— Cleveland 19 News (@cleveland19news) June 20, 2016
Finally, Cleveland can celebrate. After 52 years, their wait is finally over. LeBron James delivered on his promise by leading the Cavs to their first NBA championship. They did it by making NBA Finals history in becoming the first team to ever rally from a 3-1 series deficit. They completed the comeback in epic fashion by beating the defending champion Warriors 93-89 in a memorable Game 7 at Oracle Arena.
“I came back for a reason,” James said. “I came back to bring a championship to our city. I knew what I was capable of doing. Knew what I learned the last couple of years that I was gone. And I knew I had the right ingredients and the right blueprint to help this franchise get back to a place we’ve never been.”
They did it by shutting down the league’s highest scoring team. In a tightly played fourth quarter, the Cavs held the Warriors to 13 points. It wasn’t a matter of outscoring a record setting 73-win team who only lost twice at home all season. It was about out-executing and outworking them in crunch time. Golden State didn’t score a single point the final four and a half minutes. Unheard of for a team that could put up points in bunches.
Against a determined Cleveland Cavaliers squad who wanted it more, the Golden State Warriors ran out of gas. They blew a 3-1 lead losing twice on their home floor in Games 5 and 7. They never could put away the Cavs. Even with a quick 8-2 start, they never could escape a more together team that had the game’s most dominant player. Even on a night where he didn’t shoot particularly well, James recorded a triple double going for a team high 27 points with 11 rebounds and 11 assists. However, he was able to deliver when his team needed it most. Take drawing a three shot foul on Festus Ezeli. With the Cavs trailing by four, James coolly knocked down all free throws.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) June 20, 2016
The biggest play the NBA Finals MVP made was on the defensive end. On a turnover which led to a two-on-one Golden State fast break, James hustled back to perfectly block Andre Iguodala’s lay-up pinning it off the backboard with the game still tied at 89-89. At that point, neither team could score. Each continued to misfire on empty trips. Both looked nervous and tired. If James doesn’t reject Iguodala, there’s no telling if Cleveland wins. That kind of athleticism from a complete player was huge. It kept the game tied and gave the Cavs momentum.
It was Kyrie Irving who delivered the knockout blow when he pulled up from three over Stephen Curry, hitting nothing but net to give the Cavs a 92-89 lead with over a minute left. While James averaged 29.0 points-per-game, Irving averaged 27-plus hitting on 41 percent of three-pointers. He was the perfect sidekick during Cleveland’s historic comeback. It was him and James combining for 82 with each going for 41 in the Cavs’ momentum shifting 112-97 win in Game 5 that allowed them to force a Game 6 at home. Irving was an assassin in that one. It was James who did the heavy lifting in the Cavs’ 115-101 win in Game 6, scoring 41 again with 16 rebounds. In Game 7, the dynamic duo combined for 53 of the Cavs’ 93.
As much as we talk about Irving’s scoring, it was his passing that allowed Cleveland to seal it. After Curry missed a wild three from way out, there was a four-second difference between game and shot clock. An aggressive Irving penetrated before finding a wide open James for a dunk attempt. But Draymond Green fouled him cleanly, sending James flying to the floor in pain. James was holding his right hand. But after a couple of minutes, he got up. After missing the first free throw, he made no mistake draining the second for the final margin.
All that was left was for the Warriors to force a couple of contested three’s which had no chance. Following a wild miss from Marreese Speights, a pumped up Cavs bench mobbed the floor celebrating with James, Irving, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.
— Avery (@AFashionatto) June 20, 2016
The best part was when an emotionally and physically spent James knelt to the floor and kissed it while crying tears of joy. It was a heartfelt moment that will be remembered forever in NBA history. A superstar from Akron, Ohio who originally went number one overall to his hometown team had come home and made good on his promise. He sealed his place in history as one of the all-time greats. Winning three NBA titles and three Finals MVP’s. The four-time league MVP had finally won the most important Larry O’Brien Trophy in his brilliant career. It took a lot more time than most thought. He had been here before twice with Cleveland losing the first time and then returning last year in this second act.
Cleveland finally can celebrate again. For the first time since 1964 when Jim Brown and the Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship, they will have a parade celebrating their first ever NBA championship. As James said during an emotional interview, they deserve it. This is for all those true believers. All the witnesses. A hometown kid who made good. It’s not about The Decision anymore to leave Cleveland and go to Miami and win two of four NBA Finals with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. This is what James will always be remembered for.
— CNET (@CNET) June 20, 2016
“Throughout my 13-year career I’ve been nothing but true to the game, give everything I have to the game, put my heart, my blood, sweat and tears into the game and people still want to doubt what I can do.
“So that was a little icing on the cake.”
The Cavs prevailed because they truly were better. All the role players stepped up. That included Love, who had his best game of the series. He pulled down a game high 14 rebounds (4 offensive) and played a gritty game. Love scored nine but was a game best plus-19 with him on the floor. Thompson also scored nine on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting and 3-of-4 from the line. But only had three boards. It was Love and James who were towers of strength helping the Cavs to a 48-39 rebounding edge.
Another role guy who fit in well this year was Smith. The former Knick who hit for four treys in Game 6 had 12 points on 5-of-13 from the field with two three’s. He also grabbed four boards and had two assists. In one of the coolest scenes during the post game press conference, an emotional Smith cried while praising his parents for all the love and support they gave him with his Dad present on Father’s Day. When he finished talking, he gave his Dad a big hug.
Cleveland pulled this off with practically no bench. However, Richard Jefferson played a solid role. The likable 35-year old vet gave coach Tyrone Lue valuable minutes throughout. In 25-plus, he grabbed nine boards and had two points with a steal. Afterwards, he announced his retirement. What a way to go out.
Iman Shumpert also saved his best for last. He scored six points off the bench in 19 minutes. None bigger than a miraculous three that went down leading to a four-point play. Shumpert was awful from the outside all postseason. But that one made three and free throw were huge.
On the Golden State side, neither Curry nor Klay Thompson had a night to remember. Each struggled mightily with their shot. Curry got off to a decent start but finished with just 17 bricking 10 of 14 three’s. The unanimous league MVP was a huge disappointment during the rematch only going over 30 twice. He never got in rhythm and looked frustrated by the Cavs’ defense. Curry was a goat in crunch time forcing some terrible shots that didn’t come close. He never once looked for his teammates. Meanwhile, Thompson wound up with only 14, shooting a woeful 2-of-10 from three and 6-of-17 overall. The Splash Brothers combined for only 31 while missing on 24 of 36 field goal attempts including 6-for-24 from downtown.
The only Warrior who showed up was Green. After hurting his team with the Game 5 suspension and not doing much in Game 6, he was on fire. Green hit on five three’s in a well played first half. He scored most of his game high 32 in the opening 24 minutes. Green was dynamic pacing the Dubs in points (32), rebounds (15) and assists (9). However, he did miss one wide open three with the game tied. It was really his only miscue on what was a great night in defeat. The good Dray shot 11-of-15 from the field including 6-for-8 from downtown and a perfect 4-for-4 from the charity stripe in a game high 46:54, narrowly missing a triple double.
Had either Curry or Thompson gotten hot, Golden State prevails. Coach Steve Kerr didn’t have a good end to the series. Even in Game 7 with it all on the line, he kept Curry on the bench to start the fourth quarter. Granted. That’s what he always did. But this was a one-point game in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on their home court. At that critical point, you play him all 12. Go with your best. Look no further than what Lue did playing LeBron without rest when the chips were down. He did find a couple of minutes for Irving to rest before his clutch dagger.
It was odd how the Warriors went away from Green. He was the biggest reason they had a chance to repeat. For a second consecutive game, Iguodala was ineffective offensively only finishing with four. Maybe the bad back factored in. He still gave a strong overall effort pulling down nine boards while blocking two shots and recording two steals with four assists. But he misfired badly on three three-point attempts.
Shaun Livingston was effective again off the bench contributing eight in 16 minutes while going plus-eight. He and Leandro Barbosa (3) had good series. Harrison Barnes contributed 10 including two treys but again didn’t shoot well missing 7-of-10 field goals.
In the end, both teams went at it toe to toe in the deciding seventh game. Unlike the first six where one took control to win going away, neither did. Each made runs delivering flurries. But both came back making it anyone’s contest. With it remaining close throughout, I felt that favored the Cavs. They knew how to win in this situation. Had they fallen behind, it probably would’ve been curtains. They never gave in. That’s why they prevailed.
When it was over, a downcast Klay Thompson left the court without congratulating the Cavs. You had to figure he was upset with Curry, who was selfish with just two assists. He also had four turnovers including an awful behind the back pass that went out of bounds with Thompson the target. The bottom line is he played careless ball. That’s how Golden State played throughout. They relied too much on the three and didn’t pass the ball enough. Going against what got them last year’s title.
It can’t always be about one player being the hero. Even LeBron James needed his teammates to get it done. Otherwise, there’s no championship for Cleveland. Congrats to the Cavs on finally winning that NBA title. Hope all celebrate with class and in style. Enjoy it Cleveland. Do it the right way!