Michael Lough

Canonizing Golden State Warriors is a bit premature

Odds are greater that Kevin Durant (35) and Golden State will be in next year’s NBA Finals than for LeBron James and Cleveland.
Odds are greater that Kevin Durant (35) and Golden State will be in next year’s NBA Finals than for LeBron James and Cleveland. AP

Like many, I hoped the NBA Finals would go a bit longer.

On the other hand, an early end meant the scores of narrow-minded lovers of either Michael Jordan or LeBron James might, for the love of God and all that is lucid, start to move on from their tail-chasing, unwinnable argument about who is greatest of all time.

The social media discussions were such of an exhausting nature, I guess I’m glad it ended early. The “mute” feature on Twitter did come in handy.

But it was annoying, this inability to just appreciate the two greatest players in NBA history — apologies to the other 10 legitimately in the argument — instead of sniping and disrespecting.

And to use championships as the primary measure is remarkably absurd and shortsighted. Ask Dan Marino, Elgin Baylor, Ted Williams, Barry Sanders, Patrick Ewing, Ernie Banks, Fran Tarkenton, Ty Cobb, Jim Kelly, Hank Aaron, Tony Gonzalez, to name a few.

Stiffs, ringless stiffs, all of them?

But the latest NBA Finals series wasn’t the devastating and organization-crushing loss some think.

New England receiver Julian Edelman hit the panic button, saying the Warriors had an “unfair” roster with the addition of Kevin Durant.

A Patriots player? Yeah, funny, huh? And he was wrong.

It very easily could have been 2-2. Cleveland led Game 3 by seven with 8:53 left, got impatient on offense and sluggish on defense to lose by five. And then this among-the-greatest-teams lost Game 4 by 21 and gave up 86 points in a half.

This legendary team, in fact, was outscored 370-363 in the final three games.

The numbers are pretty interesting.

Golden State outscored Cleveland by 34 points, outrebounded Cleveland by nine.

The Warriors shot five more free throws, made 13 more. Iffy free-throw shooting hurt the Cavs, and was a momentum-stopper.

Golden State was 216-for-455 from the floor, while Cleveland was 208-for-451, not a huge difference.

Cleveland had one less turnover, and only two fewer steals. Both teams shot 38.2 percent on 3s, 66-for-173 for Cleveland and 71-for-186 for Golden State.

So certainly statistically, this wasn’t a dominating win by any stretch.

A big difference? Passing and ball-sharing. Golden State had 31 more assists, on only eight more makes than Cleveland. That’s notable.

And yes, the quality of play was consistently higher on Golden State’s side. Cleveland, with a clearly inferior bench and a Tristan Thompson looking like he wanted more bench time, lost its way in the fourth quarter of third game and second half of the final game.

Sure, Golden State can win a few more championships. The Warriors are good, loaded with a variety of multi-skilled pieces.

But let’s not get too carried away with a series that wasn’t a sweep – the last one in the Finals was 2007, San Antonio over Cleveland.

The objective eye — the meetings of such folks don’t need large rooms – saw Cleveland beat itself in the third and final games at least as much as Golden State won those games.

The great bellyaching about the refs? The brutal Game 4 aside, note that the Warriors fouled more in the playoffs than the Cavs did, yet also shot more free throws in a game they had more fouls.

Overall, the Warriors had 10 more fouls, and shot five more free throws. What more do you want?

And refs have nothing to do with lazy defense or impatient offense.

The Warriors have some issues similar to the Cavs on the roster, with some older players to deal with. And both have their share of contract situations.

The only regulars “signed” for more than two years — for whatever “signed” actually means — are Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Steph Curry is set to get paid, which will affect the salary cap. Curry is 29, and it’s no stretch to wonder if a little age and a little banging around might start having an effect.

So there will be some level of roster movement for the Warriors.

And holy cow, what if health somehow forces Steve Kerr — as likable a pro leader on the planet as there is — to the side, for a year or longer?

Certainly let’s hope Kerr is back and healthy and showing how to be an adult in sports.

Kind of like the James guy does fairly often. Oops, sorry.

Plus, repeating is tough. The Warriors didn’t do it. The Cavs didn’t do it. Other teams make changes and get better.

As stunning as the Warriors’ record was in the playoffs, note that seven of the pre-Finals wins were by 15 points or less, and only two were by 20 or more.

There is plenty of talk of a growing dynasty. I’ll bet in 10 months that there will be less.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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