Programming note: "Warriors NBA Finals Central" airs tonight at 5 p.m., and immediately after Game 3 on CSN Bay Area Plus. Both shows will be streaming live right here.
CLEVELAND -- Steve Kerr finally explained his place in the universe before Tuesday night’s third game of the NBA Finals when asked a question about Gregg Popovich and his outlook.
“Well, Pop’s the best coach of all time, certainly one of the top three,” Kerr said as he sat at the scorer’s table in Quicken Loans Arena. “I think I’m fourth.”
So in any order, it’s Auerbach, Jackson, Popovich – and then Kerr. Got it.
Of course, Kerr was kidding, and as we all know, nothing’s worse for a joke than having to explain it. But as he was asked to rehash Game 2 and repair Game 3, Kerr mentioned one thing more than once that he believed was true. Namely, that the Warriors were not getting good enough shots early in Games 1 or 2 of the Finals, and then having not located their early rhythm, they never found it later.
For the most part, though, he gave no indication that anything about the first two games particularly worried him. Even the obligatory question about oppressive fan noise (a question which is its own brand of oppressive noise) caused him to go for the quick and dismissive laugh.
“If it’s too loud, we might just leave,” he said. “We might forfeit Three and Four and go back and hope our fans will be even louder.”
Then he finally seized on the reality of this series – the one besides the great question about whether Stephen Curry’s career and psyche were destroyed by missing 18 of 23 shots in Game 2.
“I don’t pay attention to anything,” he said. “It’s all a bunch of crap anyway.”
There was a tiny level of irritation in his voice because ultimately, this series has been decided by fortune more than tactics. Two overtime games, a total of three points of margin, the Iman Shumpert corner shot in Game 1 that somehow missed and the Marreese Speights dunk that wasn’t in Game 2, the 28 shots Curry has missed or the 43 shots LeBron James has missed. The Finals are all small-sample-size events now, and the only pattern to be found has been Cleveland’s ability – well, James’ ability – to choke the pace to Chicago Bulls levels.
The Warriors led the league in possessions per game at 98, according to BasketballReference.com; the Cavs were 25th at 92. During the playoffs, the Warriors have slowed to 93, and Cleveland is dead last of the 16 teams at 90. That is not likely to change as long as James, who controls the ball to an extraordinary level, continues to dominate the pace as some sort of massive updated version of Carlton Fisk, the old Boston Red Sox catcher who ground games into still-lifes to meet his calculations.
Other than that, all the numbers crash against the rocks of fortune, good and ill. Indeed, the new number – the one in which the team that wins Game 3 of the Finals wins the series 74 percent of the time – is the new fashionable datum.
Except that it’s happened exactly one year in a row, and has been wrong three times in the past seven years, and four times in the last 10.
Face it, kids – this history is anything but preordained, and the first two games have proven it. We are trying to find patterns in chaos, trends in one-offs. It is all a grand fool’s errand, except for these three immutable truths:
1) Steve Kerr is the fourth best coach in the history of the sport
2) Fan noise makes players cry
3) It’s all a bunch of crap
Slap some metrics on that, why don’t you?