The NBA Finals are over, and all eyes are on the NBA Draft and rumors of player movement. But we haven’t celebrated the end of the Finals and BSB(R). The Warriors got their celebration, and goddamnit, Chaz will get his, too. Before we start popping champagne, let’s take a brief look at the final standings:
A fellow Wolverine, predictably, pulled in the hardware this year. Although Chaz’s victory was as imminent as Golden State’s, Ohashi and Thomas’ scores were very respectable. No, that doesn’t get those guys a prize, but you better believe it gets them a few respect points in Horry’s book. The book thing isn’t a metaphor–he’s going to release a book called “The clutch gene, luck, and why Dream is 20 times better than Timmy.”
Among former BSB(R) champs, Bubar was dead last (39th), Mike was 35th, Leifer was 12th, Wise was 25th, and Dave was 23rd. Although none of you cared about that, it’s necessary filler in a BSB(R) that otherwise underwhelmed. In speaking of former champs failing miserably…
NBA Finals Recap
More interesting than the Finals itself is the its consequences for the future. The Finals were tense and highlight-filled, but its outcome was never in doubt. What happened along the way?
In Game 1, the Cavs hung in there during the first half, but got blown out in the second half, losing 113-121. They couldn’t take care of the ball–Golden State, meanwhile, tied a record with only four turnovers. In Game 2, the story was similar–the Cavs played a good first half but again got crushed in the second half. The turnover differential wasn’t as lopsided, but the Dubs had more balanced scoring. scoring was more balanced. Best of all Steve Kerr was back in action, which was a pleasure to see.
Things got interesting in Game 3. This felt like the first must-win for the Cavs, given that no team has ever come back from 3-0 in the NBA playoffs. Like the first two games the Warriors led at the first half, but unlike those games it was the Cavs who owned the third quarter in Game 3.Early in the fourth, the Warriors stopped the bleeding, and slowly but surely, worked there way back into the game. The turnaround culminated in their 11-0 run to close out the game, holding the Cavs scoreless in the game’s final three minutes. The run was highlighted by Durant’s three with 45 seconds left to take the lead and go up by one. Good defense on Kyrie and Bron on subsequent possessions sealed the 118-113 victory for the Warriors.
Game 4 belonged to the Cavs, who scored an playoff record 49 points in the first quarter. It was like watching a team with a cheat code–they just didn’t miss, no matter the quality of the shot. The Warriors kept pace the rest of the game, but the Cavs’ continued to play desperate. Tempers flared and referees erred. There isn’t much else say, although this play was pretty cool. The Cavs won 137-116.
Back in Oakland for Game 5, the Dubs were eager to close out the series. The Cavaliers fought tooth and nail to keep the game close through three quarters, but the Warriors turned on the jets in the fourth. They expanded their lead to 10 points with nine minutes left and never looked back. The Cavs managed buckets, but the Warriors always had an answer, filling up the scoreboard en route to their 129-120 victory. There it was–a five-game series win for the Dubs, KD’s first ring, and the continuation of a dynastic situation (as Jalen Rose likes to put it).
As far as the Cavs’ play throughout the series, they scored offense decently with the exception of Game 1. Their problem, predictably, was defending the Warriors. Which maybe is their fault, but on the other hand, there’s no formula for that yet. LeBron played fantastic for the most part. He turned the ball over a lot in Game 1, struggled down the stretch in Game 3, played average defense, and failed to hit free throws. On the other hand he was fantastic in nearly every other way, and averaged the first-ever triple double in the NBA Finals. Plus, he had at least one insane dunk in every game. Kyrie was the team’s next best player, and like last year, he had some impressive scoring games and even more impressive baskets making up those totals. Love was hit or miss, and for them to win, he needed to be all hit. No other Cavs were particularly impressive outside of a game here or there. Personnel changes might be in order. Is love the right fit? Can they move Thompson? There’s no easy path to improvement, but if they stand pat, LeBron might explore free agency in 2018.
For the Warriors, Durant and Curry both played MVP quality basketball. They consistently made each other better on pick-and-rolls, in semi-transition, and with floor-spacing. It’s no wonder Jeff Van Gundy said they might be the best duo ever. I wouldn’t go that far (yet), but they are certainly in the conversation. Steph nearly averaged a triple double. Durant’s efficiency was downright scary and his defense on LeBron was stellar. As far as the other players, Draymond and Klat both played good defense, but shot worse than normal. Iguodala had his moments–his plus-minus was the best this series and he makes a difference in so many ways. But the series was all about Steph and KD. Which is what makes this team so unbeatable. They can survive injuries from one of them or subpar series from the “other guys” and still win in 5.
So, what happens now? Iguodala is already reporting to come back, and KD has hinted that he’d take less salary so the team can retain as many players as possible. Everyone on the team as indicated they want to keep the magic alive for as long as possible. Although you never know in this league–injuries, trades, and egos can change the course of things–the Warriors look positioned to win 3-4 more titles over the next 5 years. Similar to how their three-point shooting bends defenses, the Warriors’ are bending the league. IFrom players’ decisions about which super team to join to other teams’ shifting toward long-term team-building, the league is revolving around them.
In addition to shaping the near future, the Warriors’ greatness is shaping the distant future in the form of legacies. They’ve dealt LeBron two finals losses and limited the Finals appearances of Harden, Kawhi, Westbrook, and Durant (when he was on the Thunder). In speaking of which, LeBron lost a great opportunity to make progress toward Jordan in the battle for #1. LeBron was amazing, but given that he went into the series behind MJ, he had to be better than amazing (and win) to nudge himself toward GOAT status.
Steph and Durant, meanwhile, hauled in the legacy points. Curry launched himself to the status of second-best point guard of all time (behind Magic). What other points can say they changed the league en route to two MVPs and two rings? Isiah, Stockton, Cp3, Nash, Cousy and whoever else you want to name are all behind, and the gap will grow. Durant, of course got his first ring and a Finals MVP. He played excellent every game, and even crazier is the fact that he outplayed LeBron James. Many proclaimed him to be the new best player in the world. (Side note: I’m sick of all these people saying that LeBron is surely still the best player in the world. Are we so sure of that? He hasn’t won any of the past 4 MVPs, and it’s not due to voter fatigue. It’s fine to think LBJ’s still the best, but to believe so without entertaining the possibility that there are others as good as him, to me, flies in the face of all available evidence). Durant played a pretty much flawless series, which helped some people forgive his decision to join the Warriors. He’ll will be hard-pressed to catch LeBron in all-time small forward rankings, but he may very well surpass Larry Bird.
Perhaps the biggest winner in legacy points was Chaz. He joins an exclusive group of only 6 other people to have won the BSB(R) tourney. Congrats Chaz, and may your Celtics make all the wrong decisions in the draft.
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