Tyronn Lue and Steve Kerr, rival coaches in the NBA Finals, struggled Thursday to fit the Golden State Warriors among the league’s greatest clubs, some of which they played upon.
Kerr’s Warriors own a 3-0 lead over Lue’s defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the best-of-seven series that could end with a Golden State sweep Friday in Cleveland.
The Warriors are 15-0 in the playoffs, the best post-season run by any North American sports team, having swept Portland, Utah and San Antonio and pushed Cleveland to the brink.
They would become the first NBA squad to make an unbeaten playoff charge to the crown by winning Friday.
“What this team has accomplished is remarkable,” Kerr said. “And we have had some good fortune, too. We have stayed healthy, knock on wood. So far things have gone our way. Our guys have really played well and competed at a high level.
“But in the end you just want to win. The other stuff doesn’t really matter. People can talk about it in historical context, but you just get it done, win the series and let everybody else talk.”
Kerr won five NBA titles as a guard, three of them alongside Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls from 1996-1998 and two more with the San Antonio Spurs.
Lue won NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000 and 2001, a member of the lineup led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers’ 15-1 playoff run in 2001 is the best playoff record by any NBA champion but could be eclipsed by Golden State, a club Lue struggled to compare to his former team.
“I really don’t know. Because I won, so I mean, I was on the other side of it,” Lue said. “For us, with the Lakers, we just had two dynamic pieces, two of the best players in the world at the time with Kobe and Shaq.
“They were both dominant and everybody else on the team was a star in their role. They played their part. Whatever they had to do to win is what we did. And it was just a great run. We beat some great teams.
“It was just ultimate team. Kobe and Shaq were our great players and everybody else was just great role players.”
The only 2001 playoff loss by the Lakers came in the first game of the finals against Philadelphia.
“It’s very tough. When you have a great team, you have opportunities to do things like that,” Lue said. “We had a chance to do it, but we had had like a 12-day layoff, and Philly came in and it was like they were running 100 mph. We couldn’t keep up the first game.”
The 1996 Bulls went 15-3 in the playoffs, losing twice after seizing a 3-0 finals lead over Seattle and giving Kerr an appreciation for the feat his club is on the verge of achieving.
“I remember that well. We were up 3-0 the finals, too, and then we lost the next two games in Seattle,” Kerr said. “It’s hard. In the playoffs, every team is good. As you go deeper, it gets tougher and tougher.
“You don’t really stop and think about it until after.”