The 2017 NBA Championship series is set to tip-off June 1st, 2017 and it will do so with historic significance. The level of individual talent together with high quality play makes for a combination not seen since the 1980s. Not since then has there been as much top-20 talent competing in a championship, and not since then has there been a series in which each team is among the best ever with respect to high percentage offense, outstanding unselfish ball movement and excellent team defense. There’s a lot on the line in this series. Neither team has established dominance. The record is 1-1 in consecutive championship battles, and yet this series, in potential anyhow, eclipses either of those from a historical context. Two days before Game 1 the build-up alone is worthy of discussion. Here’s why …
LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are each likely to be top 20 All-Time.
- LeBron James. No other player in history has infected his teams more with need and urgency for unselfish end to end baskteball. One might argue Bird and Magic, but then the other end of the court is largely disregarded. No other player in history has done as much to promote quality end-to-end team basketball. LeBron leads his team as few of the greatest NBA leaders have and has done so for years.
- The Warriors are one of the great unselfish teams of all time. Both ends of the court.
- Offense: Four starters are willing to give up the ball within the context of the offensive plan. Two of the greatest scorers/shooters ever often give up the all as their assist numbers bear out statistically. A starting PF with gifted passing abilities as great as some of the best big men ever. And a bench stacked with players all willing to distribute and find the best shot on each and every possession.
- Defense: A tightly coordinated team defense coupled with quick hands and feet, athletes who bring double teams quickly and know their roles, and an intensity and sense of urgency matching the best defensive teams ever. Two of the greatest individual defenders of all time emphasize the quality of the Warriors’ defense within an historical context. Only a great rim protecting center among the starters prevents this team from being considered one of the greatest defensive teams ever.
- Warriors offense: Kevin Durant was added to the team just last summer. This is his first year on the team, and that means the Warriors are perhaps the only team ever to start three of the best shooters of all time in the NBA finals. But Durant brings much more than great outside shooting. At 6′ 11″ and cat-quick for his length, he’s one of the greats driving to the basket, drawing fouls and shooting free throws. For that reason the Cavaliers have one of two options to contain him, neither of which can succeed on a consistent basis: either 1.) cover Durant one on one and hope that help defense comes quickly enough to draw the offensive foul or 2.) frustrate his shot, or double team him regularly and hope that he gives up the ball quickly as time ticks low on the shot clock. There are two significant problems with either plan …
- Durant can pass quickly out of double-teams because of his height and the continual motion of the Warriors’ offense. Passing to a cutter or a 3-pt shooter has at this point of his career been impressively established within Durant’s repertoire, and made much more simple since the Warriors are often able to get Durant into position early in the shot clock.
- Durant can shoot or drive from the free point line. Much like Curry, Durant will force the Cavs to pick their poison. Allow him to drive past his defender and you have a 6′ 11″ passing threat driving to the lane. A triple team will rarely if ever be an option for the Cavs with Durant on the floor. Allow him some room from outside and his length can almost never been contested.
- Stephen Curry: perhaps the most dangerous shooter in history. Once again it will be a battle of MVPs, this time including Durant. But it is always clear where the most danger lies vs. the Warriors: if Curry gets hot from outside, his inside game will open up. If it continues there may be no way possible to stop it. The Cavs can try to outscore the Warriors when Curry is hot and driving and penetrating and kicking. It’s unlikely, but certainly provides intrigue and potential for one of the great series ever if the Cavs can win a game when Curry is at his best.
- Warriors defense: this is perhaps the biggest surprise and the reason the Warriors will be favored in this series. After losing what was considered their only true rim protector and in-the-paint shot intimidation with the trade of Andrew Bogut, the Warriors have responded with better defense one year later. While Durant’s defensive activity around the basket and rim protection has been a welcome and effective addition for the Warriors, Draymond Green has advanced his defensive skills and strength and has risen even higher to the top of the NBA as one of its premiere defenders with crazy-quick feet and hands and an intelligence that consistently gets him positional advantages vs. the great front court players in the league. Klay Thompson is still considered among the best defensive guards in the league, and depth comes off the bench with an urgent defense-first lock-them-up mindset. This year they do so with the addition of Javale McGee – one of the league most surprising and surging rim protectors in the post-season.
- Javale McGee has emerged as a potential force who can play significant minutes at the highest level. Now a fan favorite who will rock Oracle Arena when playing his game, McGee has shown a quickness and intelligence not previously considered among his strengths. Not only does McGee protect the rim as effectively as many other great big men, he’s shown a sort of new-found urgency to get excellent position on both ends of the court. Offensively this has meant consistent effectiveness as a scoring threat as he has dazzled in the playoffs with cat-quick throw downs and short jumpers. For long stretches his efficient offense has surprisingly emerged among league leaders in the post season, and that makes him certain to see significant minutes potentially even down the stretch of close games.
- Cavaliers have added effective depth with additions in Deron Williams, Kyle Korver and Channing Frye. The added shooting, ball movement and intelligence of these three has resulted in a more open offense allowing Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love the space to play their games and capitalizing on their advantages moving to the basket and getting into less contested shooting position.
- The Cavs have surged offensively in the 2017 playoffs. After a lackluster if not disappointing end to the regular season, the Cavs have picked up the intensity and urgency at both ends of the floor. Kyrie Irving appears able to get anywhere he wants in the lane and will present significant match-up and switching issues to the Warriors defense. Kevin Love seems to have fully bought-in to the LeBron-led Cavs, now consistently doing damage down low while finally exhibiting his quick-minded passing to perimeter shooters as well as streaking down-court outlet receivers. Just weeks ago the Cavs were considered to be both offensively inefficient and unprepared /undermanned to handle the Warriors attacking offense, the match-up has now evened significantly.
- Klay Thompson is due. He’s been surprisingly quiet in the playoffs, and for good reason. He doesn’t get the shooting opportunities he once had with another historically great shooter/scorer added to the lineup. But he is still considered one of the greatest shooters ever – a fact that seems unlikely to keep him in his cage.
With quality depth added to both teams, this series shows promise as an historical match-up of juggernauts. This time both teams are healthy, the Cavs are surging and look to have potential to outscore the Warriors 4 games out of 7. It may not matter, because the series may come down to 3rd and 4th quarter scoring streaks where the opponent has no answer. If Curry gets hot in more than one game while Durant shoots, drives and gets to the line with consistency there’s no reason to think the Cavaliers defense can have answers vs. the Warriors talent and depth. Conversely, there are many reasons to think that the Cavs will have more than one game where they shoot well from the outside while the big three of James, Irving and Love play their respective roles effectively. Even with the outstanding defense which the Warriors will certainly bring for 48 minutes, it may not be enough to keep the series from going 7 games. If that happens, barring significant injuries, foul-trouble or ejections, the Warriors will be tested just as they were last year when they folded and scored only 13 points in the final quarter. This year they will have Kevin Durant however.
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The 2017 NBA Championship – Background, Conversation, Highlights and Full Game Coverage”
GAME 1 RESULTS AND COMMENTARY
Warriors swarm while Durant attacks early and often – defeat Cavs with outstanding end-to-end effort leading to 113-91 clinic.
Game 1 Box Score: http://scores.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400954510
The game began with frenetic energy and pace. Great opportunities for both teams. A large volume of great looks and missed shots by both. Each team came early with urgent and effective defense, and yet it was clear the pace couldn’t last. There was no reason to expect the Cavs to continue at the early pace and they couldn’t. The Warriors maintained their defensive clinic throughout with relentless pressure on the ball, speedy hands either bothering shots or threatening to do so and perhaps as quick a series of switching and double teaming ever seen. The Warriors played an outstanding game end to end. Still it’s not like the Cavs have no chance going forward. They simply seemed to have the wrong game plan. Maybe they needed to try it out for Game 1 and move on from there. The loss isn’t the problem. Neither is the degree of punishment they took. The problem is there seems to be nothing to build on. The Cavs’s strategy for Game 1 yielded little that could be taken away for Game 2 on Sunday. Unless chucking the strategy entirely is a useful takeaway.
I saw three things that weren’t working for the Cavs. Without any hints of success the Cavs appear inept to come up with anything else to build on …
1. Clearly Cleveland’s strategy was to get easy shots near the rim, but from the outset the Cavs were bothered and rushed there. If you were sitting anywhere outside of first few rows it sure looked like that strategy was working well early and often. Cavs showed outstanding urgency down low and were getting outstanding looks – very active and a lot of great opportunities for most of the game. But those shots didn’t fall. SO MANY rimmers! Maybe 20 points not converted within 4 feet. Why? Because the Warriors are just fucking quick as hell athletes matching that urgency with awesomely timed hands and jumps. Incredibly quick swarms to the ball and rim. Seemingly always perfectly timed, and doing it all without fouling is so outstanding. A clinic for team rim defense – impressive as hell. What you couldn’t see or hear outside those inner seats were the blinks and little voices in the Cavs heads showing/saying “gotta get there faster. release the ball earlier and higher off the glass.” It all got worse from there since the Cavs wouldn’t stop attacking the rim offensively – as if they were certain this was the answer. HUGE FAIL!
2. LeBron the distributor 1st and 2nd. Yeah well, that didn’t work. What did work was LeBron drawing fouls (real or imaginary – no difference regardless) while driving to the rim. Clearly they need more of that since well … let’s face it – they’re completely out-manned. The Warriors have two (2.5?) 2-way athletes to every one of the Cavs. Shumpert is a FAIL. JR is a FAIL. Everyone else outside of the big three? FAIL. FAIL. FAIL. With LeBron throwing one suspect pass after another to lesser players they ensured they were continually at a disadvantage.
3. What exactly WAS the strategy vs. Durant? I’m still puzzled. Did the Cavs practice at all within the last week? It wasn’t that they couldn’t stop Durant – they didn’t seem to have an organized plan to do so. They couldn’t possibly have been thinking “Durant will get his, but we can’t foul him so cover the other guys instead”. Could they? It really looked like that was their plan! How many times did Durant get a wide open lane? Or an excellent look because he was effectively wide open on the perimeter for a cross-lane pass. Did the Cavs come with a strategy of stay at home on everyone else thinking that they could contain Curry?
Durant was amazing and would have had a great game regardless, but the Cavs strategy, if that’s what it was, led to great failure early and often. NO flexibility. Can they not figure out a way to bring quick double teams, or to at least try? I realize Durant will often pass out of those, but test it first to see if you can adjust for god’s sake.
Whatever urgency the Cavs have it needs to be converted to something almost as swarming and quick. I have no idea how you do that. Well one idea: you take a chance that the refs don’t call you on your sloppy over-physical defense. Cavs need to get their bodies and hands in there quickly and swiping at the ball and contesting shots more physically. And LeBron needs to take more chances defensively. Maybe he even needs to plan on 5-6 fouls a game.
LeBron needs to rely on his Kingness factor and just be dominant for 40 minutes or more. Maybe he needs to score 50-60. If he tries he’ll shoot at least 20 FTs, so why not try and see how they’ll adjust to that? Less ball movement MAY mean fewer turnovers. Worth a shot I say.
Perhaps one reason to be hopeful – Love looked really good. Those rim contests killed his effectiveness but he got great looks inside and out. Not all of them were rushed. He can double his offensive output next game and I think he should. FOUR trips to the free throw line. No reason why he can’t force the issue a bit more – be more physical. At some point I’d expect all those Warriors’ hands to touch skin and allow him some confidence. But can the refs see contact if it’s moving near the speed of light? Can anyone?
16-0 playoff sweep would be historic. Too early to be thinking that? Only 3 wins left, after winning 999 of the last 1000 games. Hmm maybe I got that slightly wrong. But only slightly.
GAME 2 RESULTS AND COMMENTARY
Cavs find an answer with more physical play, and then lose it in the second half en route to another beating – Warriors win 132-113. After a 3 point halftime lead, Warriors dazzle with lesson 2 of their clinic in team quickness, team discipline, and awesome ball movement. Unlike Game 1 Warriors shoot 11 fewer shots than the Cavs while improving their shooting significantly – 52% to the Cavs 45%. Cavs were defenseless against the second half thrashing.
Game 2 Box Score: http://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400954511
Great teams aren’t that different from other great organizations. Governments, companies, communities, families. To be great requires a structure but one that’s not so rigid that it cannot be quickly modified and improved upon, leadership by one or many that is given a chance to succeed, adherence to and feedback on well constructed plans, and efficient execution of those plans by members. Historically great NBA teams have arguably possessed all the above qualities, and yet there appears to be a clear difference between the 2017 Golden State Warriors and the rest of the field. They satisfy all greatness qualities as did others, but they do the sum of them better than most while adding more to the list. It’s as if the 2017 Warriors are redefining greatness with respect to team, execution, effort and skill.
If the Cavs are to match the greatness of the Warriors for even a single game they’ll need to both weaken some of the Warriors great qualities as well as show their own ability to execute in areas they’re not known to even emphasize. The Cavs don’t have a flexible structure – the game plan is always LeBron first and Kyrie + Love second. If 1 out of those 3 isn’t producing then what can be done? There can only be hope that someone else steps up and with a volume effort, but that’s no plan much less a well constructed plan. A well constructed plan would involve implementing a different system or a different aspect of the same system. That cannot happen with just one extra player – a system must involve the team and teamwork. Even if the Cavs had a plan B what comes next if that fails? There is nothing else. There is only hope that the Cavs do what they do best and stay with it for 48 minutes. What the Cavs do best is outstanding – great offense and one of the NBA best defensive presences ever in James. Against the Warriors it may not matter if you can’t be your greatest for an entire game. The Cavs have shown no ability or even hints at an ability for being great for more than 2.5 quarters so far two games in.
What impresses me most about the Warriors is the flexibility. Discipline, urgency, skill, quick thinking, effort and buy-in to the structure and the leadership and the plan. With all this you need only one plan and you execute like hell. No need for any plan B because the entire organization is infected with plan A. Nothing can be taken away. Only some things can be weakened, but there is zero chance of weakening the plan itself, because the plan is the team and the team is so many things that excel and do so with complete belief and buy-in. What would be involved with weakening such a thing? More effort? From who exactly? How do you work harder against a 10-11 man team when you can’t afford to do so with more 6-7 members almost all demonstrating less conditioning and less discipline and less faith in their team? Does it even matter if your skill level is better for a day when everything else you’re lesser at beats you down for 48 minutes?
If LeBron James plays his best ball ever then in one of the next two games we’ll see a 70% shooting 50+ point effort to go with great ball distribution and some of the best individual defense ever seen. That could win a game for the Cavs, but how can it happen when he’s chasing the ball all around the court? There’s one way – his teammates need to do the bulk of the chasing for him and for 48 minutes. But haven’t they tried that already? Haven’t Irving and T. Thompson and JR Smith all proven that they are thoroughly unfit for such a task? There need to be many substitutions perhaps happening often. That means Jefferson and Shumpert and Frye at least if Thompson isn’t getting anything done. Maybe that helps, but are these guys in shape to keep going all game? They’ll need to prove that they are because the Cavs have no choice.
If the Cavs win a single game in this series it will be fun as hell to watch. Love is due – we’re likely to see his dominance down low next game. If Tristan Thompson shows up it will be because the refs are allowing him more freedom to rule v. Green et. al. down low. We’ve seen how he can change an entire game the past 2 years, but this sure seems to be a different guy this time. Can the Cavs show with Love and Thompson in good form, Kyrie relegated to his role of awesome finisher at the rim, wise substitutions that allow quick switching and double teams and perimeter defense for more than 40 minutes all while LeBron gets his 50+? Seems impossible, but sure as hell would be fun to watch.
16-0 historic sweep in reach. 2 games to go. The Warriors saved their greatness this year to when it counts – the postseason – after earning how important it is last year.
Warriors greatness is twice what it ever was because of Durant on both ends, Curry’s health, tighter discipline to a man (except maybe for Thompson and Iggy), more time together as a team and Green’s continual rise to the head of the class. Amazing thing to say about a 73 win team one year later.
One of the best games I’ve ever watched. I didn’t even have to drink much to come to that conclusion – just wow.
Lue needs to be shown the door. I think we saw last night why he thinks they need to run with the Dubs – to do otherwise means relying on way too much from just Kyrie and LeBron. LeBron had to remove himself from the offense – completely spent and discouraged after one anemic finish to the next late in the game. Kyrie just couldn’t keep being their Westbrook, but then shouldn’t Lue know that?
So if Lue knows this then why aren’t his guys in better condition for this kind of finish which he knows is what it’ll take to win just one game in this series? Irving goes to the hole over and over and over again, and you trust him to make decisions to finish the game when he hasn’t even caught his breath yet? Both Lue and LeBron know that Kyrie will settle on the 3 pt shot – they’ve seen it so often before. But you’re allowing him to settle for a long shot when his legs aren’t there, and his slightly slower release means a defender right there in his face.
The Warriors to a man were way more fresh at the end of the game. Durant’s pull up 3 right at the line was absurd – should never have happened. LeBron blew it. Look at those final plays and you see every Warrior right where they need to be – they hustled like hell to get there. I really need to ask again – what were these guys doing in the week off before the finals began? They know they’ll be out-quicked everywhere on the court. They know it’ll take everything they have.
Clearly Lue screwed up the subbing part of the game. Or was it LeBron that’s in charge there? Well, then they both screwed up.
What will the Cavs do in the off season? I think it’s the best question right now in the NBA right next to how will the Celtics change their roster. Tristan Thompson was incredibly ineffective – dude needs to go. JR is fools gold – we want him to do well – he gets so much praise when he does well, but isn’t that because we know he’s weak in other areas? He never has played an excellent full game end to end in his life. Why rely on him so much?
I’m trying to imagine that game last night with a well conditioned and extremely active Tristan replacement down low. Add that one element and 15% better conditioning and now you’re ready to win another title. Both those things just simply need to happen.
GAME 3 RESULTS AND COMMENTARY
Cavs begin and almost end outstanding game with consistent physical determination. James and Irving demonstrate offensive efficiency but can’t match amazing Warriors stamina with 2-3 minutes to go. Cavs run out of gas en route to 118-113 nail biter. Series is at 3-0 Warriors.
Game 2 Box Score: http://scores.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400954512
Game 3 was arguably the best NBA game I’ve ever seen. Or one of the best. It was the best until that final minute when what seemed destined to be would certainly have been the best I’ve seen. What seemed destined wasn’t and instead we ended with a fizzler with little time left.
When I consider other games and series I’ve watched, including those from the 60s and 70s (youtube), they all seem to fall short in one or two ways. This game saw a combination of skill, pace, grit and spectacular individual play on both ends of the court. Only the shooting percentages could be considered less than great, but then there was a reason for that this time as the Cavs controlled this game from start to finish.
There’s an argument that goes around with NBA “experts” and it goes like this. “You cannot compare players from different eras, because so much has changed about the game and the people involved.” It’s a convenient argument when trying to compare Bob Petit to Hakeem Olajuwon for instance. For that one you just need to throw up your hands – no way to know how either would have done in the other’s shoes, but you guess they would have been excellent regardless. Petit in 80s-90s would have been stronger and probably heavier – maybe he’d even have Olajuwon’s footwork. Olajuwon back then – who knows maybe not as fast and certainly wouldn’t have moved the way he did in the 80s and 90s. Would those moves even be legal? But what if you put Jordan in any era? How about Kareem, Russell, West, Bird, Magic, Shaq, LeBron, Durant, Duncan? I don’t see how there can be any argument that starts with “No way to know – different time and different game.” Ridiculous – these players would have ruled at any time on any team. What would stop them? Whenever they played they would have done whatever needed to be great. What are the biggest differences between eras anyhow? There are so many, but I think several need to be listed …
1. Travelling and palming the ball. Couldn’t do it back then, and now everyone does it. Refs like to say “1 1/2 steps or it’s travelling”. That rule was heavily enforced before the 90s, and then everything changed and the game got more exciting when guys started flying through the lane to the hoop with speed and side-to-side quickness. How could refs really see what these guys were doing?
2. Speed of the game – full court passing and the fast breaks. How can anyone be certain that teams prior to the mid-80s would be as effective at the crazy-quick passing on the run that we see multiple times every game with the Warriors? Every decision is quick. Everyone is moving and ready for the ball. If we go back even 4 years we saw some of the same things from the Spurs. But was it really as quick to a man? People like to call the Spurs a “system”, but was that system ever as quick and efficient as the Warriors system? For 4 or 5 guys on the Spurs it was, but that’s where it stopped. And yet the Spurs were outstanding at this – one of the best ever. The 60s-70s Knicks were also considered the best at ball movement and efficient shot taking. Could those players have done what they did as quickly, even if they had the advantage of today’s training and sports medicine? They didn’t do this pace and didn’t know this pace.
3. 3 point shooting. There’s no way to know how earlier teams would have done. With the game opened up, guys have more space to get into the lane and draw fouls or dish. If you’ve got great big men then the 3 pt line gives them more room around the basket to dominate. Put Wilt or Kareem on almost any good 3 point shooting team today and you’d have one of the most efficient offenses ever. Steph Curry + Kareem? Fuhgettaboutit.
4. Athleticism, strength and size. This one is where all the nay sayers need to just sit down and shut up. Not because of the new workout regimens, weights, nutrition, etc. But because of statistics. When the Knicks were drafting players in the 60s and 70s, what was the talent pool? How many guys and of those how many were out-of-shape smokers? What % of the talent pool worked their butts off since they were 12 years old, because all they ever wanted to do was to play in the NBA? Compare that to today and you have at least 20 times the number of guys physically ready for the NBA game. It makes no sense at all to compare an average player now with an average player from the 60s and 70s. Most guys now are just better physically and would have been back then as well. It’s merely a statistical FACT that holds regardless of race or background.
What impresses me most about the Warriors is the flexibility because of the team concept and the discipline and the conditioning and the shooting. There’s so much of it, and there is also so much of everything else. All the above things that have changed over the years – the Warriors have become the best at all of them because they do them all as a team of many with great skill and speed. Super fast play on both ends because of the amazing athletes and the 3 point line and the ball handling. To a man they are outstanding at these things. Is there any solid argument that if you put any other team in history in the Warriors shoes the results would show them to be better at these things? Who were the 10-11 guys on that team’s roster that could do it as well or better?
The 2017 Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t in the same company as the Warriors with respect to the above argument and qualities. The skill isn’t there for one, nor is the athleticism. Not team-wide anyhow. And yet in Game 3 the Cavs dominated both the pace and the physical defense. Their hands and feet were everywhere and the effort sustained for more than 40 minutes. What impressed the heck out of me was that the Warriors’ rhythm was pulled out from underneath – maybe for only a 3 minute stretch in the 4th but it happened and it was the first time in these playoffs that such a thing seemed even possible: out of rhythm, out of position, sloppy ball handling, not quick enough at anything at all. Only for a few minutes but it happened and for those minutes the Cavs were the team to beat and looked to have the skill and confidence to do so. It was wonderful to watch, but it ended too soon. It took too much of everything for the Cavs to sustain such a thing for even 2 more minutes.
Kyrie Irving has to be considered among the best finishers ever, and in this game he proved it beyond a doubt. He’s in rare company with Jordan, Kobe, Iverson, Harden, and a smattering of few others over time. In this game he was simply THE best ever and yet we all got to see how much it took out of him to be that. Couldn’t sustain it and wore himself down. And yet somehow his two coaches (include LeBron here) couldn’t have predicted how it would go. How it went is how it should never have had a chance to go. While Irving did his herculean thing one possession after other in the 4th, LeBron was able to take a few plays off. It sure seemed like a great plan: LeBron rules for 40+ minutes then Kyrie takes over then LeBron takes over. How could the plan be anything but this? Kyrie is not accustomed to THAT kind of sustained effort so why take the chance that he’ll be ok making win or lose decisions for your team in the most crucial moments? It seems so stupid – Kyrie dribbling like mad trying to make something happen as if his legs were going to magically freshen. And the time ticking away. And LeBron doing nothing at all. A relatively much more fresh LeBron who needed to generate only one or two points. The very last thing the Cavs needed to do was take a well covered 3 pointer from anyone in that situation and then the guy who is most winded and hasn’t made a 3 all game shoots a three. Irving was 0-6 from 3 pt land for the game prior to that shot. He was 6-6 from the free throw line. And he took a well defended 3 with arguably the entire season on the line.
There are about 4 reasons why the Cavs should have won this game. A huge defensive effort that was missing in game 1 & 2. Much better urgency and quickness to establish position on almost every possession. LeBron playing his best basketball until he fatigued late. And mostly that stretch in the 4th when the Warriors were taken out of their game. It leaves you wondering what could have made it happen? Kevin Love didn’t score well, and Tristan Thompson not at all. Would it have made a difference or would the Cavs had relaxed too much after gaining a lead earlier in the game? What exactly was it that got the Warriors flustered? Kyrie + LeBron + Korver + a whole ton of effort is what I saw, and it almost added up to a win vs. arguably the best basketball team end-to-end ever. Almost. The Warriors didn’t stay flustered and the Cavs tired. And the Warriors barely pulled ahead.
What if Durant didn’t hit the poorly defended (non-defended?) three that put the Warriors ahead? What if Kyrie hadn’t dribbled like a fool and instead LeBron worked his way down low and got fouled trying to get to the rim? With the Warriors down 2 points (for example) and less than a minute to go were the Cavs likely to win this game? The Cavs did their job and beat the Warriors down for 3.5 quarters. The Warriors were still fresh in that final minute though. It had to be LeBron at the end and yet it wasn’t. So … who took who out of who’s game when it really mattered?
GAME 4 RESULTS AND COMMENTARY
Cavs dominate from start to finish in historic offensive clinic.LeBron James and Kyrie Irving literally did what they do best to leave the Warriors with no answers for a 49 point 1st quarter and a record setting 24 for 45 3 pt barrage while shooting 53% for the game. Cavs win handily 137-116.
CIRCUS CIRCUS! Oh boy what a difference a week makes. If you watched this one you’re still excited regardless of your allegiance. Cavs fans – Your team is right where it wanted to be and ready to go toe-to-toe in Oakland on Monday. Warriors fans – Did you really want an asterisk by this series suggesting the Cavs aren’t the best challenger you’ve seen yet? Everyone else – a 4-0 sweep suggests “too easy” and “no competition” regardless of how difficult it might have been. So, we’re not doing that now.
Now we’re starting game 3 of a new series that began Weds when the Cavs stumbled at the end of an incredible effort almost earning them the win. Warriors deserved to win that one, because as Dubs coach Kerr stated “They’re going to get tired. Stay in front of them. Force them into outside shots, if you can. Fatigue will play a role.” It did and they won that game for exactly that reason. Again, the Warriors and their multi-faceted flexibility. So many ways to beat you. It played no role in Friday’s rout however. This game was different, because there was nothing the Warriors could do great or otherwise to overtake the gunning Cavs. They could have made it much much closer, but this night was all about the determination of LeBron and Kyrie with the pressure on.
To be fair the Warriors were not at their best by any means, but that wasn’t just a night off. They took a very bad beating early and didn’t quite recover. Less activity from Curry and less grit from the rest of the team. It would have taken a monumental effort to come back, and this time the team first Warriors became mere individual participants who must have known it makes little sense to waste all this energy when you’ll be 100% ready to go at home on Monday. “Give em this one, it’s not worth the trouble.” one can imagine them thinking.
Starting with game 4 the Cavs have positioned themselves equally with the Warriors for the rest of the series. Equally as in now just as fit to play 48 minutes, to exhibit their best basketball, to mix it up on the perimeter as well as down low. They know they can beat the Warriors regardless of what happens next, so when the Warriors come out Monday with twice the effort and speed and much better shooting and passing, the Cavs know how to beat it: you beat it by outscoring it and that’s certainly what the Cavs are capable of doing again on Monday.
GAME 5 RESULTS AND COMMENTARY
Kevin Durant goes 14-20 FGs, 5-8 3FGs, 7 Assts, 5 Rebs, 39 pts against pressure. Cavs have no answers to stop outstanding shooting. Warriors win 2017 Championship 129-120.
Another historic battle. This time Durant demonstrates why he’s among the greatest scorers of all time. What impresses most from this game is both teams shot over 51% after each had figured out how to best defend the other. The result was something that resembled a mixture of the previous 3 games, this time with the Warriors leading 98-93 at the end of 3 and Durant having a great night and surely the 4th would be more of the same. The only way for the Cavs to win was to again outscore the Warriors, but this time it was against one of the greatest scorers in history having one of his greatest games.
The issue with the Cavs, and the reason why this series was so unlikely to go 7 games, is that they’ve never proven an ability to sustain their incredible scoring barrages. And yet it seems clear after another year of this that the Cavs win by out-gunning playoff opponents from 3 point land supplementing LeBrons all-around dominance.There was no other way to beat the Warriors on this night, and yet 3 quarters had gone by strongly hinting that the barrage, if it was to occur, would need to be manufactured out of thin air against stifling defensive pressure and the looming door-closing of historically excellent lights out shooting. They tried and failed with several minutes to go. This one wasn’t as close as the score.
I don’t know what the Cavs should do or what they should have done. They admit their #1 game plan was to stop Curry – it says a lot that with so much focus on him he went 10-20 FGs and 10 Assts while Durant was having such a game. So that plan didn’t work and something big needs to change if the Cavs make it back next year. Both players must be defended better. Somehow. At the very least the Cavs will need an on-the-ball stopper as well as someone mobile with height that can challenge Durant inside 16 feet. That’s a lot right there. Stay tuned.