Yup, the Cleveland cavaliers ended 52 years of hurt Sunday night when they became the 4th team in NBA history, and the 1st in modern era to recover from a 3-1 deficit and win the NBA Championship. Golden State Warriors had played Championship basketball in the Western Conference Finals by defeating Oklahoma City Thunder after overcoming a 3-1 deficit themselves, but found the Cavaliers a more disciplined side. Why did the team that won a record number of games fail so miserably when it mattered most?
LeBron James. The NBA Finals MVP led his team in almost all categories, racking up impressive stats at both ends of the floor. His leadership meant that other players: both starters and role players, found extra energy to carry the momentum going when LeBron needed to rest, though he didn’t have much of that in these Finals.
Kyrie Irving. The five-year point guard averaged 30.6pts and 4.4asts in the last five games, 2nd only to LeBron James (33.2pts, 11.8rbds, 8.8asts over the last five games). Irving carried the offensive load whenever the team needed it, and his final three point shot sealed the Championship win for Cavaliers.
Cavaliers took away the Warriors three point shot. ‘You live and die by the trey’ is a constant refrain in basketball. Warriors won on the back of their incredible shooting last season, and won a ridiculous number of games this term playing the same way. BUT, while the three-point shot gives you an advantage, you still need to play basketball, and Warriors failed in that department. The Dubs failed to create when they needed to, and kept throwing up desperation shots (the Splash brothers were 6-24 from treyland), racking up a deficit in shooting percentage (36.6%). Once the Cavaliers put pressure on the Warriors on the perimeter, the game slipped from the former Champions.
Cavaliers finally got the right mix between the isolation and team play. The Cavs, like the Warriors, have good individual players. But the Cavs thrived on isolation all season long, and all through their run in the East playoffs. The reliance on isolation dropped them into a 3-1 hole in the Finals, but they adjusted. Not only that, they found the balance between playing the isolation and team ball.
Then, the role players took center stage. For the Cavaliers, Richard Jefferson, Tristan Thompson in Games 5 and 6, JR Smith and K love in Game 7. For the Warriors, their bench folded when it mattered: Festus Ezeli came on as a starter with Bogut out injured and contributed little, Iggy, Barbosa all had little impact.
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