We finally got the #Goodassgame we all deserved. With so much history on the line, game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals felt like an NCAA title game on steroids. Conventional NBA wisdom states that the home team usually wins because role players don’t travel. Well this was not the case last night. Everyone who played chipped in for Cleveland.
Kevin Love got 7 rebounds in the first quarter alone, pulling in 14 total for the game. J.R. Smith, who’d been playing solid defense all series, played 38 minutes and threw in 12 points on offense. Kyrie Irving started out slow, but picked it up in the second half, scoring whenever the Cavs needed an answer on the court.
Tyron Lue shortened his bench to an 8 man rotation, with Mo Williams logging a team low 4:45. Lebron an ironman with an iron will logged a team high 46 minutes and 49 seconds. The man looked absolutely gassed during one TV timeout and yet still, he managed to pull off one of the sickest chase down blocks in playoff history.
Say what you will about Lebron James (and I have–he’ll never live down lobbying for suspensions of both Steph Curry and Draymond Green #fuckboishit), but you can’t ever say he never shows up for big games. After logging another triple double (don’t get too hung up on the 9/24 shooting) to put the Kyrie in a position to hit the game winning three pointer, with less than a minute left, Lebron won what should have been his second of back-to-back Finals MVP’s.
All that being said, the Warriors should not have let the game get this close. They threw away possessions, they couldn’t squeeze the 50-50 balls, they had turnover after turnover during fast breaks where they had numbers, and gave the Cavs too many extra possessions. Golden State had been playing with fire all post season, and it finally caught up to them. I just had this feeling the whole game that if the Warriors were not leading by at least 5 baskets during crunch time, that the Cavs were going to find a way to win.
While Tyronn Lue wasn’t exactly Coach of the Year material, he did enough to give Cleveland a chance to win this thing. You could tell around game 3 that he finally figured out how to use his chess pieces. Shortening his bench was a very smart move, Matthew Dellavadova was a liability every time he was on the court. Channing Frye gave up more backdoor than–never mind that’s just too easy of a joke to make.
Keeping Tristan Thompson on the floor kept the Warriors from going small, and when Andre Bogut got hurt (an underrated passer in addition to his defense and rebounding), it spelled trouble for the Warriors. Festus Ezeli is a much better player when he can just catch lobs, and any time Anderson Verajao touched the ball for more than a second, a disaster occurred.
The lack of contribution of the role players in the last two series really surprised me this post season. All season long, this was Golden State’s biggest advantage over teams, and for whatever reason, they showed up to the party without even bringing a case of beer. Harrison Barnes stunk up the joint, and probably played his last game in a Golden State uniform (Kevin Durant to the Warriors may not be as far-fetched as it originally sounded–he was exactly what they needed against Cleveland. There would have been no answer for that puzzle piece).
The role players who seemed to make the most impact didn’t get much run. Leandro Barbosa (+5), Shaun Livingston (+8), and Mo Speights (+3) only played a combined 20 minutes; with Livingston getting 16 of them. I ride for Steve Kerr. He possesses one of the most intelligent basketball minds in the game today, but he made some head scratching decisions down the stretch–mainly playing Ezeli, Verajo and Barnes too much, when it was clear they weren’t going to get it done.
For my money, the turning point in that game was when Festus Ezeli got caught on a switch, and bit on the Lebron James pump fake (way out on the perimeter) that netted James three free throw attempts. Lebron hit all three, the Warriors failed to score the next time down, and then Cleveland scored with a Kyrie Irving bucket to tie it on the next possession. That was the last time in the game that Golden State had command, as things got tight for both teams for a 4 minute scoreless stretch. The Warriors quit passing, and quit moving without the ball, and became a jump shooting team that couldn’t get shots to fall. Which again, maybe the bench guys should have played more, because you know, starters get tired in these type of games.
This was akin to the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl 2 years ago, where Seattle should have blown New England out, but the minor details allowed Tom Brady and company to hang in there long enough to figure out a way to win.
It is hard to feel sorry for Golden State. I can see why they were becoming so hated outside of Dub Nation. The bandwagon fandom surrounding their hype machine was getting tiresome (half of them Lakers fans wanting to latch onto a winner). They were depending on Andrew Bogut to remain healthy for 2 years in a row, with a front court that even the ’93 Suns would think was suspect. Their owner went on the New York Times bragging about how their organization was “light years ahead of everyone else”, and even hinted about a menage a trois with last year’s Finals Trophy (and to think people put their lips on that thing). Their star guard kept tempting the basketball gods with his circus plays and trick shots, haughtily laughing every time he ripped out the hearts of teams and fan bases alike. To be up 3-1, and to lose in this matter, is the most excruciatingly extreme serving of humble pie that can ever be served to a team. The Warriors got what they deserved, and if there is anybody I do feel for, it is the true blue fans who were coming to the games even when they sucked–the ones who seemed crazy for believing that they could beat the #1 seeded Mavericks in 2007.
I’ll be the first to say that the Draymond Green suspension was horseshit. How Dellavadova’s nutshot constituted a common foul and Draymond’s incidental contact merited a flagrant foul is beyond me. We can say that is why they lost, but there is a reason teams employ the “next man up” philosophy (NFL careers were birthed from this philosophy at the “U”). Golden State just wasn’t as good as we (or they) thought they were.
You have to give credit where credit is due. Cleveland stepped up their game when they needed to,and the Warriors played as if they were still facing the Blazers (no disrespect). Years from now, we will remember that Lebron James took a shoot first, one assist having ass point guard, an embarrassingly bad, and one-dimensional power forward, J.R. “You trying to get the pipe” Smith (someone who Chauncey Billups once famously asked George Karl to “get him the fuck out of the game”) –the textbook definition of an NBA knucklehead, Richard Jefferson’s honeycomb eating looking ass, and a bunch of other nobodies, and won a championship for one of the most cursed sports cities in the history of cursed sports cities.
If Lebron retired tomorrow, this would be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame. Last year, Lebron was John Henry, this year he is Paul Bunyan. Even a hater like me has to respect that. This man has not missed an NBA Finals since 2010, and guess what people? Barring a seismic shift in the east, he’ll probably be back next year. I would not be surprised if it is against Golden State again either. But that is for an NBA Preview to be written later.
Despite all the hullabaloo about Cleveland and Lebron and curses, let us not forget who the real winner was last night: Oscar Robertson. To borrow a phrase from Jason Whitlock, he was probably “watching last night’s game, cackling while rolling up a blunt.” Cleveland’s perimeter defense smothered the Splash Brothers by getting up in them and picking them up at half court–exactly the type of defense Robertson said was needed to contain those beige muthafuckas. Respect to the “Big O” and his hating ass.
Since we are at it, the biggest L goes to Under Armour, whose poster boys, Cam Newton and Steph Curry could not get it done this year when it counted the most. To quote Mars Blackmon, “is it the shoes?”
All jokes aside, this has been year 3 of this blog, and thanks to all of you who take the time to read this bullshit. This was easily the least work, and most fun of all the seasons of writing this. I may actually be getting the hang of this. Also big ups to my podcast partner, Craig Stein for starting the FullSass Podcast with me. It has been both a fun and invigorating project, and I look forward to stepping up the sass level to something fuller next season. One last shout out goes out to the PDXPats crew for all the inspiration and competition. I look forward to being on the show again, and I promise we won’t write anymore diss records if you don’t give us a reason to.
It’s been real folks. Now go out there and get some sunshine and fresh air, and live like normal folk. #Ballislife, but there is also life outside of ball.