Cleveland Cavaliers have been crowned NBA Champions after coming from 3-1 down to claim a 4-3 series win over the Golden state Warriors.
Cleveland controlled the paint with Andrew Bogut missing for the Warriors, outscoring the 2015 champions 48-28 inside the lane. Bogut’s replacement, Festus Ezeli, had about as painful a game as one can have in these kinds of moments: zero points on 0-4 shooting in 11 minutes of action, with one rebound and one assist. He was 0-3 in just the first five minutes of the game and never found his footing. That his misses were at the rim and high percentage shots will only make it harder to reconcile in the post-game analysis, of which there will be plenty.
The Warriors will have to ask what went wrong. Pundits will point to every glaring failure in this series. Seventy-three wins in the regular season now carry the asterisk of a finals defeat. A 3-1 series advantage melted away, leaving Oracle Arena shell shocked. Draymond Green carried Golden State through much of the first half and finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds, and one assist shy of a triple-double. Unfortunately for them, the rest of the team failed to match his stellar performance. Steph Curry went missing in the decisive fourth quarter, failing to score and turning the ball over in ugly fashion with a wayward behind-the-back pass that flew out of bounds. Golden State forced passes in traffic and seemed to miss communication in crucial moments.
But as we learned from years past, as transcendent a player as LeBron is, he can’t do it alone. The 2016 finals will be remembered partially as the coming out party for Kyrie Irving, a player who’s been much maligned for his inability to function effectively as James’s sidekick. That should end now, with Irving’s 26 points and six rebounds and knack for making momentum-turning shots. With 53 seconds left — after both teams failed to grab hold of the game late — Irving buried the three that would give them the advantage for good. Kevin Love, the third member of the Cavs’ Big Three who never figured out his offensive game, brought down 14 vital rebounds to lead his team’s interior dominance.
“I’m happy to be a part of history,” James said. “I’m home. I’m home … I’m at a loss for words. This is unbelievable.” Curry said. “It hurts, man,” “I’m proud of every single guy that stepped foot on the floor for our team this year. Hopefully we’ll have many more opportunities to fight for championships and be on this stage. This is what it’s all about.”