A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

The season came down to the end, and the end came down to the season

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In the 2015 Finals the Cavs put up a great fight but the loss of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love against a fresh, healthy Warriors proved too much. By putting themselves in position by making the Finals again they had better fortune this time. The Warriors lost Andrew Bogut in Game 5, Andre Iguodala was hampered by a bad back, Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5 and Stephen Curry has never looked fully like himself since he came back in Round 2. Whether it’s for the pressure of completing a 73-9 season or their upcoming free agencies two quality pros in Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli went in the tank. In the end it made them just beatable enough in Game 7 by a game Cavaliers with a legend at the peak of his powers.

The Finals starts at 0-0 but season before can be important. Despite Kyrie Irving’s injury the Cavs had the talent, depth and coaching to comfortable sit in 1st in the East all season. The 1st seed allowed them to start 10-0 and make the Finals without pushing themselves too far. By the Finals Lebron had conserved enough energy to pull off this all time great finals. Irving got to take his time coming back and play 31 minutes per game after enough to peak in the playoffs. Along with his quality Game 7 Love’s value was vindicated not so much in in his Finals play but helping the Cavs roll through the Eastern Conference regular season and playoffs as easily as possible.

At the same time the Warriors 24-0 start and run to 73-9 made them face the other team’s best shot every game. They pushed themselves to playoff intensity to pull out games that kept their season starting streak and the Bulls record alive. Curry’s injury in the first two rounds pushed the other Warriors to step up to win without him and they played a brutally physical 7 game series against the Thunder. Playing more games made Draymond’s flagrant foul count go up. In the end they weren’t at their peak in the Finals. The Cavs only goal all season was to win the title. The Warriors goal was to both finish 73-9 and win the title. This split goal may have cost them.

Where else to start about this Finals? I once foolishly decided Kyrie Irving was destined to just be a best scorer on playoff knockout or worse, the Carmelo Anthony of PGs. But we don’t know who these players are inside. He proved he’s a gamer and his talent shined. Playing beside a brilliant passer in Lebron helped cover his weaknesses and put him in a position to succeed. Tristan Thompson proved indispensable to the Cavs with his ability to defend the perimeter a perfect fit for the modern game and his elite offensive rebounding and passion changed the emotional fabric of some of these games such as helping the Cavs energy overpower teams in home games. Having a bomber in J.R. Smith proved perfect beside Lebron and Irving. One of the reasons offensive stars are so valuable is playing a Iman Shumpert for the defensive value alone becomes manageable.

The Warriors ended up not as perfect as advertised. Perhaps it’s unfair and judging them too much in their injury prone and healthy state, but this is a team who 25th in the league in free throw rate, 19th in offensive rebounding and had minimal post options. Their top four scorers in Curry, Klay, Draymond and Barnes all have the same best way to score, the 3. Having fallback offensive strategies such as slashing, offensive rebounding or post play could have both allowed them to try something new in dry spots such as the road games they didn’t have the legs in, and opened up the 3 point game by keeping the Cavs defense honest. The Warriors defense fell from 1st last year to 5th, finally showing the price of playing a fast paced, offensive system despite having the most defensive talent in the league. Going forward the aging of two of their most gifted defenders in Iguodala and Bogut give them work to do to be as good on defense as their championship season. They were a historic regular season team but not a greatest of all time contender by the playoffs, whether it’s because of cracks in the armor or fatigue and injury. Even after the Draymond suspension the Warriors were in a golden position to win the title. A true superior team could have gone into Game 6 in Cleveland and wrapped it up just like how Cleveland went into Toronto in Game 6 and put aside any doubts about who was better, or Golden State closed the series in 6 last year. The history of Game 7s in any round but let alone the Finals greatly favors the home team. When looking at how Cleveland beat Golden State by 14 in a Game 6 that never felt competitive then beat them in Game 7 it’s hard to come to any other conclusion than the Cavs being the better team after Draymond’s suspension. The Warriors are a young team however, won’t be chasing records next year and will be both humbled and hungrier next season. Most multiple champion cores have had heartbreaking losses including ones like the Magic Lakers, Bird Celtics and Duncan Spurs. There’s more than enough room for them to learn from this and have a historic run. For now Lebron and the Cavaliers deserved their moment.

Written by jr.

June 20, 2016 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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