Not long before the 2016 NBA Playoffs began, my good friend, who is a huge fan of Michael Jordan and at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to LeBron James, said he felt the Spurs had a good chance to win their second title in three years.
But I reminded him of how we have seen this story before and how it will end. Like when the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls won 72 games and capped the season with a series win over the Seattle SuperSonics for the NBA title. (I remember at age 16 thinking if the Bulls don’t win it all it would be terrible.)
The Thunder, formerly known as the Sonics, almost had that script thrown out but the Warriors were determined to get back to the Finals.
Fast forward to June 19 (Father’s Day) and that story was scratched and a new one was written as the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals with a 93-89 Game 7 win over the Warriors for their first title in franchise history.
Kyrie Irving (26 points) virtually sealed things with a tough 3-pointer over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left for a 92-89 lead. Curry couldn’t answer with his attempt from deep and James, the Finals MVP, split a pair of free throws to finalize the scoring.
After a four-year stint in a Miami Heat jersey, James, who collected 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists and three blocks, including a critical rejection late against Andre Iguodala, returned to Cleveland and delivered a championship in his second year back, making him a three-time champion.
The Cavs trailed by seven at the half but J.R. Smith (12 points) and Irving (12 in the frame) prevented the Warriors from building a double-digit lead. Kevin Love responded the all the criticism with effort, grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds.
Draymond Green was stellar in the first half, scoring 22 of his 32 points while making all five of his 3-point attempts. Curry and Klay Thompson were both cold from the field, finishing with 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Well the Cavs proved they were right that if they were healthy last year, they would have won the title. The Warriors now have to accept that they are the team with the best regular-season record to not win the title.
Now Golden State fans and those who didn’t want to see James win it all may give the Cavs credit but will admit that the NBA shifted the momentum of the series by suspending Green for Game 5.
Last year, the Warriors celebrated in Cleveland. This year, the Cavaliers celebrated in Oakland. Could we be in store for a tiebreaker in this series in 2017?