But just 15 days earlier, the defending champions were on the brink. They were down 3-2 in the Western Conference finals, the closest they’d been to playoff elimination since 2016.
In Steve Kerr’s mind, though? A third title in four years was always inevitable. Even then.
According to The Athletic’s Ethan Strauss, Kerr not only called his and the Warriors’ shot in private conversations after Game 5. He spread the message throughout the visitors’ locker room in Houston, after a 98-94 Rockets victory:
In the immediate aftermath of the Game 5 that put the Warriors in a 3-2 hole, Kerr was insistent that the Warriors were winning the series. “Look, we’re winning the next two,” he said. He then went even further than that, predicting six victories in a row.
Kerr began by hugging Draymond Green, and conveying the message he’d give next to Steph Curry, then to the others, as he walked around the Houston locker room: We’re going to win six straight games.
Of course, this is one of those stories that never sees the light of day if the prediction doesn’t come true. And there was plenty that had to happen for Kerr’s to come to fruition. Chris Paul had to miss the final two games of the series with a hamstring injury. The Rockets had to miss 27 consecutive 3-pointers in Game 7, paving the way for a Warriors comeback.
Then, in the Finals, J.R. Smith had to, uh, be J.R. Smith. LeBron James had to punch a whiteboard and suffer a serious hand contusion. None of these occurrences were foreseeable.
And yet Kerr was confident in his team’s ability to come back in Houston, as he had every right to be. He had the most talented roster in the league at his disposal. It had loads of playoff experience. And it had a history of comebacks, having stunned the Oklahoma City Thunder by undoing a 3-1 deficit in the Western Conference finals in 2016. Kerr reportedly called that fightback as well.
Kerr doesn’t need to be calling shots to be considered a genius, though. He’s worked wonders with the Warriors, even factoring in the inherent advantages that come with such a stacked roster. He’s played a major role in the Warriors’ success.
More NBA Finals coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Durant claims 2nd straight Finals MVP honor
• Warriors complete sweep to win championship
• NBA players are already recruiting LeBron
• LeBron: ‘I pretty much played the last 3 games with a broken hand’