June 25, 2016, 2:38 pm
Before we get into it, I’m going to leave the same disclaimer as last week. If there’s anything you want to read about, leave a comment, tweet at me @Mike_Pandador or us @HoopBallTweets, hashtag #OneBigThing and I’ll get to it. I promise I will. I won’t let you down.
So anyway, I was wrong.
To be honest with you, I was getting a little tired of writing about this matchup. I was upset that the Cavs pulled off a Game 6 victory not only for the sake of my ill-fated ‘Warriors in 6’ call but also because I just wasn’t sure how much was left to say. I thought I would just be relieved when the Finals had ended, but again, I was wrong.
Game 7 was an absolute delight. It’s hard to put into words, which sucks for someone who’s trying to write about it, but it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever been able to watch. There are just some moments where you put your feet up and think, ‘man, this is great.’ The kind that make you wish these two teams could just keep playing forever. Last Sunday’s game was constantly great. Constantly thrilling, gripping with tremendous ebb and flow.
With every punch came a counter. The entire game was Cleveland throwing hands at Golden States’ pursuit of history as well as picking at that little voice in your head that promised the Warriors wouldn’t lose at home; that LeBron James and company were merely delaying the inevitable.
Even when it felt like Cleveland’s victory was a very real possibility, surely there was a Golden State surge on the horizon. At 89-89, Cleveland had hung in much longer than most had expected. This is Oracle and surely the Warriors will score more points in the final 280 seconds of action.
Not three in a row. Not here. Not like this. Until suddenly, it was three in a row and it was there and it was just like that. Cleveland’s victory was a reality.
Now, I don’t normally do this, but I’m about to pull back the curtain. Here’s a look at the original draft of this column, written in the early hours of Monday morning:
1,500 words of that.
There’s little left to be said about LeBron James’ sheer brilliance. His performances are transcendent; he’s capable of things that most other humans on the planet can barely dream of doing.
If you were stubborn enough to keep LeBron out of Michael Jordan’s class before, you have no ground to stand on now. We’re seeing a once in a lifetime talent excel at his craft, and the lengths to which some will go to deny his greatness is astounding. It’s rare to see a boy touted as a phenom, and rarer still to see him grow into the spotlight, weighed down by expectations since middle school. Not only has LeBron James met those expectations, he’s skyrocketed past them.
LeBron James is not what we hoped for. He’s better.
Beyond the thrill of watching excellence incarnate, I’m also pretty happy for Kevin Love. In life, there are a lot of situations that just aren’t for you. I mean the royal you (pretend it exists), so don’t be offended. Everyone has a few things that they’re really good at but there just happen to be a lot more that they suck at. It happens.
Kevin Love was never going to blow the doors off in this matchup, and that’s fine. He didn’t become a garbage player overnight; he just didn’t fit. It was a constant cycle of Kevin Love’s deficiencies being put on blast and while some of the criticism is valid, I’m still happy to see someone take things in good spirits and come out on top. He had a really good Game 7 where he played to his strengths and made his presence known. With the Cavs leaving Oracle as champions, it seems like a lot of the trade winds have stopped blowing. Even if he isn’t the perfect fit, he was a big part of the team’s success. For now, there’s no more ‘they should trade Love’ or ‘he’s not gonna work in today’s NBA’ kind of talk.
Good for him. I hope he gets tan lines from carrying those wrestling belts all summer.
As for Golden State, there’s definitely some things to sift through. That’s not to take away from a truly fabulous year, but there’s no doubt that they’re disappointed. They should be. They had this one.
There was a point in Game 7, like I mentioned above, where the mood shifted and everyone fully braced for Cleveland’s win. While the Warriors could and should be vilified for going scoreless in the final 4:40 of the biggest game of the year, the seeds of defeat had been sown all series long.
Golden State, for whatever reason, seemed hypnotized by the allure of its bigger players. When Andrew Bogut went down the Warriors chose to thrust Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao into big moments rather than go small. Harrison Barnes’ struggles and Andre Iguodala’s ailments didn’t help the case for going small, but they certainly didn’t hurt as much as Varejao’s presence on the floor.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about my anti-Varejao stance, but his Game 7 stats are brutal. 8:29, 1 point, 0 rebounds and -9. Ezeli was also a -9, albeit in 10:45 and with some unfortunate bounces on good looks early in the game. While it’s admirable that Steve Kerr refused to concede the glass, the rebounding battle was never one that they could win.
If performances earlier in the series weren’t enough to concern Golden State’s decision makers, Game 7 served as their reckoning.
Coming into the series it didn’t look like the Cavs had any personnel mismatches that would allow them to dictate the terms of engagement. The Warriors erred by trying to counter Tristan Thompson and played right into Cleveland’s hands.
Beyond that, the Warriors were sloppy and disorganized, throwing bad passes and working their way to silly shots. For the first time in a long time, loose and fun didn’t work. The Warriors looked vulnerable. They looked human.
They looked like runners up.
As a jaded Raptors fan, I admit that I was thrilled with the early returns of the Finals. As Cleveland found a way to extend the series, I couldn’t help but fall for the idea of the Cavs pulling it off. For LeBron. For the story. For Cleveland.
As nice as it was to have the city of Cleveland at the bottom of the totem pole, there’s something immensely satisfying about seeing people celebrate so hard after waiting for so long. Everyone deserves one, and northeast Ohio got theirs.
When the last bits of confetti fell, the last Witnesses testified and when JR Smith finally found a shirt, the Warriors and Cavs joined the other 28 teams and looked to the future.
April 24, 2019, 8:26 pmBlake Griffin - F - Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin (left knee) underwent successful arthroscopic knee surgery on Wednesday night.
Griffin's knee obviously dogged him during the final stretch of the regular season and throughout the Pistons' brief playoff run. The Pistons said that he isn't expected to miss any off season training and should be good to go for the start of the 2019-2020 season.
Source: Mark Stein on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 6:54 pmClint Capela - C - Houston Rockets
According to head coach Mike D'Antoni, Clint Capela (illness) is feeling much better ahead of Wednesday's matchup against the Jazz.
Clint Capela has been struggling ever since he came down with this virus. He seems to be close to 100% according to his head coach. If Capela can get close to his season averages of 16.6 points on 64.8% shooting while grabbing 12.7 rebounds and blocking 1.5 shots per game, then the Jazz will have an even tougher to task to take down the Rockets on Wednesday in order to force a Game 6 back in Utah.
Source: Tim MacMahon on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 3:24 pmJaMychal Green - F - Los Angeles Clippers
JaMychal Green will remain in the starting lineup in Game 5 on Wednesday.
Green logged 22 minutes in the same role in Game 4, though it's not surprising that the Clippers will stick with the same group considering Ivica Zubac's tough fit in this matchup and Montrezl Harrell's fit in his current role.
Source: Andrew Greif on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 2:11 pmNate Tibbets - Team - Trail Blazers
The Suns have been given permission to interview Blazers assistants Nate Tibbets and David Vanterpool for their vacant head coaching position.
The Cavs have already been connected to the duo from Portland, and Tibbets interviewed for the Hawks' gig last summer. The Suns reportedly fired Igor Kokoskov so they could make Philadelphia assistant Monty Williams their top target before the Lakers got too deep into talks, but Phoenix will be looking at multiple candidates. It's a nice roster to work with but we can't imagine anyone will be too eager to work with the team's ownership group.
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 2:00 pmDraymond Green - F - Golden State Warriors
Draymond Green admitted that his right wrist has been hurt for "a while."
Green added that he got hit there in Game 4 and "it pissed it off" and said that he's going to play through any pain in the postseason. It's not like teams weren't sagging off Green on the perimeter already, but if his wrist continues to hamper him in any way we may see opponents get very aggressive in their defensive efforts on Golden State's other players. Green is going to have lots of open jumpers presented to him for the rest of the postseason.
Source: Anthony Slater on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 1:57 pmJarrett Allen - C - Brooklyn Nets
Jarrett Allen will work on extending his range to the 3-point line this summer.
Him and every other big man. Allen went 6-for-45 on 3-pointers this season, so he's got some work to do. He's a quality young player who can protect the rim, but Allen isn't quite strong enough to crash and bang with the league's true behemoths and not quite gifted enough offensively to be anything more than a threat on the roll. It's a great base from which to work, however, and it's good to know that Allen is going to be putting in the work to make himself more of a weapon as the Nets look to build on a nice campaign.
Source: Bryan Fonseca on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 1:55 pmMarcus Smart - G - Boston Celtics
On Wednesday Brad Stevens said that Marcus Smart (torn oblique) is "doing great."
That's nice, but it's not much of an update. Smart was able to do some light shooting and treadmill work yesterday but we're still not expecting to see him until the tail end of the second round at the earliest. His tenacity and perimeter defense will be missed dearly in Boston's matchup with the Bucks.
Source: Jay King on Twitter
April 24, 2019, 1:48 pmKyle Lowry - G - Toronto Raptors
Kyle Lowry suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand in the first half of Tuesday's Game 5 but was able to pop it back in and return to the game.
Lowry swiped at the ball and ended up hitting Evan Fournier's leg with his hand, which caused the injury The fact that he was able to return to the game, even in a blowout, bodes well for his status for the second round. It may affect his shooting to some degree but Lowry has been playing facilitator more often anyway, and we wouldn't expect his performance to suffer. After a scoreless Game 1, Lowry was all over the floor for the Raptors as they locked in and simply outclassed Orlando.
Source: The Athletic
April 24, 2019, 11:50 amJeff Hornacek - Team - Sacramento Kings
Sam Amick of the Athletic is reporting that former Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek had an interview with the Kings for the lead assistant coach job.
Sacramento has already hired Luke Walton to be their new coach but the news about the sexual assault allegations he faces might put his status in danger. Walton should be able to assemble his coaching staff once he is out of the woods but we should know more once the NBA concludes with their investigation of the matter.
Source: The Athletic
April 24, 2019, 11:11 amLuke Walton - Team - Sacramento Kings
Sam Amick of the Athletic is reporting that Luke Walton still has the Kings’ support, despite the sexual assault allegations the newly-hired coach is facing.
The Kings are working with the NBA to investigate allegations made against Walton by his former colleague at Time Warner Cable, Kelli Tennant. The report adds that the two sides are moving forward with their working relationship and there doesn’t appear to be any momentum toward firing Walton, who was hired earlier this month just three days after he parted ways with the Lakers. The Kings confirmed that they were not aware of the accusations until TMZ reported the news and that they will wait for the facts before making a decision on Walton’s future. The investigation has been delayed because all parties haven’t been able to access Tennant’s lawsuit so more information should merge soon.
Source: The Athletic