They're often called the best two words in sports, but the Golden State Warriors didn't want to hear the phrase "Game Seven".
On track to wrap up a second straight NBA championship when leading 3-1 in the series, the Warriors are now facing a decider after 115-101 defeat at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers. With the season coming down to the wire, Niall Anderson identifies five keys to NBA decider:
The Warriors started the series successfully playing off James, who was tentative and inaccurate when shooting from beyond the arc. However, he has re-discovered his confidence and has used it to dominate the series, including Game Six where he compiled 41 points, eight rebounds, 11 assists, four steals and three blocks. When his jumper falls, he is near impossible to guard, and the Cavaliers have reaped the rewards.
The Warriors are limping towards the finish line - Andrew Bogut is out for the series, Andre Iguodala was hobbling in Game Six and unanimous MVP Steph Curry hasn't been consistently at 100 percent after sitting out two weeks of the playoffs with a knee injury. Being a step slower can hurt the efficiency of their whirring offensive and defensive schemes, and gives the relatively healthy Cavaliers an advantage.
Home Court Advantage
Home teams have won 15 of 18 NBA title deciders, but home advantage has an additional importance in these playoffs. Six of the Warriors' eight post-season losses have been on the road, while the Cavaliers have been dominant at home but less convincing when travelling. With every game decided by double digits so far in the finals, perhaps the decider could be the perfect occasion for the first tight game of the series.
How much do you believe in history? Well, no team has ever come back from 3-1 to win the NBA Finals, while teams with the reigning MVP have won the last 18 Game Sevens - signs which paint a positive picture for the Warriors. But, every series has its quirks, and the Cavaliers are just the third team to ever force a Game Seven from that position.
In a one game decider, variance can play a huge part. Whether it is big contributions from role players, a team catching fire from three-point land or questionable referee decisions, luck is an understated part of the cruel and unpredictable beauty of sports.