Well the NBA Season is finally over and it was quite an ending series. I know this wrap-up is a few days late, but I’ve been working! Plus the few days between the end of the season and now have helped me process a few things and I now have a few thoughts to get across here.
Before the series got underway, I gave a prediction that the Warriors would win in 6. I ended up being 100% correct. How they would win did surprise me a little bit, though. No one expected that Kyrie Irving would go down with a bad injury. No one expected that the Cavs would be that competitive after Kyrie went down. So why did they stay competitive? Because LeBron James is the best basketball player in the world and he showed that masterfully. He averaged 35.8 points, 8.8 assists, and 13.2 rebounds a game. He was the best player on the floor for every game, except game 4. The Cavaliers had the best player in the world and no one else. Matthew Dellavadova played good defense, but his play was overhyped by people like Skip Bayless and he was beat by Curry in games 5 and 6, which cost his team the series. Tristan Thompson played well, but wasn’t quick enough to give enough offense. Timofey Mozgov had one spectacular game in game 4, but no one else played well enough to give Cleveland a win, as they were blown out at home. And the rest of the bench was weak, with Shawn Marion and Kendrick Perkins there in cameo roles at the end of championship careers.
Golden State was the better team the whole way. ESPN frequently set up the series as a duel between Steph Curry and LeBron James. It’s an easy dichotomy to try and work with, and the NBA has done this sort of thing to market its series with varying levels of success in the past.
Russell vs Chamberlain was a fabulous success because they were the best players at the most important position of the day: Center. They won many championships and combined for some of the best match ups of NBA history.
Clyde Drexler vs Michael Jordan was interesting. Same position, same roles, great teams. But it only lasted a year, 1992, and Jordan was so clearly the better player and it wasn’t that terribly interesting a matchup, to be honest.
Steph Curry vs LeBron doesn’t really work because while the two are the best players on their respective teams, they play completely different styles of ball. Curry thrives on his ball handling, passing, and shooting. He is the epitome of a finesse player. But he isn’t big or strong and hasn’t shown that he can take a beating like Allen Iverson could, for example. LeBron James is a physical freak. He can play physical basketball better than most who’ve ever played. His dunks are monster jams like no one else, and he can make interior passes like no ones business. But he can’t shoot the outside shot at effectively. These two are not comparable players and they are not rivals! They are too different to be comparable players.
The series wasn’t a duel won by Curry over LeBron, it was a battle between Cleveland and Golden State, and Golden State was a better total team. Curry had a cold start, but special games in the 5th and 6th games. Thompson was consistently good. Draymond Green played well, and Andre Iguodala was special when he was out in the starting lineup. While LeBron was the best total player in the series, Iguodala could to defend LeBron and limit him enough to give Golden State a chance to win. And his offense was enough to put the Warriors over the top.