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If Warriors won after refs didn’t eject Draymond, it’d have been another “asterisk championship”

It pains me to say this, but it’s true.

2017 NBA Finals - Game Four Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

I know everyone wants to blame Game 4 on the refs, but come now. I’m actually glad it played out how it played out. Think about it.

Imagine if the referees had rescinded Draymond Green’s second technical and given it to Kerr (like they actually did). Now, imagine if the Warriors had made a huge run and gotten back in game.

Picture it: Down two points, last possession of the game. Kevin Durant drives, but is blocked at the rim by Tristan Thompson. In the ensuing scrum, Curry comes up with the ball. Draymond Green has positioned himself — miraculously — right in Curry’s line of sight at the top of the key. The clock is winding down. 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... Curry whips the ball out to Draymond! 2 ... He puts it up, a last second heave! 1 ... AND HITS IT! THE WARRIORS WIN! THE WARRIORS WIN! THE PLAYERS PICK UP DRAYMOND AND CARRY HIM AROUND THE COURT ON THEIR SHOULDERS! OH WHAT A GLORIOUS — and the internet explodes. Literally, explodes.

If he’d stayed in, and the Warriors won (regardless of if he hit the winning shot or not — I’m just making a point), 2017 would have been yet another asterisk championship in the eyes of the world. Seriously, if Draymond Green is on the court, and plays a roll in a huge comeback after the refs totally f’ed up the whole situation, we’d be hearing nothing but 3-1 jokes and conspiracy theories until our dying days, which given the look of things might be in the next five to six months, so at least we’d be spared an eternity of that crap. But, my point remains.

None of that happened. The Warriors caught an L good and proper, regardless of the fact that it was the worst officiated game that I can remember. It just wasn’t slanted entirely towards the Cavaliers. The refs were bad, plain and simple. They were bad to both teams.

Tonight? Well, hopefully tonight will be a different story.

Tonight, the Warriors hope to win the 2017 NBA championship on their home court. Would a second championship in three years erase the stain of 2016? Only time and experience will answer that question. But, one thing is for sure: You know both teams are approaching tonight’s match much like Daenerys walking out of the burning temple after setting fire to the Khals of the NBA season.

Tonight will be hot. It will be spicy. For the Cavaliers, their season is on the line.

For the Warriors, their sense of self and their sense of power is on the line. Sure, the dream of 16-0 is dead. But 16-1 and would still place them in the upper, upper echelon of Finals teams. No team has ever been perfect through the NBA playoffs, but two other teams have become champions after losing only a single game during their run.

Those two teams?

The 1982-83 76ers, who finished 12-1 in the playoffs, beating the Lakers for their championship. And the 2000-01 Lakers, who finished 15-1 in the playoffs, beating the 76ers.

Can the Warriors end it tonight?

After Game 4, a buddy of mine texted me a simple thing. He asked, “Quick assessment of last night?”

To which I responded, “Cavs had a historic night. Scored most points ever in a single quarter and most points ever in a half of a Finals game, plus shot completely lights out. I don’t think it’s sustainable in Oakland in Game 5.”

“Yeah,” he texted back. “You have to break three records in order to win against GSW.”

I know — for myself — the drug of Warriors paranoia is hard to avoid. It’s just so familiar and seductive. After last year, and after watching this team for the past 31 years, it’s tempting to throw one’s hands in the air, fall to the ground, and prepare to weep. But, it’s important to remember a few basic things.

  1. Kevin Durant is on this team, not Harrison Barnes. Yes, Durant blew his own 3-1 lead last season against these very same Warriors, so the taste is still fresh in his mouth as well. But this 3-1 feels very, very different than last year.
  2. Draymond Green is not suspended. He will be on the court, wrecking defenses and switching 1-5.
  3. Anderson Varejao is not in uniform, so Steve Kerr will not be tempted to play him or Festus Ezeli in crucial minutes.
  4. Like I just said, the Cavaliers had to break multiple scoring records in a Finals game — plus take 22 free throws in the first quarter — just to steal a game. At home, mind you. They are playing in Oakland tonight, not Cleveland. I very, very much doubt we see the whistles play such a huge factor tonight, especially after the NBA world rose up in shared disgust after watching the officials ruin the flow in the last game.

However, all of that falls away as the Warriors look to close out Game 5 in Oakland. Can they do it? Sure. Will they do it? Ehhhh, I think so?

Let’s find out. Game 5. Tonight.

Immortality is on the line.

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