Recapping the Greatest NBA Finals of Our Lifetimes

Cleveland Finally Breaks Its Curse

Max: It’s a little more than 12 hours later and I’m still somewhat in shock. The City of Cleveland has a champion.

I came of age as a sports fan reading Bill Simmons. For years I had it pounded into my head, time and again: “The lesson, as always, God hates Cleveland.”

LeBron James, a superhuman physical force the likes of which the NBA has never seen before and likely won’t see ever again, put an end to that. I’ve watched what will undoubtedly become his signature play, that chasedown block of Andre Iguodala, a dozen times and I’m still bewildered.

I thought the way Danny LeRoux described it on the Dunc’d on Basketball podcast this morning was best: “appropriate.” It makes so much sense that a chasedown block in transition turned the game. You can feel LeBron’s incredible physical gifts at all times, but those moments where you can really see them are in transition like that.

It was a play only LeBron could make in a series that only LeBron could have won. How appropriate.

Kyrie Irving’s incredible three-pointer

Kelly: The Warriors were held scoreless for approximately the last 4 minutes and 30 seconds of  Game 7, which is an incredible feat, but especially considering they are arguably one the best offensive teams of all time. Hats off to Cleveland there. But the thing this, the Cavaliers were also basically held scoreless for that time period as well – except for one key, incredible, crucial shot:

Kyrie Irving could have been in the running for Finals MVP if his teammate wasn’t LeBron James. He had a superhuman performance in Game 5, dropping 41 points (tied with King James’ 41), and hitting quite possibly the biggest shot in the history of the Cavaliers’ franchise.

This was a beautifully drawn up play from Tyronn Lue, coming out of a timeout. He wanted to get Steph to switch onto Kyrie and he got it to happen. However, Curry played great defense on this play and Kyrie was just better. He got off a three with a hand in his face, in a hostile road environment, with the game tied and less than a minute to go in regulation.

If that’s not the definition of clutch, I honestly don’t know what is. Irving came through when his team needed him the most and when everyone was calling on him to step up. Everyone knew how great LeBron was. Everyone knew he would step up especially with his back against the wall. The man does not like to let his team lose. However, what we didn’t know was who would step up around him. Kyrie answered the call. This series was the most engaged on defense I’ve seen him play this season and his offensive production, to quote the great Jeff Van Gundy, was “otherworldly.”

Lebron’s block might be getting the press and the attention, but they don’t win the championship without Kyrie’s shot.

Golden State’s Season

Max: I’m still attempting to process what this loss means for the Warriors. I hate that we immediately ask whether or not the losing team “choked,” but its hard to deny the Warriors blew an incredible chance to go back-to-back.

Draymond Green’s suspension unquestionably turned the series, but give Cleveland credit. It gave the Cavaliers new hope and they took advantage of it.

Winning 73 games probably earns them “greatest regular season team ever” status, but man, does that feel hollow.

I can’t shake that hollow feeling when think about this entire postseason run. Since Curry slipped and injured his knee, the Warriors simply weren’t the same. Curry exploded in that epic Game 4 against Portland, but he never looked to be himself. He couldn’t find the same level of burst, create the same separation with the ball in his hands.

That trickled down the rest of the roster. Curry couldn’t do as much and that meant less space for everyone else. In their final two series the Warriors couldn’t hit two-pointers at all and were forced to heave from deep. It was bizarre watching as they devolved into the “jump-shooting” team all their critics love to label them as.

And yet, it took the greatest Finals performance the league has ever seen to beat them. The Warriors are now in for a turbulent offseason after such a heartbreaking loss, but I expect them to play with a dramatic sense of vengeance next season.

Coaching Comparison

Kelly: If you asked me this question after Game 4 of the NBA Finals Series, I would have said Steve Kerr was by far the better coach and Tyronn Lue looked over his head. He was playing LeBron and Kyrie well over 40 minutes a game, and while I support going down with your best players, they looked and played exhausted. That’s not what you want to see from your team down 3-1 in the series.

However, the man who seemed to be almost as emotional as LeBron last night, pushed all of the right buttons and got his team over the hump. He balanced Kevin Love’s minutes and somehow got an effective performance in Game 7 out of the man many couldn’t wait to run out of town.

He switched LeBron onto Draymond Green midway through the series and, other than a Game 7 outburst, quieted the Warriors’ most important player. He was right to limit Matthew Dellavedova’s minutes after many called for him to be inserted since his defense was better than Irving’s. He kept Tristan Thompson in despite calls to go small to match the so-called “Lineup of Death.” He got the most out of his guys, including aging veterans like Richard Jefferson. Ty Lue hasn’t even coached for a full year, but he had an incredible Finals performance.

Steve Kerr, on the other hand, made a few questionable decisions and a few that were forced. Losing Andrew Bogut turned out to be a bigger problem than many anticipated because when Draymond Green wasn’t on the court, their center play was atrocious. Festus Ezeli couldn’t keep himself on the court. Anderson Varajeo played with heart and stupidity.

When he went small, Kerr had to also deal with the horrific play of one of his five best players – Harrison Barnes. Barnes had a horrific stretch between Games 5 and 6 where he was 2 for 22. And Game 7 wasn’t much better. That’s not on Kerr, but playing him so many minutes really killed the Warriors.

The one real mistake I think Kerr had was playing Andre Iguodala so many minutes Game 6 when the man could barely hobble up and down the floor. Andre is their 2nd or 3rd best defender behind Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, but with him barely walking, the team was almost forced to play a man down and LeBron easily capitalized on that.

Coaching advantage here – Ty Lue. And all of his tears.

Congrats to the Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland.

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