It took four games, but finally the Golden State Warriors looked like the Golden State Warriors. They scored 31 points in the first quarter, shot 40 percent from three-point range, had 24 assists and came within two points of placing six players in double figures.
It all amounted to a 103-82 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on Thursday.
What took so long for the 67-win Warriors to find their groove?
“Well, it’s funny,” Warriors play-by-play radio voice Tim Roye said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I was trying to come up with why is this happening? It can’t be just coaching. Steve Kerr has proved he’s a great coach. It can’t be talent. I mean, this team won 67 games. So I started thinking about it, and I came back to one stat. It’s been 24 years since we saw a team come to the NBA Finals and win with no player on the roster having Finals experience – and no one can prepare you for this. Steve Kerr’s been there. Luke Walton’s been there. They can tell the players what’s going to happen and all the attention. But I’m telling you: It’s a real overwhelming experience.”
Not just the games, either. The practices, too.
“That first practice, it’s an NBA show,” Roye said. “It’s no longer run by the teams. The NBA runs it. You have to have a practice where you meet with the media, and they put up podiums on the court. They put up these podiums really quickly and players go to each corner and some go to an interview room and there’s all this international press. It’s a different deal – much different than any of the other earlier rounds. I think the Warriors kind of looked around and said, ‘Wow, we’re in the NBA Finals.’”
The Warriors took Game 1 in overtime but lost Games 2 and 3. The combined margin of defeat was only seven points, but Golden State looked out of sorts in both games, struggling to get open shots and struggling even more to hit them.
One Andre Iguodala start later, however, and the Warriors were back in the driver’s seat.
Iguodala, making his first start of the season, scored a team-high 22 points in Game 4, as Kerr elected to play small-ball. Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson combined for 40 points and 23 rebounds and shot 15-of-26 (57.7 percent) from the floor, but LeBron James, J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert combined for just 39 points on 14-of-57 (24.6 percent) shooting.
“Steve Kerr and his staff are unbelievable in terms of their thinking process and how they look at the game and say, ‘Would this work? Would that work?’” Roye said. “They came up with a solution that going small – even though it’s going to cost them in a lot of different areas – it got them going, and they started to play like the Warriors again. It was a brilliant move, and I think certainly now has turned this series into a different direction. Now it’s best two of three, and I can’t wait for it. It’s been great. It’s been an unbelievable series.”