I’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.
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