As the final buzzer sounded, the Warriors rejoiced on enemy turf. They had, for the second time this series, blown out the Cleveland Cavaliers and more significantly, beaten LeBron James for the third time in four years.
While 2016 represented a heroic effort from Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, the latest series saw LeBron isolated in his own greatness.
Make no mistake – this was not, as many superficial analyses has it, a one man battle – Kevin Love played admirably well, putting up 19/11 in the series, while Larry Nance Jr and Rodney Hood showed sparks off the bench. Against a literal super team such as the Golden State Warriors, however, this is not enough.
So let’s not point fingers at LeBron. With four all stars playing under the brilliant Steve Kerr, no team could realistically come close without multiple stars of their own. Take the Houston Rockets, who forced seven games against the Oakland team – alongside the (assumed) MVP, the Rockets possessed Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza.
Compare this to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Outside of LeBron and Kevin Love, there was little in the way of all star calibre on the roster. Kyle Korver, who shot so well throughout the postseason, was shut down by constant switching and tight defence, and ended firing 6.25% from the field. The others, by plain fact, were plainly average. The backcourt could never score enough, Thompson and Nance were outplayed by Javale McGee, and players such as Jeff Green and Jordan Clarkson are simply not good enough for this level. LeBron was hung high and dry, with a supporting cast weaker than the one on his right arm.
To win the series, the Cavs would have needed to repeat their performance from the opening game; have LeBron dominate, put up respectable supporting numbers and ensure one of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson or Steph Curry don’t heat up too much. This goes without saying, but this is unsustainable to do for four of seven games.
Games Two through to Four represented the Curry and Durant show – much as fans based outside of Oakland were rooting for Cleveland, it was hard not to admire seemingly impossible shots raining in.
So let us, instead, praise Golden State – deserved Champions in 2018, and I suspect, for years to come.