Cleveland Cavaliers – 2016 NBA Champions

The road to the NBA Finals for the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers could not have been more different.

The Dubs sailed through a historic regular season with a record breaking 73-9 (.890) mark, eclipsing the previous high by the legendary 1996 Chicago Bulls by one win.  When they hit the Western Conference Playoffs it was a bit different.  They handled Houston (4-1) and Portland (4-1) fairly easily, but they were facing a 1-3 deficit after four games to the #3 Oklahoma City Thunder (who took the #2 seed San Antonio Spurs out 4-2).  Turning on the fight, the Warriors came back, taking the final three, hard-fought games.  Honestly, any of the last three games could have gone either way, but the Thunder fell short when it mattered most.

The Cavaliers finished the regular season with a respectable 57-25 (.695) record.  As with the Dubs, when they hit the Eastern Conference Playoffs things were different.  For the Cavs, they demolished and demoralized their opponents, though that is not to say there were not close games.  They took out the Detroit Pistons 4-0 and did the same to the Atlanta Hawks.  With homecourt advantage in the Eastern Finals the Cavs took the first two from the #2 seed Toronto Raptors, then slipped and lost both in Canada.  Having no more of that, the Wine & Gold erupted in the final two, with blowout victories to take their second straight Eastern Conference title.

Curry - James - Game 1
AFP Photo/Beck Diefenbach

Thus, the stage was set for an epic showdown between the Warriors and the Cavaliers.  Last year, without Love (at all) and Irving (after game one, which they lost), LeBron James led his team to capture the next two games, taking a 2-1 lead.  Unfortunately, the depth of the Dubs overcame James’ incredible performances to win the next three games.

How familiar does this now sound?

After four games this year, the Dubs held a significant 3-1 edge and then things started falling apart with the suspension of Draymond Green for his flagrant fouls throughout the playoffs and finals (at least the ones where the refs blew the whistle on him) and in game 5 Andrew Bogut damaged his left knee and was lost for the remainder of the run.  All of a sudden, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving imposed their collective wills and took the next two games, tying it at 3-3.

In the process, in game 5 James and Irving both scored 41 points, the first time teammates had each scored 40+ in a finals game.  James followed in game 6 with another 41.

LeBron James Blocks Steph Curry Game 6
Ron Schwane/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

I am not going to debate things like Dubs Coach Steve Kerr calling out refs for fouling out Stephen Curry.  They didn’t.  Steph did.  Period.  Nor about Curry’s wife tweeting that the games are rigged, though that comment itself is really quite insane.  The refs have a damn hard job and they are very good at officiating.  I would love those who complain step in and do a better job.  Or even as good.  Really, I would love to see that!

Watching games, I see a lot of contact going on that I would call if I were on the floor.  I see Green (and others, to be sure) get away with lots of fouls.  If you really want to nit-pick, every player on every team gets away with holding, blocking, moving fouls every game.  When they get caught … they complain … so what … play ball.  And don’t throw your mouthpiece.  Lastly, regardless of what Charles Barkley says, don’t hit anyone in their privates.  Ever.  IMHO any shot like that is pretty much automatic ejection.  Especially kicking.

And, a side note on fouls.  I abhor when a shooter, especially beyond the arc, jumps forward into a defender (wildly flailing the ball in the air) to engineer a foul.  That is not a defensive foul.  Period.  It has no place in the game.  Similar to flopping.

Back to the topic at hand … yes, this year’s series had more drama … different drama.  And game 7 was a game to anticipate and wonder whose will and talent was going to best their opponent.  This would be the 19th game 7 in league history.  And no team had ever come back from a 1-3 deficit to take the crown.

This Game 7 was the kind of game we really wanted to see in every one of them.  Tough.  Close.  Competitive.  Lots of lead changes.  Down to the wire.

A blocked shot by James that would have given the Dubs a 2-point advantage.  A beautiful beyond-the-arc shot by Irving, taking the Cavs up by three.  A free throw by James for some icing, with 10 seconds left.   Two missed attempts at the opposite end.  It was over.

The result was a LeBron James triple double (27-11-11), with overall good support from his team, and a couple of firsts – the first time that Cleveland has ever won an NBA Championship and the first NBA team to ever win the title after having been down 3 games to 1.  Quite an accomplishment.

Oh, one other first.  James is the first player to lead both teams in the Finals in 1) Points, 2) Assists, 3) Rebounds, 4) Blocks, and 5) Steals.  That is over the top!  Scores by game:

Cleveland Cavaliers 89 – Golden State Warriors 104
Cleveland Cavaliers 77 – Golden State Warriors 110
Golden State Warriors 90 – Cleveland Cavaliers 120
Golden State Warriors 108 – Cleveland Cavaliers 97
Cleveland Cavaliers 112 – Golden State Warriors 97
Golden State Warriors 101 – Cleveland Cavaliers 115
Cleveland Cavaliers 93
– Golden State Warriors 89

Cleveland Cavaliers - 2016 NBA Champions
Image by Cleveland Cavaliers via Twitter @cavs

Congratulations to LeBron on his 3rd NBA Finals MVP, very well deserved, and to the Cavaliers team and family.  A championship that was a long time coming and, seemingly, well worth the wait.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

Golden State Warriors 2015 NBA Champions

In a hard-fought six-game series, the Golden State Warriors took down the Cleveland Cavaliers.

For the 1st time ever the 1st two games of the NBA Finals went into overtime.

For the 1st time since the very first Finals in 1947, as the Basketball Association of America, a rookie NBA head coach wins it all (though that was going to be the case no matter which team won).

For the 1st time since 1975 the Warriors can call themselves the NBA Champions.

For the 1st time since 1991 a team won the Finals without any players ever having played in a Finals game.

For the 1st time since 1999 one of the two Finals teams was not named the Spurs, Lakers or Heat nor had players named Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant or Dwyane Wade.

For the 1st time since 2000 a player, Steph Curry, won his 1st NBA MVP and his 1st NBA Finals in the same year.

Curry is the 1st player to ever face and defeat all four members of the All-NBA First team, one in each of the match-ups through the Finals (Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, James Harden, LeBron James).

2015 NBA Finals - Game Six
Bill Russell and Andre Iguodala (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)

Andre Iguodala became the 1st NBA Finals MVP who did not start every game in the series, being inserted as a starter at Game Four. He averaged 16.3 points, 4 assists, 5.8 rebounds and held James to 38% shooting when guarding him.

Some of the games were not the greatest to watch at times but there was spectacle to be had, such as the Cavs being able to initially contain the league MVP Steph Curry or watching LeBron James’ monster output (where he led both teams in total points, rebounds and assists averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists).

2015 NBA Finals
Scramble for the loose ball (AFP Photo/Timothy A. Clary)

There were nights of individual great performances from many players, too many to list. Suffice it to say after Game 3 it looked to be anybody’s series. However, in the end, the talent and depth of the Dubs was just too much for the Cavs to overcome, especially with their role players, trying to fill in for injured Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, running sometimes hot but mostly cold throughout the six games.

Game 1 Cavaliers 100 Warriors 108 (OT)
Game 2 Cavaliers 95 Warriors 93 (OT)
Game 3 Warriors 91 Cavaliers 96
Game 4 Warriors 103 Cavaliers 82
Game 5 Cavaliers 91 Warriors 104
Game 6 Warriors 105 Cavaliers 97

Golden-State-Warriors-Celebrate-Finals-Trophy
Golden State Warriors Celebrate Finals Trophy (NBA.com)

A very well fought series and well deserved championship for the Warriors. Congratulations!

Over For Now.

Main Street One

Yanking Arms In The NBA

The NBA Playoffs are progressively getting more physical.

During the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, Cleveland Cavalier forward Kevin Love had his shoulder dislocated by Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk. That play ended Love’s season.

Was it a dirty play? Kevin thought so, as do I, based convincingly on this Associated Press photo of what was occurring during the play. Look at that grip by Olynyk and the expression on his face.

Kevin Love - Kelly OlynykThere is absolutely no reason for Olynyk to be gripping Love’s arm the way he is doing, with his left hand and right forearm locking him in. Perhaps I am too old school, but this was never taught as a box-out move in any hoops leagues in which I competed.

As penalty, Olynyk was suspended one game without pay for ripping Love’s shoulder out of its socket and taking him out of play for four to six months. The Cavaliers did strike back later in the game and J.R. Smith was suspended two games without pay when he swung his arm at Celtics forward Jae Crowder’s head.

Later, during the Eastern Conference Finals, Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford performed a similar move to that of Olynyk. That is, he grabbed Cavaliers’ guard Matthew Dellavedova’s upper arm in the same manner, yanking him to the floor. Horford received a Flagrant II and was ejected from the game, though not for that specific play, but for what followed.

Horford claims Dellavedova was going for his legs. In video footage of the game it is clear Horford yanked the guard down and into his own teammate, DeMarre Carroll. Dellavedova stumbled over Carroll and into Horford, who, after the fall, takes an elbow swing (the actual flagrant) at the Cav’s guard and then his 250-pound body lands on his opponents arm.

The “controversy” that surrounds the decision to call a Flagrant II on Horford comes from commentators and others questioning Dellavedova’s play the night before and during the Cleveland-Chicago series.

In game two, Atlanta guard Kyle Korver and Dellavedova both dove for a loose ball. The Cav’s player ended up rolling over Korver’s lower leg resulting in the Hawks’ sharp-shooter out for the series. In the earlier series Dellavedova locked up Gibson with his legs.

Delly leg lock Chicago Sun Times
Dellavedova leg lock on Gibson – Chicago Sun Times

In the play with Korver, both dove for the ball and it is not clear the Cav’s guard landed on Korver’s lower leg on purpose but in the play with Gibson that certainly looks intentional.

However, in the first photo and video above it is very obvious that both Olynyk and Horford were intentionally taking their opponents down, not boxing them out.

It seems that upper arm holding as a method to “box out” opponents has become a common maneuver in the NBA and one that should be of concern as the potential for devastating injury certainly exists, and has already happened. Officials should take note and take appropriate steps to get that form of play eliminated from the game.

Over For Now.

Main Street One

King James Back To Cleveland – As It Should Be

LeBron James, arguably the most talented player on the court today, maybe even any day, announced his return July 11 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. This is a good move, for more reasons than one. The way he did it this time is pure class. Let him tell the story (as told to Lee Jenkins at Sports Illustrated). It is well-worth reading.

————–

LeBron James Returns To Cleveland
LeBron James (Sports Illustrated photo)

Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.

Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.

I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life.  I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.

I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.

I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

LeBron James Cleveland Cavalier
Photo: kingjames Instragram

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned — seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Walters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.

But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.

I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.

————–

Best of luck, LeBron. It will definitely be a challenge, but you are the man for the job.

Over For Now.

Main Street One