight of Kevin Durant casually walking up the court and snatching the life out of the Cavs after their best effort of the Finals.
And so, down 3-0 to Golden State and looking quite defenseless when it comes to doing anything about it, Cleveland takes the court tonight desperately hoping to prevent the Warriors from again soaking the visiting locker room in champagne.
So, yeah, as a follower of Cleveland sports I’m a pinch burnt out by how this series has gone so far. We can do this as fans, though. We can walk into an elimination game thinking “well as long as the Warriors make it quick and painless…”
The Cavs themselves? They can’t think this way. They sure as hell can’t play that way.
It sounds odd to be this down in the dumps yet also expect Cleveland to come out of the gate on fire tonight. However, such is the situation we’re facing in Game 4. Many people expect this game to be the season finale for the Cavs, but if it is, it better not be because the team laid down and let it happen. Cleveland has to at least go down swinging, if only to try and avoid the shame of being swept right out of the Finals.
Yes, I’m well aware of how good Golden State is. I understand trying to stop a team which features Durant as one of four All-Stars in the starting lineup has felt like bringing a rusty spoon to a gun-fight. Everyone outside of Cleveland felt as though the Cavs were doomed from the start of this series, saying there’d be no shame in losing to these Warriors.
While this may be true, while falling to this super-team was the expected outcome for many fans and pundits alike, things change when you’re talking about Cleveland getting swept.
To be blunt – there’s no sugarcoating a sweep, regardless of who the Cavs get eliminated by. This is especially true if they let it happen by tucking their tails between their legs midway through tonight’s game.
All the “well you can’t fault them for losing to these Warriors” talk would vanish if a sweep is completed tonight. Likewise, there wouldn’t be a lick of respect to give if the Cavs fold. Cleveland at the very least has to put up a fight. If the team goes out and calls it quits the second adversity pops up, it would be a shameful end to a brutal series.
Trust me, the temptation is going to be there. The Warriors will once again shoot the lights out. They’ll eliminate deficits with ease and pull off 10-0 runs without breaking a sweat. They’ll quiet a raucous Cleveland crowd, making the concept of home court advantage all for naught.
If you’re the Cavs, down 3-0 and knowing what happens with another loss, the urge to just stop wasting energy will be present early. Should Game 4 provide more of the same – a solid effort by Cleveland wiped out by a few dagger threes – the realization that the team is just out there spinning its wheels will become more and more prevalent.
Somehow, someway, the Cavs have to resist the urge to wave the white flag when things get difficult. They have to see Golden State’s scoring runs as something to respond to instead of something to flee from. They have to prevent this team from once again celebrating on their home court.
It sounds ironic, especially coming from me. I essentially wrote the Cavs’ eulogy yesterday, and I’m not alone in having deemed Game 3 as the finale of this series.
I, along with the rest of the fans, can say this. Players can’t blatantly throw in the towel, though. The Cavs can’t quit, especially in front of their home crowd. They can’t just sit back and let Golden State take back the championship.
The odds are still favoring the Warriors getting their crown back. The very least Cleveland can do is make them earn it.
And hey, if the Cavs can prevent Golden State from completing a sweep tonight, who knows what happens from there.