Toronto, ON - As the entire basketball world is preparing to write the Golden State Warriors' obituary, centre Andrew Bogut says the series is far from over ahead of a win-or-go home Game 5 at Scotiabank Arena on Monday.
"They've got to beat us four times," Bogut told ESPN. "Obviously they're playing really good basketball right now, but we know this thing's not over yet. We're going in with the mindset of winning Game 5 and going back home and seeing what happens."
After splitting the first two games in Toronto, no-one gave the Raptors much chance of winning both games at Oracle Arena but behind Kawhi Leonard's otherworldly play and key contributions from Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry, the Eastern Conference champs have become a frightening opponent. They now have the home crowd and momentum going their way.
Bogut admits there is no room for error for the Warriors now.
"The odds are against us, no-one's giving us much of a chance because NBA history says this [coming back from 3-1 down] doesn't happen very often -- it actually happened to us three or four years ago -- so we think we can still salvage the series, but we kind of have to play three perfect games to beat these guys who are playing really good basketball," he said.
In 2016 the Warriors were famously on the wrong end of history when the Cavaliers came back from 3-1 down in the Finals to win their first Championship. What has been forgotten amid the social media jokes about that epic collapse was the Warriors had come back from the same deficit to defeat the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. It's that experience that Steph Curry says the team will lean on.
"We haven't been in this position before in The Finals, but playing OKC and the whole 2016 run, where we were on both sides of this equation, you can kind of relive those experiences and understand what the emotions were like and how important literally every possession of those potential closeout games were on both ends, and what it took for those comebacks to happen," he said.
"But for us it's just a matter of - can you win one basketball game right now? Can you go out, play an amazing 48 minutes, quiet this crowd that's going to be probably unbelievable, and slow down a team that's been playing amazing, especially these last two games, and just win one basketball game and take it from there?
"If we focus on that mission, our history kind of speaks for itself in terms of being able to get that done. Just win one basketball game and then we'll worry about the rest."
Look closely at the Warriors' star player's stats and you'll see that they're actually not performing badly: Curry is averaging 32.8 points per game, Klay Thompson, 24.7 on 55 percent shooting from distance. Draymond Green is averaging close to a triple-double - they're just getting beat by a better team.
Analyzing those numbers and going by previous history, if any team can get hot quickly, Bogut believes it's the Warriors.
"We're a team that can also go on a run and start feeling good about ourselves and some of our threes start dropping," Bogut told ESPN. "I think we'll be okay if we can just be solid. We had numerous spurts throughout the last couple of games where we just had bad runs - we were fouling and getting Kawhi to the free-throw line pretty much but we have confidence.
"This group has been though hell and back numerous times - dealing with injuries, dealing with guys in-and-out of lineups, all the media attention we've had over the last 12 months has been crazy; we've seen everything, so this will be just another cog in that chapter hopefully."
Following the Game 1 loss in Toronto, Bogut was asked about his ability to stay ready and perform when his number was called. Despite the Warriors having a wealth of players who have playoff experience, some of their younger core do not. Bogut says he tries to pass on words of encouragement to them to keep them mentally prepared.
"Their number's gonna be called at different stages throughout this series, like it was in the playoffs, so just be ready to go," he said. "The NBA Finals, you never know what could happen rotation wise, [there could be] injuries, as we've seen in the last two series for us, we're just making sure that you stay ready - whether you play one minute or 20, when you're out there you're not making any mistakes and you're locked into what we're trying to do."
And for the moment, what the Warriors are trying to do is stay alive one game at a time.
"It's win or go home for us - we've got no choice but to go out there and be as focused as we can," Bogut said.