2016 NBa Finals coverage: game 7
Two nights ago the Golden State Warriors completed their metamorphosis from a team who had the greatest regular season of all time to a team that went on a nice postseason run against all odds. Yup, Cleveland finally has cause to celebrate after the Cavs beat the Warriors in Game 7, 93-89. Now, I’m not saying the Warriors were underdogs in any of their series or that the odds really were stacked up against them. What I’m saying is, throughout the course of the playoffs – save for a couple of games against the Rockets –they played like an above-average team who, if it wasn’t for their record-setting regular season, likely would not have been expected to make it as far as they did.
As we all know, the Warriors are a jump-shooting team. It goes without saying that to be a successful jump-shooting team you have to make most of your midrange and outside shots because the easy buckets aren’t a focus. In the playoffs, and even more so in the Finals, those paint baskets are even harder to come by for a team built like the Dubs. Time and again in Game 7, and throughout the series, Golden State opted for the difficult shot instead of pressing the issue and taking the ball into the paint.
The game was still up for grabs with four minutes and 39 seconds remaining, the score tied at 89-89. Klay Thompson just tied the game back up after a driving layup. The Warriors might as well have just left the court, packed their bags, and conducted exit interviews because for over four minutes they could not score a single point. The Warriors missed their next, and last, nine shots. Only one attempt came closer than 15 feet to the hoop. The lone layup attempt? It was emphatically blocked by LeBron James. Eight jumpshots and not one of them fell. Thirteen total fourth quarter points. You simply can’t go cold in the final minutes of any professional basketball game, let alone Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
With the Warriors blowing a 3-1 Finals lead – a deficit no team has come back from in Finals history – the question was inevitably asked, “what happened to the Warriors?” Well, that’s a good question. It was definitely something I didn’t foresee happening…and in the end there were several reasons as to why I think it happened.
It starts with Draymond Green’s suspension for Game 5. The game was tied heading into halftime before Cleveland opened up a nine-point lead to start the fourth quarter. The Warriors proved time and again this season that literally no lead was safe against their quick-strike offense, so overcoming nine points was no big deal. Yet the Warriors scored a mere 13 fourth quarter points en route to handing the Cavs a road victory. LeBron and Co. were given VIP passes to the paint by a Warriors defense that lacked Green and later Andrew Bogut, the burly rim-protector who suffered a leg injury that would keep him out the remainder of the series. I guess it had been too long since the last Bogut injury…but I digress.
Green shook off a less-than-stellar performance in Game 6 to light up the Cavs for 32 points in Game 7. I have to think that if the Warriors had Draymond’s services in Game 5, they win the series that night. The Warriors couldn’t make up for Green’s absence both on defense or on offense, where he averaged 16.5 points in his six Finals games and was the Warriors assists leader in the regular season. Of course, Cleveland won the first of three straight games with that Game 5 win.
It ends with the Splash Brothers lack of production in Game 7. Neither Stephen Curry (17) or Klay Thompson (14), Golden State’s featured scoring threats, scored in the twenties. The Cavs scoring duo of LeBron and Kyrie Irving scored 27 and 26 points respectively. If either Curry or Thompson scores one more basket (in those final four minutes, maybe? *Warriors fan eye roll*), it’s very likely a game which was up for grabs until the closing seconds, ends differently. Instead, the pair finished the game shooting 6-24 combined from three. They simply didn’t show up at the most crucial of times. Green came to play in Game 7; he hit as many three’s as the Splash Brothers did! I mean fore pete’s sake, Steph! Klay! Where are you?!
It’ll be an interesting remainder of summer for the Warriors for sure. Not only does it provide for a dearth of time for the Warriors and their fans to revisit the final three games, but there are undoubtedly some interesting free agent storylines that will be at play. Kevin Durant? Dirk Nowitzki? Will they be playing in Oakland next season? Not to mention Harrison Barnes, whom I’ve already selectively wiped from my memory, hence why he has only been mentioned now. Time will tell. Life goes on. Except in Cleveland, they’re in uncharted territory.