There’s still no reason to think that a fourth consecutive NBA Finals matchup between Golden State and Cleveland cannot happen, even though both teams have been often less than razor-sharp to start this season.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, frankly, isn’t surprised by some early struggles.
Golden State has had uncharacteristic issues with turnovers and defense to start this season — though the Warriors started to look like themselves again in a 141-113 romp past the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night. Cleveland has dealt with defensive lapses as well, and the Cavaliers went into LeBron James’ annual Halloween party this week on a three-game losing streak.
Kerr has seen this before. He played for the Chicago Bulls in 1997-98, part of a team that was coming off two straight titles but started just 8-7.
“Everybody was fried,” Kerr said.
Those Bulls figured things out, eventually finishing off a repeat threepeat by getting their sixth title in eight seasons. And Kerr has no doubt that whatever’s been plaguing the Warriors and Cavaliers in October will be long forgotten when the playoffs start in April.
“It’s not easy,” Kerr said. “I think that’s the hardest thing probably for people to understand, fans, media, whoever — whomever, my mom would want me to say — is the fatigue, the emotional and spiritual fatigue that sets in when you’ve been going to The Finals. That’s why LeBron going to The Finals seven years in a row, to me, is one of the most amazing accomplishments ever for a player in this league.”
For all the talent in the Warriors’ lineup, players still take their cues from Kerr.
And since he wasn’t panicking after a 4-3 start to this season, neither were they. Scoring 141 points on the Clippers’ home floor Monday night was the clear reminder that the Warriors are still the Warriors.
“Not to sound arrogant, but we knew it was coming,” two-time MVP Stephen Curry said of the breakout night by the reigning champions.
For the first time since 1968-69, no team started 6-1 or 7-0. The best seven-game start in the NBA this season was 5-2.
The last time that happened, the league’s 14 teams included ones in Cincinnati, Baltimore, San Diego and Seattle — and Bill Russell was busy leading the Boston Celtics to their 11th championship in 13 years.
So while plans of going 82-0 went out the window early this season, so did fears of going 0-82: For the first time since 2010-11, no team started 0-7.
LeBron James is coming up on a pair of milestone moments.
The Cleveland star is 41 points away from 29,000 in his career going into Wednesday night’s home game against Indiana. He’ll be the seventh NBA player to score that many, and — as he’s been for countless other milestones in his career — he’s on pace to be the youngest to reach that mark.
And Friday could be the night where he records his 800th consecutive regular-season game of scoring at least 10 points. The last time James didn’t score 10 in a regular-season game was Jan. 5, 2007 in Milwaukee, where he scored only eight on 3-for-13 shooting.
He has been held to single-digits in the postseason during that span, most recently when he scored seven at Indiana on May 28, 2014.
THE WEEK AHEAD
A look at some of the games to keep an eye on in the coming days:
— Orlando at Memphis, Wednesday: Two of the best surprise stories in the NBA so far.
— Golden State at San Antonio, Thursday: Until proven otherwise, the standards in West.
— Brooklyn at L.A. Lakers, Friday: Brook Lopez goes against the Nets for the first time.
— Oklahoma City at Portland, Sunday: Last time they played, Russell Westbrook scored 58.
— Milwaukee at Cleveland, Tuesday: Giannis Antetokounmpo faces off with LeBron James.
STAT LINE OF THE WEEK
DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans: He had 41 points, 23 rebounds and six assists in his return to Sacramento on Oct. 26. It was the first time any NBA player finished a game with that many points, rebounds and assists since Joe Barry Carroll in 1987.