Minutes after the final buzzer sounded at Oracle Arena to give the Cleveland Cavaliers their first NBA Championship in franchise history, LeBron James collapsed to the floor. James, surrounded by players he recruited, was finally victorious in the Cavalier wine and gold uniform. It wasn’t a likely outcome, and it almost didn’t seem real, especially given the fact that the Golden State Warriors had hardly lost a game in their building all season. In fact, just days ago, the Warriors were so close to a title that the narrative had already begun to shift to the fallout of The Finals. People talked about whether Tyronn Lue would be coaching next season, whether Kevin Love would still be on the team, and how a lackluster 2-5 record in the NBA Finals impacts a player who desires to be mentioned with all-time greats such as Jordan, Magic and Russell.
Now, after an improbable 3-1 series comeback, Cleveland is a championship city for the first time in 52 years.
Many people will look at the Draymond Green suspension as the turning point in this series, and that may hold some truth. However, it is unfair to blame Draymond Green for the overall failure of the Warriors in the final 3 games. Green played excellent in Game 7, and deserves a lot of credit for what he was able to do. In all likelihood, however, winning on the road in Game 5 gave the Cavaliers some confidence going into Game 7, and they needed every bit of it.While the Cavaliers may have won Game 5 even if Green was on the court, the suspension served as motivation for the Cavaliers to seize on an opportunity, a philosophy they carried through to the next two games.
If there’s any individual blame to go around, it has to go to Steph Curry. As the back-to-back MVP, 6 for 19 with 17 points in an NBA Finals Game 7 is unacceptable. Curry shot 4 of 14 from 3-point range, well below his usual average. For perspective, if Curry shot his 2015-16 regular average for 3-pointers (.454), he finishes with six more points, and the Warriors win this game. Something was off with Curry, and he wasn’t draining the shots we are used to seeing him make. Many times throughout the night, Oracle Arena was ready to explode with excitement from a clutch Curry 3-pointer, just to be disappointed when it clanged off the rim. Even after Kyrie Irving hit what proved to be the game-winning shot with just under a minute left, you still felt like the Warriors were going to find a way to win. There was no way they were going to go down like this with the historic season they had. Nevertheless, they couldn’t pull it off, and now one must wonder how something like this could’ve happened. Maybe they were fatigued from the strenuous regular season and back-to-back 7 game series. Maybe it was injury. Even if it was, Curry would never hide behind that excuse. The truth is, we will never know what exactly caused this series to end the way it did, but the Cavaliers deserve all the credit in the world.
While so much attention is paid to LeBron James and his accomplishments in the final games of this series, an equal amount of attention should be placed (but sadly, probably won’t) on the players around him. Trailing 3-1 in the series, it would have been easy for a guy like Richard Jefferson or JR Smith to pack it in for the year. Why should it matter to them? Obviously, no player is going to just stop trying, but when so much of the narrative is focused solely on LeBron James, as a supporting player you might begin to wonder how much credit you’re actually going to receive. On the flip side, there is very little blame handed down to guys like Smith or Iman Shumpert with a loss, they are just pieces, easily moveable and replaceable. When it comes down to it, the supporting cast decided the fate of this series just as much, if not more, than LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did. Their dedication and commitment could not have been more clear than when J.R. Smith let out all his emotions following the win and also in his press conference.
So, this is the fun part; what does the future look like for LeBron James and Steph Curry? While the sting is still very fresh for Curry, there is nothing but optimism for his future. While LeBron may have temporarily stolen back the imaginary throne of current best player in the NBA, Curry and the Warriors are poised to be contenders for years to come. In fact, Vegas already has them as the favorites to win it all next year. When Golden State says they will use this loss as motivation for next season, I’d take their word for it. A 73-9 team doesn’t reach that mark out of pure chance. This team has dynasty potential, and how they respond next season will show if they are up to that caliber. With the predictability of the current NBA, my money is on a third-straight Warriors vs. Cavaliers finals next season, and even more bragging rights will be on the line.
For LeBron James and Cleveland, their future won’t start for at least another month. They will spend a good chunk of time enjoying this one, but expect them to be back next year. The makeup of the team is another question, and it remains to be seen whether Kevin Love will be back next season. One thing’s for sure, we have a long offseason to talk about it.
NBA Offseason Odds Meter
What are the odds LeBron James bolts Cleveland?
Wow. Can you imagine? This percentage would definitely be a little higher if they lost, but deep down would anyone really be that shocked? I’m not sure anyone would burn his jersey this time if he left, but they might at least stomp on it a little bit and put it in a box for when he inevitably returns again.
What are the odds the Warriors get Kevin Durant?
I can’t think of anything that would shake up the NBA world more than the Warriors somehow landing Kevin Durant. Personally, I question whether or not he would want to go to a team he just lost to in an emotional 7-game series, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for a lot of people with much more knowledge about the NBA than myself. If that were to happen, you would think the Warriors would have to part ways with Draymond Green, but once again, anything is possible in the NBA offseason.
What are the odds Kevin Love leaves Cleveland?
This has been a rumor for too long to not be of at least some risk. Love’s poor play throughout much of the playoffs only fueled rumors, but perhaps his decent Game 7 combined with an NBA Championship might smooth things over between Love and Cleveland.
What are the odds the NBA is rigged?
I bring this up because there is a growing number of people (including Ayesha Curry) making comments about the league being rigged. While it sometimes seems like a logical explanation for the inexplicable, the NBA is not rigged. Tanking might be a real thing, but there are too many people around this league to keep such a colossal secret quiet. However, my friend (who is a football maniac and probably cares more about NFL mini-camps than the NBA Finals) offered an interesting viewpoint; what if it’s the refs that are fixing it?
What are the odds that Drake is now a Cavalier fan?
I leave this one at 50% because with Drake, you always need to leave room for the other option. Maybe that option is Golden State, maybe it’s Toronto. Depends on how he feels when he wakes up. Clearly, Drake only cares about associating himself with anything successful. It makes sense, considering he’s been so successful lately, but it kind of makes you wonder, when Drake’s run finally ends, will he root for a bad team instead? I hear 76ers season tickets are going for pretty cheap these days, Drizzy.