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CLEVELAND — The NBA Finals won’t be making a return trip to Cleveland. I’m talking about this series featuring the Warriors and the Cavaliers. And I’m talking about the foreseeable future.

The visitors snatched the Cavs’ souls on Wednesday night at Quicken Loans Arena, eliminating the last legitimate chance of a Cleveland championship in 2018 with a 110-102 victory in Game 3. In effect, the Warriors secured their third NBA championship in four years. It’s hard to believe they won’t be back for more, and more after that. And it’s equally hard to believe this iteration of the Cavaliers will rise to meet them again.

Goodbye, Warriors-Cavs. It was quite a fight while it lasted.

Consider the Cavaliers’ mental state after Game 3. They did so many things well on Wednesday. LeBron James had his predictable triple-double, with 33 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds. Kevin Love wreaked havoc in the first half, both rebounding and shooting the ball. Cleveland got the extra role player it needed, with Rodney Hood emerging to score 15 points.

On the other side of the coin, the Warriors did a lot of things terribly. Most obvious, Stephen Curry shot the ball as if he had seven broken fingers. Three days after setting an NBA Finals record with nine made 3-pointers, he connected on 1 of 10. Curry finished with 11 points, one of the worst postseason games of his career. Draymond Green, Golden State’s emotional leader, absorbed three early fouls, got hit with a technical and did not have a fantastic game.

With all of that, it was the Warriors who left the court as winners, as they have so frequently in this arena. They nursed a 101-100 lead with 1:57 left in the game. And then they asserted themselves as the better team and closed the deal. It was a close game, perhaps a great game, but the outcome felt as inevitable as sunset.

How do the Cavaliers bounce back from that, especially after absorbing an even more painful setback in Game 1 last Thursday?

“For me, tonight will be tough,” LeBron James admitted after Wednesday’s loss.

How do the Cavaliers reckon with the fact that they are down 3-0 against a team that can martial so many ways of beating you, a team that is clearly superior to theirs?

“It’s almost like playing the Patriots, you can’t have mistakes,” James said. “They’re not going to beat themselves. … You can’t have miscommunication, you can’t have flaws, you can’t have ‘my faults’ or ‘my bads’ or things like that, because they’re going to make you pay.”

As his teammate Love put it: “That margin for error is so thin and so little against them that in some cases, you almost have to be perfect.”

The Cavaliers have a lot of collective pride, and they will certainly put up a fight in Game 4 on Friday. They might even win that one, as they did in Game 4 here last year. But they are cooked. There is no coming back from this deficit, against this foe.

If the Warriors don’t win Friday, they will wrap things up back at Oracle Arena on Monday. They will be champions again, and we can finally compare them to Jordan’s Bulls and Magic’s Lakers with a straight face.

And the Cavaliers? The team that has forged such a strange June tradition with the club from Oakland? Don’t expect to see them back in the NBA Finals anytime soon.

I mean, you might not have expected them this year. I sure didn’t, not after they dumped half their roster in February and basically asked the dealer for four new cards to go along with their ace, LeBron. Somehow, the Cavaliers survived to reach the finals again. It said a lot about their resiliency, and about the sorry state of the Eastern Conference.

But the jig is up in Cleveland. This offseason will be fueled by rumors of James’ second departure from his hometown team. He has another year remaining on his contract, but will almost certainly opt out and consider moving to a preferred destination — like Philadelphia. Or Houston. Or Los Angeles. James is like a tabloid bachelor, constantly linked to a parade of love interests.

Even if LeBron and the Cavaliers were to decide to stay together for another year, there is no logical reason to believe they will rule the East again. The Celtics and 76ers are ascendant. The Cavs are exhausted, worn down by the grinding approach they have taken to winning in the NBA.

So when Dubs-Cavs 4 ends Friday or Monday, it will be the last episode of this superhero franchise. If the Warriors play up to potential and reach the NBA Finals again next year, they probably won’t go anywhere near Lake Erie.

So let’s take a moment to appreciate the rivalry that bloomed in two time zones.

Think about it. The Warriors and Cavaliers played in four consecutive championship series, something never seen before in the major North American sports. Is there any Bay Area precedent? I mean, we have great natural rivalries like Giants-vs.-Dodgers. But to be matched in so many crucial postseason games in such a compact time frame — only Raiders-Steelers in the 1970s and maybe 49ers-Giants in the late 1980s and early 1990s could come close.

No, Oakland and Cleveland, two cities so opposite they could be on different planets, will forever be linked by an era of basketball.

These teams have really gotten sick of each other. You could see it in the way Draymond Green and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson have battled one another in this series, and especially in Game 3. You could see it in the unpleasant words shared by Curry and James, the two megastars, in the closing moments of Game 1.

But someday the Warriors will look back and miss Cleveland. They’ll miss the old brick buildings and the pierogis and the blaring noise in Quicken Loans Arena, and maybe even the midges that swarm off of the lake each June and plaster themselves to every stationary object.

Someday. But not yet. First the Warriors want to smash the Cavaliers one more time and put a stake through the heart of this rivalry.

“Game 4 is the next one we have to play, and we want to win a championship,” Curry said. “… We’ve done a great job of putting ourselves in a great position. Got to close the deal with 48 great minutes on Friday.”

Green, asked about his wardrobe, said he had yet to pick out potential suits for Games 6 or 7.

“I’ve got a Game 5 outfit, though,” he said. “It’s pretty dope. I really don’t want to wear it, though.”

You can reach columnist Phil Barber at 707-521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Skinny_Post.

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