The temptation to believe that the Golden State Warriors have finally figured out how to win the NBA championship is finally firm.
It may also be one more whopping lie in a series full of them.
But the central truth of Game 4, the central truth of the pre-series belief that the Warriors were better than the Cleveland Cavaliers, finally revealed itself Thursday night in Golden State’s 103-82 series-tying win, and indeed revealed itself in a way it never had in this postseason.
And it was highlighted by, yes, a lie.
Head coach Steve Kerr was asked directly, by the noted Communist agitator and golfing enthusiast Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group if he might change his lineup to go smaller and faster, and Kerr was confronted with an easy choice.
Be truthful, or win. Kerr chose Option B. The result was in the non-answer, and the emanations from that answer.
Andre Iguodala, who has easily been the Warriors’ best player in this series, started for Andrew Bogut, played 39 minutes, scored 22 points and guarded LeBron James to a thin gray paste. But it was also Shaun Livingston, who played 24 minutes and was a plus-25, and David Lee, who had nine and five and provided needed energy in his 15 minutes, and Draymond Green, who found the faster pace created by the lineup change and substitution patterns most efficacious, and Harrison Barnes had 33 more impactful moments.
Oh, and Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson played too.
But let’s get back to that lying liar Kerr.
“When he asked me if I was starting Bogut, I lied,” Kerr said. “No. I did. I mean, I lied. I figure I have two press conferences a day and I’m asked a lot of strategic questions, so my options were to tell the truth . . . (so) if I tell the truth, it’s the equivalent of me knocking on David Blatt’s door and saying, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ If I evade the question, it would start this Twitter phenomenon, ‘Who is going to start for the Warriors?’ Or I could lie.
“So I lied. Sorry, but I don’t think they give you the trophy based on morality. They give it to you if you win. So sorry about that.”
And that last sentence was a lie too.
Sadly, his conscience got to him eventually, and he apologized to Kawakami. I think that might have been a lie as well.
But there’s another lie involved here, and that’s that the lineup change was everything. It wasn’t. Kerr’s lineup decisions included his substitution choices, and his choices to play Bogut and Marreese Speights a total of 4:54 and Festus Ezeli not at all changed the essential dynamic of the series.
“I don’t think the biggest difference was the starting lineup or the adjustment that we made," Kerr said. "I think the biggest difference is that we played a lot harder. The first three games they were the more competitive team. Maybe it’s our first trip to the Finals and we thought we can play hard, but it’s not just about playing hard, but it’s about playing every possession like it’s your last. And I thought our effort took a step up.”
The raw numbers were clear; Cleveland shot only 33 percent as a team, and James, who had been averaging 36 shots a game, only got 22. Dellavedova was only 3 for 14, turned the ball over three times and wasn’t the first one to the floor for loose balls as he had been in Games 1 through 3. J.R. Smith was a misery-making 2-for-12, and the Cavs as a team, who don’t like the three as a major weapon when they lack Kyirw Irving and Kevin Love, shot a horrifying 14 percent (4 for 27) from three.
What they had was Timofey Mozgov, who was rampant in the absence of any large Warrior presence, scoring a career-high 28 and 10 rebounds, and Tristan Thompson, who had 12 and 13. But Iguodala’s work on James, with the occasional traps and double-teams that prevented James from owning the ball for extended periods, was eye-opening.
Indeed, all Cavs not James nor Mozgov finished with 31 points, while all Warriors who played more than 10 minutes and were not Curry nor Thompson had 69.
So this was the Warriors-have-more-players game, the one people had been waiting for since the series had begun. This was Kerr showing his hand – not face-up, where the Cavs might be able to use the knowledge, but face-down, where their sheer volume made more of an impression than anything else.
And like every good card player, Kerr misrepresented his hand for strategic reasons. He prevaricated boldly, proudly and in full knowledge of his crime as he was committing it.
Because, in the final analysis, the lie was well worth it. And if he has to explain it to some Sunday school this summer, hey, who knows – he might even lie to them.