Warriors Reminded in Game 3 There Are No Shortcuts in Maintaining Finals Focus

Kevin Ding@@KevinDingNBA Senior WriterJune 9, 2016

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors reacts during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

CLEVELAND — It's not a journey for just one guy, even if he is the first unanimous NBA MVP.

They do this together. They read opposing defenses together. They make glorious history together. They have dramatic letdowns together.

They go on this journey together. And the thing is, this is a repeat journey. They have, in fact, a repeat MVP.

As Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors don't have the benefit of novelty keeping this interesting, they are vulnerable to thinking the same tired things at the same tired times.

And it's human nature to feel uninspired about the same old landscape passing by, specifically in the third games of playoff series, when it's feeling routine for the Warriors—but their opponents are home for the first time in the series and just bursting with energy plus desperation to throw at the champs.

That's the main reason the Warriors will finish this postseason 0-4 in Game 3s after losing 120-90 in Cleveland on Wednesday night.

It'd be unwise to believe it will stop them from finishing as NBA champs again, but it proves Curry and his teammates are human, despite the 73-9 history they made.

It also proves teamwork always requires work.

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We have to put forth effort to maintain even the best of our relationships in life, be they at home or at work.

No matter if they're two of the best shooters in NBA history, Curry and Klay Thompson can't assume they can take and make hero shots to help their team.

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 08:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers defends Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors during the second half in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 8, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User
Jason Miller/Getty Images

No matter that this is the same roster as last year, outside of little-used Anderson Varejao, Ian Clark and Kevon Looney in place of little-used David Lee, Justin Holiday and Ognjen Kuzmic. The chemistry on and off the court can't be taken for granted…or a more aggressive, hungrier group of guys without as many rings will win and even win as big as the Cleveland Cavaliers did in Game 3.

Curry, who got off only 13 shots Wednesday night, can and should play with more purpose. He knows he has to be more determined about positioning himself to get the ball to make plays for himself and others.

"For me to do what I need to do to help my team, I have to play a hundred times better than that, especially in the first quarter," Curry said after the game. "To kind of control the game."

But it shouldn't be shocking that he isn't creating a lot of space in this series. The Cavaliers are prioritizing bunching bodies around him on the perimeter, and the Warriors would rather burn Cleveland for it with ball movement to Curry's teammates (as mostly happened in Games 1 and 2), and thus draw defenders away, than force-feed Curry.

The solution isn't merely Curry being sharper. It's all of them being sharper—the guy setting the screen for Curry, the guy cutting away from Curry, the guy throwing the pass to lead Curry instead of dumping the ball back on him.

The Warriors have been killing the league with their split-cut offensive actions based on the read-and-react triangle offense since Steve Kerr's arrival in 2014. The scheme mandates all the players be active mentally first, then active physically, in understanding how to work together to confuse and beat the defense, usually either backdoor or for threes.

The Cavaliers talked internally after Game 1 about needing to diagnose those split cuts and communicate better in defending them. Didn't matter. They still couldn't stop them in Game 2.

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 8: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors handles the ball during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2016 NBA Finals Game Three on June 8, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.  NOTE TO USER: User ex
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

They did in Game 3 and more, and it was partly Golden State's fault.

The Warriors were riding along, barely conscious, gazing out the window at the Northeast Ohio smokestacks or reflecting on the champagne they once soaked into the locker room carpet.

It is possible to make a repeat journey better, but not by letting your eyes glaze over at the same old scenery. You put your antenna out, heighten your senses and connect with your environment and your fellow explorers in deeper, more meaningful ways.   

Whether it's uniting in the face of a 3-1 deficit against the worthy Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, posting the largest bench-scoring disparity in NBA Finals history in Game 1 (45-10), or Warriors owner Joe Lacob on Wednesday enthusiastically discovering new areas of the same Cleveland luxury hotel the team stayed in last year, the repeat can be refreshing.

The Warriors know this. It's how they pushed forward in the 2015-16 regular season instead of falling back. So they don't have to forge new bonds Friday in Game 4. They just have to focus more on doing it together.

The Cavaliers did in Game 3. Kyrie Irving used his teammates' more precise screens as a springboard to be his individual best. LeBron James made a proud postgame point about the team effort in saying: "I didn't take over this game," adding later: "I just try to lead this team to victory."

Golden State reserve Andre Iguodala, whose surprising 2015 NBA Finals MVP trophy rose from a total team effort, sounded a lot like a guy who is going to lecture his teammates about giving "our best player" the proper assistance and protection in Game 4.

"They're all over him, holding him, trying to rough him up a little bit," Iguodala said about Curry. "At both ends of the court. And we have to do a better job of helping him."

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 5: Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors passes the ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers during Game Three of the 2016 NBA Finals on June 8, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

Iguodala sounded almost like a parent reassessing how attentive he is being to his child, or a husband realizing he fell into the old rut of not appreciating his wife.

The Warriors' next triumph together will be their 88th and break another 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record: most total victories in a single season, including playoffs. (The Bulls only had to win three, not four games, in the best-of-five first round back then).

Want to make your case for being the greatest team ever, Warriors?

For your big finish, bring out your greatest teamwork.

Kevin Ding is an NBA senior writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, @KevinDing.

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