NBA

Warriors 1 win away from sweeping Cavs, playoffs

CLEVELAND -- One team is trying to make history, the other desperately hoping to avoid a repeat of it.

The Golden State Warriors hold a 3-0 lead in the NBA Finals over the Cleveland Cavaliers and can finish the sweep for their second title in three seasons with a win in Game 4 on Friday night.

The Warriors aren't just looking for another championship. They've won 15 straight playoff games, and can become the first team in NBA history to navigate the playoffs without a loss.

The Cavaliers, meanwhile, were swept out of the Finals 10 years ago this month. It was LeBron James' first Finals, and his team was sawed in half by the San Antonio Spurs, who were in the midst of a streak of three titles in six seasons.

Seven Finals and three championships later, James is facing the same fate.

"I think it's just part of my calling to just go against teams in the midst of a dynasty," James said on Thursday. "This has been the best team in our league the last three years. They won a championship, and last year it was the greatest regular-season team we had played, probably one of the best postseason teams that everybody's ever seen as well, but we were just able to overcome that. And they're playing like one of the best teams once again."

James, who is averaging a triple-double in the 2017 Finals (32 points, 12.3 rebounds, 10.3 assists), and the Cavs edged the Warriors in Game 7 last year after falling behind 3-1, becoming the first team to ever overcome such a deficit in the Finals. No NBA team has ever recovered from a 3-0 hole in the playoffs.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr, who played for a couple dynasties himself with the Chicago Bulls and Spurs, was on the 72-win Chicago team in 1996 that built a 3-0 lead over the Seattle SuperSonics in the Finals. Seattle took the next two games before losing in Game 6.

"In the end you just want to win," Kerr said. "The other stuff doesn't really matter. People can talk about it in historical context, but you just get it done, win the series and let everybody else talk."

The Warriors have been led in the Finals by Kevin Durant, the ground-shaking free-agent acquisition from last season who was the 2014 MVP and has perhaps reshaped the Golden State-Cleveland rivalry forever.

Durant lost to James and the Miami Heat when he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2012 Finals, and didn't make it back until this year.

Durant is averaging 34 points in this series and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter of Game 3 -- a 118-113 win for the Warriors in which they trailed by six with three minutes left. He has also taken pressure off of Stephen Curry, who struggled in the first two Finals series against Cleveland but has been brilliant this time around.

The Warriors signed Durant to a two-year, $55 million deal, and before the ink was dry they were an immediate favorite to beat the Cavs in the Finals. Now, there's one more win to come before the prophecy comes true.

"I didn't envision anything but just being around good people and getting better every single day," Durant said. "That's exactly what happened throughout the season. I didn't talk to these guys when I made my decision and say we better make it to The Finals and be up in the series around this time, this exact date, or I'm not coming.

"I mean, it was just let's just have some fun playing ball, let's just all get better and let's see what happens."

The Warriors popped champagne inside the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena in 2015, having clinched the series in six games. The Cavs could at least momentarily stall Golden State's momentum, and keep their visitors' locker room dry, by breaking up the Warriors' perfect playoffs with a win Friday.

But after a draining loss to the Warriors in Game 3, the Cavs will have to guard against a letdown, not to mention Golden State's vaunted lineup that was built to dominate for years.

"We'll see what happens," James said. "Obviously you never know what's going to happen, but as it stands right now, they look pretty good, as far as the future."