Let’s be honest, game 4 of the NBA finals was dud. We, fans, were looking for something that wasn’t there. We wanted a clash of the titans and it really wasn’t. But deep down, the series ended exactly how we thought it was going to happen. Lebron without a stellar all-star cast was going to lose to the Golden State Warriors.
Now, we must tip our caps to Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. They knew they were out manned but played hard for 31/2 games. Game 1 was the soul-crusher. The Cavs played as well as they could in game 1. In the last minute of the game, 3 plays tilted the scale toward the Warriors. First of all there was the charge call which was changed to a blocking foul. This has been discussed by the great minds in the game of basketball. All I can say is if the defender is moving at the time of contact that was called a block for the last 40 years. In the NBA, we all know that stars use a different rule book. Stars get to travel. They get to push and they get to block. The problem in this play was that you had 2 of the game’s biggest stars – Durant and James. In the 80’s, 9 times out of 10 that would have been a no call. Whether they should or should not have reversed the call, that’s beyond where I want to take this conversation. If the rules say that they can reverse it, then fine. This huge call goes against the Cavs. But then what happens? Durant goes to the line and drains 2 free throws. This is HUGE. The Warriors are now up by 1. The Cavs push the ball down the court. James passes to George Hill with just seconds on the clock. Hill is held by Klay Thompson and the foul was called. Again, in the NBA finals, the refs do not want to be the story. 9 times out of 10, this is a no call. Hill goes to the line with the Cavs down by 1. He makes his first free throw. He misses his second. HE MISSES HIS SECOND. If you are a professional basketball player, you have dreamed of this moment for years. You have a single free throw to win the game. If Hill drains the free throw there is probably a 95% chance that the Warriors can not get a good shot off in 4 seconds and the Cavs win game 1 in the Warriors house. This was the series right here.
Then you have JR Smith who makes a mistake. I don’t care want he said in his press conference. He didn’t know that the game was tied. It was a bone headed play. The combination of Hill and Smith making mistakes down the stretch is critical. Basketball is a team game. Lebron can not make every pass, every free throw and every rebound. You need 5 smart, dependable players on the floor. The Warriors had that. The Cavs did not.
The Warriors came out ready to play overtime. The Cavs were still trying to figure out how they did not win in regulation. If you can’t focus against the Warriors, you get run over. In Overtime, the Warriors simply ran over the Cavs. Foul of Durant. Durant makes 2 free throws. Cavs mess around. Warriors get ball movement and Klay Thompson buries a corner 3. Cavs still messing. Livingston hits a mid-range jumper. The Cavs are down by 7. Bam. Game over.
In order for the Cavs to win this series they needed to play very smart basketball. They had to play solid if not extraordinary defense. They had to dominate both the offensive and defensive boards. They had to win the turnover battle and they had to get every loose ball. They needed to play the Detroit Pistons bad-boy basketball. They couldn’t or didn’t.
One of the big questions has to do with Lebron James and his hand. Who knows? If he truly bruised or broke his hand in a fit of rage after losing game 1 then he personally sunk any chance of the Cavs winning any subsequent game. The Cavs had to have a healthy Lebron to win.
Finally, look for the Golden State Warriors to get better next year. Steve Kerr needs to look for a couple more offensive weapons. When Curry can’t find his shot and they are doubling Durant, can Bell step up? Game 3 was too close for comfort if you are the Golden State Warriors. The Houston Rockets series was way too close to rest. They have to get better if they are going to win, again.
Lebron James. What is he going to do? Well, Lebron will have some high level meetings that very few players get to have with management. Will the Cleveland front office give Lebron the tools that he needs to compete in the EAST? The other question is can Lebron James truly evaluate talent like he thinks that he can? He said it several times in his press conference but can he? He put together the team that just got swept by the Golden State Warriors. One of the problems with Lebron James is that he is 33 years old. Without injury (hitting any blackboards) he has 2 or 3 more good years. Is he in better shape than Michael Jordan who’s body began to fail him in the end? If you are San Antonio or Houston would you pay for a year or two of Lebron James?