Holy shit, Cleveland did it! The Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 93–89, winning the NBA Championship and putting an end to Cleveland’s 52 year long championship drought. They have become the first team to come back from a 3–1 deficit in the Finals, and did so against the winningest team in NBA Regular Season history. Holy shit.
Whether you want to call it destiny, or call it brilliant planning by LeBron James and his off-court team, Mr James did what he told the world he was going to do last summer: he brought a title back to the land. Has there ever been a player under more scrutiny to win a title? Here is one of the leagues best players, putting up three of the greatest games in Finals history and doing it facing elimination every time. To think that just a week ago there were player openly questioning his fortitude seems insane.
LeBron James is the first player in NBA history to lead both teams in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals for the duration of a playoff series. If you take anything away from this Finals let it be that fact. Of all the incredible moments in James’ career, I’m not sure any trump his block on Andre Iguodala down the stretch.
I’ve probably watched it 50 times by now and it is still giving me chills. There may be no play more James-esque than the chase down block, how fitting is it that this block will become his career defining play. LeBron was named Finals MVP after the game, which came as a shock to no one. Even before the game there seemed to be a general consensus that he deserved the award, win-or-lose.
There’s a lot that had to go wrong for Golden State to lose this series. The biggest scape goat in all of this will no doubtably be Draymond Green’s one game suspension that took place in Game Five, a game that could have ended the series had Green played. They had a chance to close out this series at home, with the Cavs reeling, but not having their best defender on the court cost them dearly. It was in Game Five that LeBron and Kyrie Irving really found their games, both scoring 41 points, and from then on they were both incredible.
For his part, Green was incredible in Game Seven, by far the best player for the Warriors on the night. His 32 points came off of 73% shooting and his six three’s were more than any other shooter on the court. He also pulled down 15 rebounds and dished out nine assists. Compared to the Splash Brother who combined for 12-of-36 shooting, seven rebounds and four assists, there was no doubt who the best player for Golden State was. For as spectacular as Stephen Curry has been all year, he was absolutely outplayed in these Finals by his counterpart, Kyrie Irving. The difference between the two was no more apparent when Curry missed a wide open three that would have given them the lead late, then badly missed a 26 footer that would have tied the game up with less than a minute left.
It was Irving’s three point shot with a little under a minute to go that would give Cleveland the winning lead. Kyrie finished the night with 26 points, a solid performance in the biggest game of his young career. Of all the players not named LeBron James, who showed up big in this series it was Irving who stood out the most. It easy to dismiss his game as too Iso heavy, and knock him for his lapses on defense, but when the games mattered most Irving was able to lock down enough on D to stay in games. He flourished on pick and rolls, and proved to be impossible to guard off of the dribble. There are times in the Playoffs when a team is going to need a player who can hit difficult shots when the shot clock is ticking down, and Irving is that guy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Harrison Barnes became a phantom in the last games of these Finals. From Game Five on Barnes shot just five-of-32 from the field. It got to the point where Cleveland stopped even contesting his shots, instead using his defender to help clog up the lane and really hamper Golden State’s offense. As many have talked about, Barnes is a free agent this year, I wonder how he felt the pressure to perform for a bigger pay day this summer. It’s painful to watch such a consistent player get mindfucked on such a huge stage. For all of the heat that Kevin Love has been under, at least he was able to show up in Game Seven with 14 rebounds and a couple of big baskets in the second half.
This series, despite the blowouts, ended up being incredibly close. In fact, the four points that the Cavaliers won this game by also represents the total advantage they had in the entire series. Think about that, a seven game series in which the two teams were only four points apart. That’s how close this thing was. It took every bit of a brilliant LeBron James performance, mixed with great showings from Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson and everyone else on this Cavs squad — yes, even Kevin Love — to get the job done. I guess that’s what it takes to break a 52 year old curse on a city. If you are reading this in Cleveland I hope you truly savor this moment, I can’t imagine how great this most feel. I feel good for you, and for the players on the Cavs for doing something I didn’t think was possible. It turns Kevin Garnett was right.