NBA Finals

Standard

I started writing this at halftime of the third game of the NBA finals, and I’m pretty thrilled. I rarely get to watch sports, and didn’t get to watch any NBA games until the first game of the finals. I was pretty thrilled at the way the Cleveland Cavaliers, with the best player in basketball now, LeBron James, played, but was disappointed that they weren’t able to hold their lead at the end of the game, and lost to Golden State in overtime. What was even more disappointing was that Kyrie Irving, one of their stars, got injured at the end of the game, breaking his kneecap. That means he’s not playing again this season.
Besides that, another of their stars, Kevin Love, got injured in their first playoff series, against Boston, dislocating a shoulder, having surgery, and also lost for the rest of the season. The Cavs started out their playoff run with three stars. Now there’s one left.
That meant that Cleveland had plenty of excuse to fall apart. But they didn’t. As you might expect, LeBron James led the way offensively with 44 points in the first game and 39 in the second, but people who weren’t stars stepped up offensively just enough (they only won by two points, and in overtime again), but especially defensively.
Golden State has been an extremely deep, talented, and athletic team which has scored a lot of points all season, but so far they’re not scoring a lot of points in this series. They haven’t seen this sort of defense very often this season, understandably: nobody plays defense with that sort of intensity for 82 games. But in a 7 game series, teams can let it all hang out. That enabled Cleveland to beat Golden State on their home court, where they had only lost three times all season. Part of the reason for their good defense is size: Golden State doesn’t have a lot of very big people; Cleveland has at least three. But just being big doesn’t make you play great defense. You really have to want to do it, and the Cavaliers do. James is in the finals for the past fifth straight year, but no one else on the team has ever been there. I think James is very determined to win this year, if at all possible, and there can’t be very many players who don’t want to play on his team and conceivably win the first title in any sport for any Cleveland team in 51 years.
The first half went well for Cleveland. They held Golden State to fewer points than they had scored in a half all season, 37, and had a 7-point lead when the second half started. Then they expanded the lead to 20, and I thought, maybe they’ll win this comfortably, but it didn’t work out that way. Golden State started hitting shots, and got within two points of the Cavs before making some turnovers and enabling Cleveland to hold on for the win.
LeBron James was stellar again, scoring 40 points, getting double figures in rebounds, and 8 assists, but a number of people you probably never heard of contributed too.
Tristan Thompson had 10 points and 13 rebounds. Timofey Mozgov had six points and 13 rebounds. J.R. Smith had 10 points. And Matthew Dellavedova had 20 points, and played tough defense on Steph Curry, the MVP of the league this year, holding him to 10 points through 3 quarters. Unfortunately, Curry got his stroke back in the fourth quarter, and scored 17, making the game uncomfortably close. He thinks he’s going to start scoring a lot again. I hope he’s mistaken.
But the ESPN website notes that every time a team has had a 2-1 lead in the playoffs this season, they’ve lost the series, and Iman Shumpert, a bench player, hurt his shoulder in this one, while Dellavedova was dehydrated at the end of the game, and had to get IV fluids. As LeBron James said, they really can’t afford any more injuries. It’s really pretty amazing they’ve been able to play so well with so many players being hurt. Will they be able to continue? The odds are probably against them, but they were the last three games too.
But even if they can’t win this year, it’s been pretty thrilling to see them get to the finals this year, and play so well in them even without a lot of players (longtime Cavalier Anderson Verrajao got hurt early in the season, forcing the team to make several trades to replace him–they seem to have traded for the right people). If they can’t win this year (and that’s by no means certain yet) they should have a very good chance next year, when they get a bunch of players back, and may be luckier with injuries.
It’s nice to see a Cleveland sports team do well (I grew up in northeastern Ohio, and my grandparents lived in Cleveland). It hasn’t happened a lot in the past decades.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s