By JANIE McCAULEY
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Draymond Green has said it often: This run by the Golden State Warriors won’t last forever.
And forever could be coming up fast.
From Day One the entire team was determined to enjoy the ride for as long as possible. Coach Steve Kerr preached as much at the start of training camp: Cherish this time because it all could change in a hurry once free agency arrives come summer.
The roster might look much different in a matter of months, perhaps a dynasty dismantled. Even if general manager Bob Myers does his best to keep the core together.
The two-time defending champions trail the Raptors 3-1 in the NBA Finals, with Game 5 on Monday night in Toronto. It will now take an improbable upset.
It’s “important to have that pride, to have the faith in what we’re capable of,” Green said.
If the Warriors stave off elimination at Scotiabank Arena, they return to Oracle Arena. Clearly, they don’t want the past two defeats to be a lasting memory in Oakland after 47 seasons. The curtain is closing at Oracle, with the Warriors moving to the new Chase Center in San Francisco next season.
Golden State understands the stakes, with the season on the brink following startling back-to-back losses at home.
The Warriors have been in such a postseason predicament before. They rallied from down 3-1 to beat Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals when Kevin Durant was still with the Thunder only to squander a 3-1 advantage in the finals to Cleveland, watching LeBron James and the Cavaliers celebrate a Game 7 victory at Oracle.
“We’ve been on the wrong side of history,” Golden State guard Shaun Livingston said. “We look to be on the right side of it now.”
Stephen Curry believes his Warriors have the mindset to make this happen.
“You don’t succeed the way we have over the course of these years without that mentality,” he said. “So as the second half unfolds and things aren’t going our way, we’re still fighting and trying to get over the hump. But until the final buzzer sounds and somebody gets the four wins, we still have life and have an opportunity to win.”
The Raptors, for their part, realize there’s still much to be done.
“It’s not over yet, so I can’t say that we’re better,” Kawhi Leonard said after a 36-point, 12-rebound performance in Friday night’s 105-92 Game 4 win.
Kerr has seen many remarkable rallies and triumphs in his five years coaching the Warriors. And he is ready for another comeback, this time on basketball’s biggest stage.
“You just try to win one game. That’s what we did a few years ago against OKC. Win one game, and then you move forward,” Kerr said. “So that’s our focus now. We’ll fly to Toronto tomorrow and take a look at the film, see what we can do better and try to win a game. We have won a lot of games over the years, so we’ll try to win another one.”
Throughout the highs and lows of this season, Kerr has emphasized how hard it is to be on top and stay there — game after game, year after year. Everybody wants what you have, and you get the opponent’s best shot each time you take the floor.
Durant may depart as a free agent next month, while Klay Thompson is expected to re-sign once his contract expires. Both Thompson and Green have indicated their desires to stay with the Warriors for the long haul. DeMarcus Cousins joined Golden State for what was expected to be just one season.
For now, the Warriors must focus all their energy on fighting back. That three-peat is in jeopardy.
“I’ve been on the wrong side of 3-1 before,” Green said. “Why not make our own history?”