Why the Cleveland Cavaliers will win tonight

LeBron JamesI’m a Golden State Warriors fan. Not huge, but big enough to have held season tickets through the Run TMC years. (I grew up a Knicks fan, and liked the Celtics when I lived in Boston, but those are less leveraged these days.) So I do want the Warriors to win tonight.

But I don’t expect them to, because the Cavs make a better story.

LeBron James has made clear, especially over the last two games, that he is the best all-round player of all time. Michael Jordan had no weaknesses, but he wasn’t as strong as LeBron at defense, passing, shot blocking, and treating the other team the way a bowling ball treats pins. Or as strong, period.

Nobody on Earth is playing any game, anywhere ,with more determination, skill and strength than LeBron James is right now. And nobody is better at getting his whole team to play as one. Or at a more ideal time and place.

Kyrie Irving is also playing his best, which means he can pretty much get whatever shot he wants, whenever he wants it. And Tristan Thompson, a near-nobody before the playoffs, is playing like the second coming of Stephen Adams, who gave Thompson and the Cavs coaching staff a clinic on how a big man can take advantage of the Warriors’ weakness in the middle.

Let’s face it: the OKC Thunder figured out the Warriors pretty well. Even though the Thunder failed, they took the Warriors to seven games and gave the Cavaliers a lot of lessons to work with. Now that Bogut is out and Iguodala is slowed by back problems, the Warriors also lack their best shot blocker and their best defense against LeBron. Draymond Green also needs to play cautiously to avoid more technical and flagrant fouls, to which he is highly prone. Harrison Barnes has been subtracting from his free agent value nearly every time he shoots the ball. Even Shawn Livingston, normally a great floor leader when he comes off the bench for Steph, has been shooting bricks.

Four things look good for the Warriors tonight: 1) they’re playing at home, 2) their three best players are healthy, 3) two of those players are the best outside shooters in the game, and 4) one of those two was the unanimous MVP this year for good reasons. Even though Steph hasn’t been his old self enough in this series, it could be lights out if he shows up big tonight. Same goes for Klay.

If a game between two great teams doesn’t stay close to the end, one of the two will melt. That’s what happened in every game so far in this series. In total both teams have the same number of points, but each team has melted before the end three times. The problem for the Warriors is that they melted twice in each of the last two games: first at home, and then in Cleveland. They also melted under tremendous heat from the Cavaliers. Actually it was worse than that. They came apart at the seams. We saw that when Steph Curry pitched a fit after his sixth foul and Klay Thompson walked to the locker room before the game ended. Both moves were weak and childish, inviting no confidence from their teammates and giving plenty to their opponents.

No doubt the Warriors can win. But no doubt they also feel entitled, and that’s a problem too. You get a clear sense in this series that the Cavs want to win the title more than the Warriors want to keep it (along with the legacy of a record-breaking regular season). That legacy isn’t a burden to the Cavaliers. It’s a rooster they want to knock off its shed.

So, again, I don’t want to see King James wear the crown tonight. But either way it goes, he’ll still earn the right to the nickname. And he’ll be the MVP when it matters most.




  1. Charlie Green’s avatar

    I think that’s an excellent analysis. I also happen to agree.

  2. Allan Smith’s avatar

    Longtime reader.

    If they win, it’s because of effective lobbying by Lebron and his team officials to the league, not merely play on the floor. They had just been clearly beaten at home, to make it 3-1. There was no foul called on Green on the play which got him suspended, which has turned the series around. The administrators got involved and awarded a flagrant 1: originally no call was made on the floor.

    If you watch the video of that play series, Lebron performed a very dirty and dangerous hip throw on Draymond, tripping him while pushing him backwards, causing Green to fall backwards onto the floor, at which point James stepped over him. Green’s slight retaliatory swipe when James was straddling his neck didn’t hit James in the groin in any case. James clearly lied when he said he didn’t know of Green’s point situation. Other Cavs (Richard Jefferson, for one) say they all knew about it.

    Therefore, game 5 had no Green at home. Game 6, no healthy Iguodala or Bogut, plus Green having to be careful, on the road.

    Game 7: Curry was the last to be insulted, by Lebron, for no reason. Insulting Curry didn’t go well for Westbrook, and of course I hope it won’t go well for Lebron this time. If he’s allowed to get away with his usual traveling, palming and bumping, he has a chance, but otherwise, the Warriors have a good chance if Barnes and James revert close to their statistical norms.

    This year Lebron shot 31% on 3pt attempts. He’s shooting 40% in the series. Irving is shooting 50% from 3. He’s a 32% 3pt shooter. If these anomalies continue, the Cavs have a good chance.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Hope you’re right, Alan.

    About the fouls, though I’m not sure about the lobbying: all the stars get lots of breaks. Michael, Shaq, Kobe, Karl, all got them too. I thought the early calls on Kevin Love were bad. Same for the late ones on Steph.

    I once sat next to a top college basketball ref on a coast-to-coast flight. He worked on a laptop and a clipboard, choosing teams of refs for upcoming games. Three things he schooled me on that I hadn’t known before. One was the ranking of refs in a game, based on their jobs and their positions on the floor. Much more complex than it looks. Another was that refs have games with skill sets too, and personalities. They all play a bit differently, and it is best to match them up in ways that work for each game. But the biggest thing was the third point: the job of the refs is to “keep the game under control.” Not to call fouls. This involves judgment calls that, at a base level, are caused by some rule broken by a player on the floor, but sometimes involve the way the game itself is proceeding.

    We don’t know everything that happens out there. Neither do the refs, at least not completely. But the refs at this level are the best in the league, and proven so over the course of the year. I do hope they don’t call tonight’s game as tight as they did the last one.

    I’m also not sure the Warriors would have won the last game if Draymond had played. I know Draymond disagrees, and he might be right. We’ll never know.

    It will come down to coaching and confidence, I expect. The Cavs have done a good job in the last two games of exploiting the Warriors’ weaknesses, especially on defensive switches that leave Steph defending LeBron. That won’t happen this time. On the Warriors’ side, Steve Kerr has to have his team playing their spread-and-pass game to near-perfection. No other team has been able to defend all game against that, and I don’t expect the Cavs to do that either. But the Warriors’ game also depends on a lot of fast and accurate three-point shooting and cuts to the basket that end in two points or a pass to an open player. If the Warriors fail to execute on that, they’re cooked.

  4. Allan Smith’s avatar

    Quite a game: congrats to the Cavs.

  5. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Indeed, Allan. Interesting, also, to see the prophesy of this post come true. Sometimes the best story doesn’t win. But this time it did.

    Bonus link. 🙂

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