Only one team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals. Of course, the Golden State Warriors were infamously on the wrong side of history when the heroics of LeBron James and Kyrie Irving propelled the Cleveland Cavaliers to a historic comeback.
Three years later, the Warriors find themselves in a 3-1 hole of their own, as the Toronto Raptors took back-to-back games in the Oracle Arena. In Game 3, Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors capitalized on the absence of Klay Thompson. With Thompson back on the floor for Game 4, Toronto still emerged victorious, and this time by a wider margin.
For months, it seemed the Warriors biggest competition would be the Houston Rockets, and beating any Eastern Conference opponent would merely be a formality for a dominant Warriors squad. Yet, Golden State could be dispatched in as few as five games by the Raptors, a result that few if any could have predicted.
It’s impossible to tell the story of these Finals without mentioning Kevin Durant. The world-class MVP has been unavailable for the first four games of the series. While many analysts still predicted the Warriors to win without Durant, now there will be an easy finger to point in the case Golden State loses. Sure, they might have been able to win without him, but if they lose, it’s easy to say the outcome would have been different with a Top 2 player in the world on the court.
Homecourt advantage has served the Raptors well, as they won just one more game than the Warriors in the regular season. It’s the first time in this five year dynasty stretch that the Warriors haven’t held home court in the Finals. Due to this fact, the Raptors will have the advantage of attempting to close out at home in Game 5, rather than the usually hostile Oracle Arena.
Though Steph Curry has had a great series, a Raptors victory would also continue the point guard’s unfortunate streak of never winning Finals MVP.
Of course, these conclusions could be premature. If any team would be able to pull off three straight wins in this situation, it’d be the Warriors. Could Durant be forced on the court, even at less than 100%? It doesn’t get much more desperate than this, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if Durant remains sidelined. His availability will be an X-Factor and could determine the outcome of these Finals.
How does the series end? Raptors in 5 or 6? Or will the Warriors rattle off three straight wins, with their backs against the wall, to win their third straight NBA Finals?
These Finals are full of intrigue and they’re not over yet. For more, follow Sak Sports Blog on Twitter.
Header photo: Noah Graham/GQ