For me, Sunday is always a special day. It is a family day. It is a day I attend church. For many, me included, it is a day of prayer. Numerous Golden State fans prayed for a win this past Sunday night. I didn’t pray for a victory; I had faith the team would win without divine intervention.
The day was also special because I got to spend time with my sons, Jon and Brent. Jon had me as a guest on ESPN Radio, and Brent interviewed me for NBA TV. I am so elated that both of them have been able to work doing something they love. First, they were fortunate enough to play professional basketball. Now, they get to talk about and analyze the game.
Thanks to the Warriors organization, I was able to attend Game 5 and watch the Dubs take a 3-2 lead in the series. I also was able to provide analysis for San Francisco Examiner readers. I loved wearing my “Strength in Numbers” T-shirt and being with the fans. My favorite team dominated the last six minutes of the game to win 104-91, and now they stand poised to win the coveted NBA crown.
After the game, I was asked by many fans and media members what it will take to close out the series in Cleveland. Even though this game has more significance than any game this season, the Warriors need to approach it just as they would any other. I know that is easier said than done, but getting caught up in the fact that a win brings them a championship will only create problems. The emotional energy that can be expended along with the possible loss of focus can affect performance. I have seen this occur on far too many occasions in the past.
Next, the main focus must be on defense. That is what allowed the Warriors to win Games 4 and 5, as they held the Cavaliers to a combined 34 percent shooting. Ultimately, that kept them in the games when their offense struggled.
The Warriors need to find a way to stay focused on offense for more than two quarters. Not since Game 3 against the Houston Rockets have they managed to get on an offensive roll and dominate their opponent. In that game, they shot pretty well from the field (45 percent) and beyond the arc (39 percent), 80 percent from the free throw line (outstanding), committed 14 turnovers (good for them), passed the ball well (25 assists) and dominated the boards. In other words, they played Warriors basketball for most of that game.
I am looking forward to seeing who Cavaliers coach David Blatt puts in his starting lineup. Changing from his bigger lineup early in the first quarter of Game 4 worked better than I had expected. Eventually, however, the decision to go small failed as the Warriors played their up-tempo brand of ball, and Stephen Curry got aggressive on offense. Playing at a fast pace benefits the Dubs’ starters and also the bench, especially Leandro Barbosa. His quickness and ability to get to the basket is enhanced when the team pushes the ball. I thought he was an important contributor in the victory.
As great as it would be to win the championship at home in front of the great fans, I hope the Warriors get it done on the road. I feel this way because that’s how our 1975 championship team did it. I know how special that was for us to be able to celebrate our triumph as a team without the many distractions that would have occurred at home.
In addition, we had a memorable plane ride together back to the Bay Area to savor the sweet joy of victory, the kind of ride that I hope these Warriors will experience in a few hours.
Rick Barry played eight seasons for the Warriors and was the captain of their only Bay Area NBA championship team. In 1987, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His commentary will appear exclusively in the San Francisco Examiner throughout the playoffs.