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Warriors find motivation in quest to join NBA immortals

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors high fives fans as he leaves the floor after they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 2 of the 2018 NBA Finals © GETTY/AFP / Lachlan Cunningham

CLEVELAND, United States, Jun 4Seeking a third title in four seasons and a place among the NBA’s immortal dynasties, the Golden State Warriors have drawn motivation from a dwindling list of unachieved accomplishments.

In 2015, they won the team’s first title in 40 years. In 2016, they had the NBA’s best-ever season at 73-9 but fell one win shy of a crown. In 2017, they had a 16-1 playoff run, missing a perfect post-season with a penultimate-game loss.

Now matched against Cleveland for the fourth consecutive finals, the Warriors have a chance to join an elite set of clubs with three titles in four seasons — the 1960s Boston Celtics dynasty, the 1990s Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls and the Lakers from the Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson eras in Los Angeles and George Mikan’s 1950s team in Minneapolis.

“It’s extremely hard,” said Warriors guard Shaun Livingston, who joined Golden State before the first title run. “This has been the hardest season, I think, as a team, just from our accomplishments — the journey, the longevity of it. It’s hard.

“It sounds ridiculous, because we’re winning a championship. It’s just mentally and emotionally you put so much into the game every year, going through the ups and downs.

Shaun Livingston (R) of the Golden State Warriors controls the ball against Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers © GETTY/AFP / Thearon W. Henderson

“But I think we’re chasing greatness. We’re chasing history, some of those things that are achievable for a team like us. So that’s where we have to try to find the motivation. It’s kind of the game within the game.”

As the best-of-seven NBA Finals shift to Cleveland for game three Wednesday, with Golden State owning a 2-0 lead after a 122-103 home victory Sunday, the Warriors can start to ponder their place among the all-time best.

“We’re all victims of our expectations that we’ve set,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “But we are all in this together. There’s not much anyone has to go over or say.”

Curry draws inspiration from recalling his 26-56 rookie campaign in 2009-10.

“What we’ve been able to do here from my rookie year, there’s an awareness of where we were to where we are. And I appreciate it,” Curry said. “That’s why when I get to this stage it’s always like it’s brand new because of how hard it was to get here in the first place.”

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– Euphoric and devastating –

Warriors coach Steve Kerr was a guard in Chicago’s dynasty run and has warned players about letdowns.

“He has been there and says it’s just harder and it’s human nature to let your guard down,” Livingston said. “He understands what it takes and he understands the pitfalls that come with it.”

Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors was a guard in Chicago’s dynasty run and has warned players about letdowns © GETTY/AFP / EZRA SHAW

Kerr also understands the great things on offer.

“This is fun,” Kerr said. “If you can be part of a team that’s this good and give yourself a chance, that’s what you want. It’s devastating when you lose, and it’s euphoric when you win. But that’s sports.

“We’re competing for something that’s really important. We could all go do something else and live a much more balanced life, but we all kind of like this opportunity to compete. And you have to accept what comes with that.”

And with reaching four finals in a row.

“It’s obviously harder to get here than performing when you get to this stage, because you can play off adrenaline and knowing the end is near helps,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson.

“But getting to this point is a long grind and it should not be taken for granted that we’re here for the fourth straight time. This is not normal. We’re going to make the most of it.”

– ‘One of the best ever’ –

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Curry laughs at the idea he is missing something without an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.

“That’s kind of the nature of the beast being on this stage four times in a row. You’ve always got to look at what you don’t have,” Curry said.

“There’s always that thing about society always looking. Can you attain more and more and more? That’s fine. It’s part of my motivation to try to get back to this stage because I want more championships.”

No one appreciates the Warriors’ hunger more than Cleveland’s LeBron James, playing in his eighth consecutive final and ninth overall with a 3-5 record.

“They’re great, actually,” James said. “Golden State is one of best teams I’ve ever played. It’s one of the best teams that has ever been assembled.”

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