Andre Iguodala's series-altering surge snatched the trophy away two years ago, the Warriors' collapse nullified the possibility last year and Kevin Durant's three signature nights - a 38-point, 6-dunk, zero-turnover Game 1, a 33-point, 5-block all-around Game 2 and the 7-0 run late to steal Game 3 - has all but clinched it for him this year.
The Cavs memorably came back from 3-1 down against the same opponents to clinch the championship past year, and LeBron concedes he is exhausted of having to the climb the proverbial mountain.
CLEVELAND (AP) - One victory left for the Golden State Warriors to claim another title. His best keeps the overmatched Cavs close, while his absence has proven to be the separating point between the teams.
When Golden State was given that opening, Durant and the Warriors took full advantage of it in a way few - if any - teams ever could.
In that respect, James may be in a situation similar to 2007, when he got the Cavs to the NBA Finals only to be swept by the more talented San Antonio Spurs, who won their third title in five years. Golden State will be at full strength this time, and while the Warriors have finally lost a game, they haven't lost any confidence. 38 points, including 16 in the third when Cleveland took control, is the type of night from Irving that won the Cavs a title previous year.
The Warriors had the league's best record even while losing Durant late in the season to a knee injury, and really turned it on in the playoffs. And thus a 73-win team added a former league MVP.
"It's the most firepower I've played in my career", said James, who played all but two minutes. "I thought JR (Smith) got going and Richard Jefferson gave them good minutes, and it was a great team effort for Cleveland".
Folks, you may want to get those brooms out.
The NBA's best postseason run is the 15-1 mark of the 2001 Lakers, while the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers went 12-1.
For the Warriors, they need to keep up the pace, let Durant and Curry make the most of the transition chaos and the third player will always get hot.
In any event, the Cavs are still breathing and it's now the Warriors who may be feeling the pressure after blowing a 3-1 lead last June.
Though the above shot made-up just 10% of his 31 points on the night, they may well be the three points that kill the Cavs' hopes of defending their crown as no team has ever recovered from a 3-0 playoff deficit in 126 attempts. "Tomorrow's another important opportunity for us and for myself, obviously, to continue the series", said James, who had a game-high 39 points in the Game Three loss. He may not sit down much Friday night. Particularly as you go deeper, it gets tougher and tougher.
"When you have home court ideally you take care of business at home and get a split on the road".
LeBron James hasn't slowed the Warriors, and he's hardly alone.
As great as James, Irving and the Cavs' shooters were when they scored 86 points in the first half and made 24 3-pointers, Golden State still showed signs of getting into the game even on off nights for Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.
That roster would give these Warriors a chance against any great team from the past - and gives most of their opponents no chance against them. It's the first time the same two teams have met in the Finals for three consecutive years.
The Warriors won their first 15 playoff games, the longest postseason streak in North American sport history, but 48 minutes from a party they've been planning for a year has been put on hold. They all love playing off the ball, cutting, moving, passing. "I want to compete for championships every year, and so we'll see what happens". "They have their youth, they have their health".
Some will see their win as a sign of a dying National Basketball Association brand, but I see it as just another great moment by another dominant team. "And I think it came from Draymond, which is OK".