2017 NBA Finals: Warriors vs. Cavaliers

Golden State Warriors closing in on playoff perfection

Warriors could become the first team in NBA history to go 16-0 through postseason play

CLEVELAND — Snowflakes and spiderwebs.

Stephen Curry on one of those juking, twisting, falling, bank-high-off-the-glass shots that somehow finds the bottom of the net.

Things that are near-perfect.

The Warriors are there now, one win away from first unbeaten playoff run ever in the NBA, chasing a second championship in three seasons and a place in history.

“I knew it was going to be one of the toughest challenges I ever had, because of the firepower they have, because of the mindset they were going to have,” said LeBron James, the driving force of the defending champion Cavaliers who find themselves down 3-0 in The Finals. “They’re a hungry group. You can sense that.”

Sharks in the deep water of the ocean and lions on the prowl out on the savanna.

Klay Thompson letting the ball touch his fingertips for barely a nano-second before flicking it at some ridiculous angle from a preposterous distance for another 3-point shot that slices like a razor’s edge, barely letting the victim feel the pain.

Things that are near-perfect.

The Warriors had already beaten the Cavs twice in a bludgeon style and then came along in the dying minutes of Game 3 for an 11-0 closeout that was breathtaking, earth-quaking and backbreaking to edge up to this moment that awaits on Friday night.

“So it all comes down to this one game,” Thompson said. “It would be a great piece of history. It wasn’t a goal of ours to start the postseason, but now that’s it’s attainable, we have our eyes set on it and all we have to do is come out with great focus and play as hard as we can and we should be in a position to win.

“Yes, it’s impressive, but it doesn’t matter until we get that 16th one. It’s very impressive, though.”

Unprecedented and maybe unfathomable until they rose up in mid-March to scoop the 2016-17 season and into the palms of their hands and began to play with the rest of the league as if it were a toy to amuse them.

Morning fog and early evening mist.

Draymond Green coming at every possession and every play like a rolling bundle of butcher’s knives, sometimes self-inflicting wounds with a personality that is wound way past too tight, but at the same time setting the match to Golden State’s collective emotional fuse.

Things that are near-perfect.

Their 15 consecutive wins are the longest playoff streak by any team in all major pro sports and since March 14, the Warriors have played 31 games and lost just once. Just shy of three entire pages ripped off a calendar, that’s a quarter of a trip around the sun.

Hall of Fame icons Magic Johnson, Julius “Dr J” Erving and all the rest can state their cases for their own powerhouse teams from the past as the fanciful and impossible comparisons begin. It’s why they put stools in bar, so we’ll have a place to sit during the liquid and passionate debates.

This campaign was never about numbers or statistics or records. Not after last season’s quest to set the all-time NBA mark of 73 wins left the Warriors feeling hollow after blowing a 3-1 lead to Cleveland in the 2016 Finals.

“We weren’t making that mistake again,” Green said.

Kevin Durant with arms and legs and jaw-dropping talents that go from here to there slashing through the lane for hammer of Thor dunks or pulling up at just the game-in-the-balance moment to stab home the killer 3 in transition. The best team in the league added the ultimate 6-11 closer. His jump from OKC to the Warriors was like giving Stephen Hawking a cheat sheet with all the answers for the final exam.

Things that are near-perfect.

“We knew how good he was, but just how clutch he’s been, how many big shots he’s hit for us,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “It just looks like he understands this is his moment, this is his time. He’s earned it. He’s been in this league for a long time, and he’s, I think, at the top of his game at the biggest time…and and I think he’s having the time of his life out there.”

They are having the time of a thousand lives — veterans Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, David West, Zaza Pachulia, all rest — fitting like the gear teeth in an indefatigable machine.

Their coach has fought off the painful, debilitating after-effects of a neck surgery gone wrong to get back to the bench for the stretch run after being complemented flawlessly in his absence by Mike Brown.

Kerr was a member of Michael Jordan’s best Bulls team that went 72-10 during the regular season and built a 3-0 lead on Seattle in the 1996 Finals. They then lost the next two games before finally finishing off the Sonics. Closing a series is hard, more so the last one.

But the Warriors now stand on the threshold of a championship and the kind of history that makes the 1972 Miami Dolphins of the NFL stand apart in the American sports pantheon as the only undefeated team of the Super Bowl era.

A quad-sweep: 16-0.

“Not something I’m thinking about or any of us are thinking about,” Kerr said. “It’s just win. Let’s go win and then we can savor a championship however we want.

“I am a big football fan, by the way. And I always love when Mercury Morris celebrates (every year) when the other team that’s undefeated finally loses. That’s one of my favorite moments of the NFL season.”

The kind of singular moment for the Warriors that could endure.

“Wouldn’t that be awesome?” Kerr said.

Things that are near-perfect.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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