Warriors win NBA Championship!
I’ve been had. I actually thought this was going to redeem the worst, most lopsided NBA postseason in a looong time! Because I thought Cleveland had enough talent to hang around for six games, though I always figured that they’d lose in the end. But no, it turned out that the more technocratic predictions from Vegas and data nerds had it right. Golden State wins in a 4-1 slaughter that wasn’t even that close!
How did Golden State do it? Well, the terrible trio of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green is extremely difficult to beat, as is the Warriors’ powerful bench. But was it really all about Golden State?
I overheard some people last year calling Kevin Durant overrated and predicting that he’d be lost in the crowd in Golden State. Swear on the basket.
Before I begin, here’s an issue of accountability. I was not alone in my prediction of a competitive series. Indeed, all it took was a Cavs victory in Game 4 that improved them to an enviable 1-3 in the Finals for “Cavs in 7” to trend on Twitter for hours!
And don’t think it was just emotional and irrational fans talking like this either. As LeBron James is a media darling. I guess that lead pundit after pundit to quarrel with 538’s 90% chance of a Golden State Championship. In particular, ESPN big shot Stephen A. Smith called that “disrespect” to Cleveland and the talents of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and especially LeBron. Fox Sports host Colin Cowherd went a step further, claiming that Cleveland had a “better bench” among other advantages. You can tell that neither fully believed what they were saying because they did not flat-out pick the Cavs to win, but they sure as Hell implied it by innuendo! It will still be so hilarious to see the likes of them flip-flop on Cleveland’s projected talent, though! Many on social media said much the same, except they would predict without the burden of public images.
So it’s been very revealing to see LeBron supporters on Twitter suddenly talk as though the Cavs didn’t have anybody else. My favorite excuse was offered by Cowherd. Alleged critic of political correctness that he is, he got butthurt over the standard LeBron is held to while some are saying that he’s every bit as great or better than Michael Jordan! I’ll address this insult to our intelligence later, but if that’s the standard, why shouldn’t it be consistent?
The one unimpeachable piece of evidence in favor of LeBron is that throughout this series, he kept scoring like no tomorrow! This overlooks that there are some players who are highlight reel machines and will scribble a lot on the stat sheet regardless of how good their performances are. For example, the 2016 Carolina Panthers’ defense (NFL) was top-tier in sacks, interceptions and forced fumbles, yet still allowed a lot of points.
Stats vs. great QBs as follows. Matt Ryan: 48/33 pts., 3/4 sacks, 0/0 picks; Drew Brees: 41/20 pts., 1/3 sacks, 1/1 picks; Derek Carr: 35 pts., 1 sack, 1 pick, Russell Wilson: 40 pts., 3 sacks, 1 pick. Good except at what counts.
With that in mind, I’m finally ready to explain why the Cavs got beat so badly. I agree with the more objective analysis that while LeBron did help a lot to keep Games 3&5 in reach, he also seemed lost in the crowd in the last two or three minutes of these games. Misleading stats aside, this series really is on him. If LeBron keeps LeBronnin’, Cleveland wins those games… and now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to seize the day in home court.
Frankly, I’m beginning to understand why some call him “LeChoke.” As much as I would love to say these last-minute vanishing acts were a shock, that’s not the case. As a Hawks fan I was of course happy to see my team be one of the few to post a winning record against the Cavs this season. And yet, I can’t in retrospect give us too much credit. Why? Because LeBron displayed the same inconsistency as was seen in the Finals. It started with LeBron leading his team to the near elimination of an 18-point, third quarter deficit heading into the fourth before… they stalled out. I will allow that him and his teammates getting blown out of home court by our second-stringers (the A-team was hurt) was an “any given night” kind of thing, but what excuse is there for them blowing a 26-point lead in the fourth quarter shortly afterward.
The only time we lost to Cleveland was when we were blown out for something like 80% of the time yet only lost by 5 in the end. In other words, a very ugly win. Watching the Finals made me think, “it wasn’t us. It was LeBron.”
And then there are the elimination games in the past in which LeBron has missed critical shots in the clutch. I still think he’s one of the top 10, at least top 20 best ever, but he has the following kryptonite that other greats do/did not: when it becomes clear that the game will come down the last minute or two, he seems to get nervous, missing shots, getting contained, passing to the wrong guy, letting guys on the paint, you name it. If you want someone who can put a game away in the first quarter, there’s nobody more qualified, but man shall not live on blowouts alone.
Whoever originally made this won the Internet!
And that is why he’s probably well below Magic Johnson. Jordan? Non-comparison.