The NBA Finals is the pinnacle for professional basketball players, coaches, and fans.
Talking about the pinnacle of the sport and asking whether a portion of that pinnacle matters seems oxymoronic but that is where I find myself as I wandered around Cleveland today,
Process with me:
If the Cavs win tonight, does it change anything besides creating a Game 5 and a chance for history, once again?
If the Cavs lose tonight, does it change anything besides the Warriors setting the record with a 16 - 0 post-season?
The easy answer is no to both but there is more to it than that.
Breaking down both sides of the discussion:
Game 4 Matters
As we saw last year, anything can happen. The Cavs made their historic comeback and now could one up themselves coming back from 3 - 0 down. The Cavs would join the 2004 Boston Red Sox in coming back from a 3 - 0 deficit, though that was not for the MLB title. The Cavs must win Game 4 to have a chance for that.
Game 4 matters because of the narrative that comes from a Game 4 loss. LeBron being swept for a second Finals while allowing the Warriors to set their perfect post-season mark would be huge. Many would change their thoughts on where LeBron James belongs in the pantheon of the greats while also squarely placing the Warriors team near or at the top of any team ranking.
The conversation surrounding the Cavs, and the decisions that the Front Office make could be greatly impacted by a sweep. A sweep could mean everyone but LeBron
Obviously for the players, coaches and fans, the game matters. Every game matters at some level. Every Playoff game matters at a higher level. Finals game matters to the most. For those engaged with the team, tonight matters.
Game 4 Doesn't Matter
Losing the NBA Finals is losing the NBA Finals. Especially with the general belief that these two teams are not close to one another, does the Cavs winning a game or two really change that?
For good organizations, narratives, media, fan noise, etc doesn't matter. Good teams do what is best for their team no matter what the noise around those moves is. Watching the first three games of the NBA Finals tells the team that there is a stark difference between the two teams, no matter if the Cavs can win Game 4.
Odds are low that the Cavs can take the series to 6 or 7 games. Last year told us that anything is possible but the realistic look is that even a Game 4 win barely ups the Cavs odds of winning the series.
Current betting has the Cavs as a 6 point underdog for tonight at home. That is a very large spread in an important NBA game. Depending on betting books, home teams tend to get between 3 and 6 points just for being at home. That means the Cavs would be a 9 point underdog on a neutral court and at least a 12 point dog on the road against the Warriors. Vegas sees a huge gap between these teams, does one win change any of that?
Game 4 only matters if there is a Game 6, and maybe a Game 7. Unless the Cavs are able to turn the narrative around greatly, make huge adjustments and show they belong on the same court with the Warriors for
Obviously, we will all watch and narratives will follow no matter what. Practically, they won't matter but we will devour all the takes after Game 4. A Cavs win could spin another bout of "Can they do it?" and "How great is LeBron?"
A Cavs win could spin another bout of "Can they do it?" and "How great is LeBron?" Those die if/when the Cavs lose the series.
A Warriors sweep will push the narrative about their greatness, deserved based on a perfect post-season. Those will be real discussions about how great they are but for the Cavs, the concerns will continue as they would if they lose in 5 or 6 games.
Does Game 4 of the NBA Finals matter?