In lieu of the events from last night’s NBA Game 7 Championship, today’s regularly scheduled Monday Munch Madness had to be postponed to next week.
Could you ask for a better Game 7 – except for maybe a buzzer beating shot by Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, or Kyrie Irving? Or, as Dan LeBetard said on his radio show this morning, “A LeBron James dunk over Draymond Green…” to seal the victory and the championship? While any of those scenarios would have been fantastic, the way it turned out was quite satisfactory for this writer. No one could’ve predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers would not only come from 3 games to 1 deficit in the series to win, but also to beat the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors two times in a row at The Oracle, their home arena. Few, outside of northeastern Ohio, gave the Cavs and LeBron a chance once they went down 3-1 and even when the series was tied 3-3 and returning to The Bay area for game 7.
While it may be difficult to argue with those “experts” and regular fans who had the Warriors somewhat heavily favored, it seemed to me, given the prior two games, the mere fact that LeBron was playing, and Kyrie Irving was now performing up to his potential both offensively and defensively, that Cleveland had a very good chance to win the game and the championship if they could keep Golden State from going on one their 2 minute offensive drills with a lightning quick 3 point shot barrage and going up by 18 at any given moment. That never happened. The Warriors managed to take the lead by 8 or 9 points at one juncture. This was a dangerous time for the Cavs. After a 8-0 run, Cleveland found themselves down only 1 point. This was huge! If the home team’s lead had somehow reached double digits, there’s a great chance last night’s outcome would’ve been quite different.
Some will claim that Cleveland was just lucky that Thompson and Curry had off nights. Well, the Cavaliers’ defense, which played both hard and intelligently for a very high percentage of the Warriors offensive possessions, had a big hand in the Splash Brothers low percentage shooting from both 3 point and 2 point range. They appeared rushed and out of sorts and many of their shots – especially Curry. Thompson had a few shots rattle in and out much to the chagrin of the Warrior faithful. Draymond Green, after a scorching first half of 22 points, only attempted 5 second half shots. Although Harrison Barnes managed to somewhat come out of his horrendous shooting slump, he along with Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, and Shawn Livingston could not find many open shots and missed many due to the swarming, switching, highly communicative defense of the Cavs for the majority of the game. Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, LeBron, and Richard Jefferson pretty much sealed Golden State off the backboards only allowing a couple of easy put backs, while grabbing their share of offensive rebounds themselves.
One element to this and each of the latter three games which seems to be overlooked a bit is the absence of the Warriors’ center Andrew Bogut. Bogut may not score much, mostly by design, yet he’s a more than capable rebounder, defender, and shot blocker/changer. Without near 7-foot Aussie’s presence, Cleveland drove the lane relatively worry free of having their shots blocked and increased their offensive rebounding total in droves. Festus Ezeli and Maurice Speights were not equal replacements for Bogut on neither the offensive nor defensive side of the ball. Prior to his departure, the Warriors played the Cavaliers either evenly or had a slight advantage in the paint. Without Bogut, advantage Cleveland.
Congratulations to both teams. First to the record setting Golden State Warriors who broke the NBA record for wins in the regular season with 73. No matter what, that’s nothing to sneeze at to say the least. Steph Curry broke his own record for the most 3 point shots made in a season. And, by going 39-2, they tied a franchise record for home wins. This Warriors team is very formidable and should be back next year contending for another NBA championship.
The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship in striking fashion. No other NBA team ever in the finals fell to a 3-1 deficit, won the last three games, and emerged victorious. Not the Celtics. Not the Lakers. No one. Well, except the Cleveland Cavaliers. Congratulations to the city of Cleveland and the entire northeastern Ohio area which has endured for a over a half a century, the organization for the player and coaching moves which worked out in the end, and most of all the players. Guys like J.R. Smith and Kevin Love transformed themselves into the players the team needed to be successful. Richard Jefferson’s contributions were invaluable. Tristan Thompson is somewhat of a modern day Moses Malone with his work on the boards. Add in his perimeter defense and Thompson seemingly was well worth the contract given him by the Cavs. Kyrie Irving, after missing last year’s Final with injuries, played out of his mind, and for all intents and purpose outperformed the two-time league MVP Steph Curry both offensively and defensively, and hit what may have been the biggest shot of the game, a 3 pointer, to put the cavaliers up three during the closing moments of the game. The Finals MVP and league’s best player, LeBron James merely did everything his team needed him to do to pull of the game and series upset. James led all players in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and blocked shots. Did you know who ever do that? Not sure what more can you ask for from a 6’8″, approximately 250lbs supremely gifted with work ethic, athleticism, and basketball IQ and talent. Hate him all you want. Heck, I wasn’t a fan of “The Decision” and how it went down. Regardless, LeBron “King” James is the best in the world – bar none – with his 3rd NBA championship. “Cleveland rocks!”