In an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast, Richard Jefferson made the case that the gap between the Cavaliers and Warriors in the Finals wasn’t as large as the 4-1 series result showed:
"Fans don't fully grasp it. We lose 4-1, right. We didn't play great. But KD hits that huge shot. Kyle (Korver) -- who is one of the great shooters in the history of basketball -- he has a good look, it doesn't drop. That's part of it.
"And then KD hits a tough shot over LeBron on a dribble-up. That close. You win the next game and it's 2-2.
"If it's 2-2, you go there it's Game 5. There's zero chance -- very similar to the year before -- we do not lose on our home court in a Game 6 situation," Jefferson said. "Now you go Game 7 -- anything can happen.”
"People don't understand: 'Oh 4-1, they killed you.' It's like dude, it's literally one shot here, one shot there."
"That's how close it is. It's literally a difference between three shots playing in a Game 7 and losing 4-1."
It’s not hard to interpret this as sour grapes from Jefferson, but it taps into a mistake that we as a viewing public make a lot: we pretend that the outcomes that are reached are the outcomes that would always play out.
If Durant misses that insanely high degree-of-difficulty three at the end of Game 3, then maybe the series heads back to Oakland 2-2. Sure, the Warriors were the better team in that series, but there’s small bounces that dictate games and series on a larger scale.
If you played that Finals 100 times, the Warriors might win 90 of them. The reality is that Golden State did win, and re-litigating does little good. That doesn’t mean their victory was preordained, and if coming back from 3-1 in 2016 doesn’t teach people that, it’s likely nothing will.