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Fitz: Strength in Numbers cannot be matched by one man from the Midwest

© Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

‘Strength in Numbers:’ a Steve Kerr-coined mantra upon his arrival with the Warriors.

“What we are looking for is strength in numbers,” he said. He wanted everyone associated with the Warriors pulling together and putting forth their best efforts for the success of the franchise.

Game 3 epitomized everything good about Warriors basketball. Excellent defense, mental toughness, excellent depth, clutch play, and multiple leaders up and down the roster. Movement, grace, strength, skill, and joy.

To win a road NBA Finals game when Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shoot 7-27 and 3-15 from three-point land should be impossible. But that’s where the word “team” kicks in for the Warriors.

The return of Andre Iguodala could not have come at a better time. The tremendous defense, the poise, the timing of key plays. You just miss him in so many ways. Even at less than full strength, it was so much fun to watch him back in the Finals.

Jordan Bell was a monster in 12 minutes with 10 points and six rebounds. That’s a second-round pick from Joe Lacob. Shaun Livingston finally missed a shot against Cleveland, but 4-5 from the floor will do just fine. And another double-digit game from JaVale McGee. So, the law firm of Iguodala, Bell, Livingston, and McGee were 16- 21. Amazing.

Yes, I waited for the discussion regarding the stupendous performance of Kevin Durant. Efficient, lethal, clutch, consistent, and another KDagger in Cleveland. Forty-three points, 13 rebounds, and seven assists… Are you kidding me? After an off game to begin the series, Durant has played near perfect basketball the past two games. Just a joy to watch.

Once again, LeBron James was masterful with a triple-double that would have been the story in any other game. Thirty-three points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. His team isn’t good enough, and that’s not his fault. Cleveland can’t win without an incredible three-point shooting night, and the Warriors have just not allowed that to happen.

It will be very interesting to see James’ mindset in Game 4. It will likely be his final performance in Cleveland. There will be no Game 6 under any circumstance, and the drama of another James free agency will begin with the entire league watching.

The Warriors have now won a road playoff game in 19 straight playoff series, equaling the best in NBA history. Elite defense travels, and multiple clutch shooters allow certain players to step into the spotlight at different times. Experience and belief in each other also allow the Warriors to play through comical officiating at times on the road. And Game 3 provided some laughable moments with whistles and non-whistles that bordered on embarrassing, particularly after very well-officiated games in the first two games of the Finals. But even that was not enough to get Cleveland into victory lane.

Cleveland will need a repeat performance of Game 4 from a year ago when the Cavs erupted for 137 points to extend the series. But having lost seven of the past eight Finals games to the Warriors, the Cavs are aware of the inevitable. And a flight to Oakland might not be much motivation to prolong their season.

You don’t get anything extra for sweeping a team in the Finals, but it’s something the Warriors have never done. And that will be the motivation to cement the greatest five-year run in NBA history — already with the most wins during that time period and three titles in four years, plus becoming repeat champions. The Spurs have never done that during their two decades of dominance. The Warriors will also earn its sixth overall title, tying the Chicago Bulls and trailing only the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.  It could all end on Friday, but any doubt as to the best basketball team in the world has been removed.

Strength in Numbers cannot be matched by one man from the Midwest.


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