It’s time to Break It Down!
On Monday evening, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors played the last meaningful NBA Basketball game until November. I’m already ensconced deeply in the throes of withdrawal. To commemorate the passing of the hoops torch, so to speak, I’m writing a post about this year’s NBA Finals.
The Warriors clenched the best-of-7 series in 5 games, winning by a margin of 4 games to 1. For hoops aficionados, this year’s NBA Playoffs was a relatively uninspiring affair. The early rounds were rife with high scoring games and series sweeps. The one remaining hope for many of us who live and breathe the game was for Cavs-Warriors III to save us; to salvage an otherwise ignominious representation of the highest level of the game we have come to know by the familiar branding label, “The NBA – It’s FANtastic!”
To be perfectly candid, there was more than a less than stellar Playoffs coming between the NBA and a large segment of its loyal fandom. On July 4, 2016, Kevin Durant jumped the proverbial ship, leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder for the newly Runner-up Golden State Warriors. Now if you don’t follow the League, that move may sound like merely the latest pro basketball personnel transaction. But oh no! The resident hoops community was hyperactively astir because the reputed second best player on the planet signed a contract with the team that won a record setting 73 games during the regular season.
This development was especially worrisome for at least three groups of people.
- Those persons obsessed with the competitive balance of the league, and who therefore believe KD forever and irrevocably altered the ability of any team to compete with this iteration of the Warriors
- Those individuals who think KD was a wuss for signing with a team that had just beaten his team the month before, and therefore exhibited no competitive spirit.
- Cavs’ fans
During the regular season, Durant, who missed 20 games due to injury was monitored and evaluated based upon numerous metrics, including, in some circles, as much for what his subtraction from the Thunder meant to them, as what his addition meant to the Warriors. Back in OKC, Russell Westbrook, Durant’s former sidekick, was left to manage both his feelings, as well as the fortunes of a team suddenly without, arguably, the second best player in the league, and ascending. Meanwhile, out in Oakland, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, in conjunction with Coach Steve Kerr set about figuring out the substantial challenge of integrating the force that is Durant into the Warrior’s already successful orbit, without mucking up either team chemistry, or player egos, either or both of which can be fragile commodities.
The Warriors, who won 73 games a year ago, fell off their stratospheric pace, yet still managed to win 67 games, good for most in the league during the regular season. Keep in mind; they accomplished this with KD missing nearly a quarter of the season. Then during the playoffs, to add an element of intrigue, they made a record-setting 15-0 playoff run, while their coach missed 10 games, leaving coaching duties to Assistant Mike Brown, who coached LeBron in Cleveland, before a brief stint with the Lakers. Brown was 10-0. The 15-0 start by the Warriors included 3 series sweeps in the tough Western Conference, plus pushing the Cavs to a brink of elimination 0-3 in the Finals.
If you know anything about sports fans, you understand fan loyalty is an inexplicable intrinsic concept. That is to say, fans will support their team under the direst of circumstances. For example, no NBA team has ever rebounded from an 0-3 deficit to win a 7-game (4 wins) series. Yet, there were Cleveland fans who at least gave voice to the sentiment that, after the Cavs won, albeit convincingly, game 4 at home, their beloved Cavs could actually make a different kind of history by coming all the way back and winning the Finals. Having beaten the Warriors last year, after having trailed 0-2, and then 1-3, in addition to having LeBron James, the game’s current best player, many fans in the Land believed the Cavs had spooked the Warriors in Game 4, and would finish the job.
As a Laker fan, I have had little to cheer about in years. As a hoops fan in general, and an NBA fan in particular, I was drawn to the many intense debates centered around LeBron’s relative greatness, vs. KD’s relative hypocrisy (he once panned the idea of creating super teams after LeBron’s “Decision” to leave Cleveland). The debates are fun, especially if you are not vested in who wins or who loses a game or series. As a 40-year resident of Charlotte, I do pull for the Hornets, and was an original Hornets’ season ticket holder. Partly because Dell Curry played for those Hornets, and partly because his son Steph grew up here, I pull for him to do well. I’m not a Warriors’ fan. However, as long as Dan Gilbert owns the Cavs, I can’t pull for them. If you don’t know the backstory, conduct a web search of Mr. Gilbert and LeBron. Finally, as NBA players go, Andrew Wiggins is my favorite player…just for the record.
Since the Hornets, Lakers, AW, and the T-Wolves weren’t in the playoffs, and the two teams remaining were the Cavs and Warriors, by the process of elimination, I pulled for Golden State. After about a quarter and a half of hotly contested play, the Warriors pulled ahead, and held off the Cavs for a 129-120 Title Clinching victory. This year’s series marked the first time in the history of the League the same two teams met in the Finals for three years in a row. Kevin Durant captured his first Title, averaged over 30 points a game, and won the series MVP. The Warriors avenged their collapse against the Cavs last year, and in doing so, expelled the demons, and expunged the stench of falling short after a storybook Regular Season, and a 3-1 Finals lead. All’s well that ends well. Of course, if you are a resident of Cavs’ World, all did not end well. Sorry, not sorry. “Cavs-Warriors Part III: Golden State Takes the Rubber Match!”
I’m done; holla back!
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