June 10, 2015

LeBron James Puts Cavaliers Up 2-1 on Warriors: The Cleveland Cavaliers won game 3 of the NBA Finals Tuesday night, a 96-91 victory over the Golden State Warriors. LeBron James nearly had another triple-double and Matthew Dellavedova scored a three to halt a Warriors rally, crashed the lane and scored with a foul from Stephen Curry and dellave-dove for some loose balls. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is losing his mind over the possibility of James winning it all with such a motley crew. "This possible championship will hold the deepest significance in history," he writes. "It is the greatest basketball story told."

posted by rcade to basketball at 10:00 AM - 16 comments

This is getting ridiculous.

posted by tron7 at 10:48 AM on June 10

No matter what happens from this moment forward, it already feels historic. And the Cavaliers have already made their mark. If the Warriors prevail, it will be seen as the Cavs being supremely valiant in defeat. LeBron has a locked in look about him that is unreal.

I'm still living off the afterglow of what the Pistons did to the Lakers in 2004, and thus far, this is more remarkable. What Cleveland has going for them is that LeBron knows what it's like to be on the more talented team and get outplayed for the title.

The Warriors right now remind me of Tony Dungy's Colts: brilliant when things are going according to the script, and at a loss when the script is tossed out and victory has to come from marshaling what core essentials can be found deep within. I greatly admire what Steve Kerr has done this year, but I'd fly Coach Izzo in to talk to Draymond and his teammates before Game 4.

posted by beaverboard at 10:52 AM on June 10

This really is an incredible time to be a basketball fan. Regardless of the outcome, this will be the kind of series you bore your kids telling them you saw live over and over again.

Every time LeBron drives as if he's playing against shadow opponents on the playground when he was 12 (in that - this is exactly how I scripted my own solo games in the NBA finals), I feel the collective cringe from all those folks still clinging to the "yeah, but he hasn't" elements of his resume. That list is getting smaller and more insignificant by the minute.

posted by dfleming at 11:20 AM on June 10

As good as the story is, I feel like the Warriors are one great stretch from restoring order to the universe. They'll hang 20 in a row on the Cavaliers to make a game a laugher and Stella will get her groove back.

posted by rcade at 11:40 AM on June 10

I feel the collective cringe from all those folks still clinging to the "yeah, but he hasn't" elements of his resume. That list is getting smaller and more insignificant by the minute.

100% agreed. I listen to our local sports radio occasionally and after game 2 despite his triple-doubles and his 40+ ppgs, the loudmouths trying to stir controversy were focusing on his last quarter performances and tried to spin the stats to say that he still was a fader where it counts: in the last minutes of the game.

Well, not yesterday. He hit a killer three just when it looked like Stephen Curry was summoning his godlike powers for the win, and then Lebron hit (most) of the essential free throws he needed to to seal it. How you could see his performance in these last 3 games as anything but rare and epic is beyond me.

posted by jeremias at 11:40 AM on June 10

As good as the story is, I feel like the Warriors are one great stretch from restoring order to the universe. They'll hang 20 in a row on the Cavaliers to make a game a laugher and Stella will get her groove back.

Despite my last comment, I also tend to agree with this. Stephen Curry had the look of a legendary assassin with a major grudge at the end of last night's game. It's hard to imagine him *not* having a monster game tomorrow.

The one day off between the next game also has to work in the Warrior's favor, the Cav's injury list continues to swell (pun intended).

posted by jeremias at 11:47 AM on June 10

If James pulls this off (and it's still a big IF), I'm having a hard time thinking of a comparable "King and his Court" championship win in any other sport.

The closest I can come is the 1992-93 Montreal Canadiens winning the Stanley Cup. It was (in rough terms) all-time great Patrick Roy and some "good" players. Denis Savard was a shell of his former self by then and the other notable players are definitely not HOF material (Damphousse, Muller, Carbonneau).

While the LA Kings (their opponent in the finals) did finish lower in the standings than the Canadiens, they were a team filled with HOF players (Gretzky, Robitaille, Kurri, Coffey, Blake).

Everyone pretty much agreed that Roy's performance carried that team to the title.

posted by grum@work at 11:49 AM on June 10

They'll hang 20 in a row on the Cavaliers to make a game a laugher and Stella will get her groove back.

It's been interesting to watch and I don't know if it'll sustain, but Dellavedova has done an insane job on Curry and has exploited the fact that the Warriors need him to put points on the board to get everyone else going.

He's playing him more physical than anyone seems to do and is giving him no room for uncontested quick-release threes. It doesn't help that he's now hospitalized, but his effort on D to prevent the easy 3's that get Curry in a rhythm makes the GS offense look a lot less potent.

I don't think Curry's down and out, but it's become pretty clear that Klay and company can't shoulder an off-night from Curry against a D this committed to every single defensive board and second-chance opportunity. They are getting chased around the court on every play and every lane is getting filled.

So it looks to me like it's Curry or bust for GS (or another Cleveland injury) unless they can match Cleveland's relentless heart at this point. GS hasn't shown me that they deal well with adversity or getting outworked well yet.

posted by dfleming at 11:53 AM on June 10

Mike Bossy in 1982 (I wasn't alive, but my dad showed me those tapes) is up there in terms of that kind of thing, but it's really hard to individualize 4/5 of the major sports the way you can 5 on 5 basketball.

posted by dfleming at 12:04 PM on June 10

The closest King and court team I can think of off the top of my head is the 1988 Dodgers with Hershiser. But nobody had dubbed Hershiser the best of his generation only to have him exceed all expectations and venture beyond the existing accolades. And his supporting cast wasn't that pedestrian, but they were significant underdogs going into both the LCS and the Series. Hershiser just had a historic extended supreme moment that carried his team to the title.

posted by beaverboard at 12:09 PM on June 10

The 1982 Islanders had a LOT more talent than just Bossy.

They had one of the 5 greatest defensemen of all time (Denis Potvin), and HOF players in Bryan Trottier and Billy Smith.

(I refuse to acknowledge Clark Gillies as a "Hall of Fame" player. Ugh.)

posted by grum@work at 12:13 PM on June 10

Yeah, the 1988 Dodgers are more of the "scrappy underdogs with good players overcome evil team", but it's a good comparison.

The closest comparison I can think of where the team did NOT win would be the 2002 SF Giants. Barry Bonds pretty much carried the Giants all the way to the title with a very minimal* supporting cast.

*I'm hand waving Jeff Kent, and that's a mistake. He was a star player as well, and had a good playoffs. But Barry Bonds was other-worldly: .356/.581/.978 in 74 plate appearances, so the narrative was pretty much Bonds vs everyone else.

posted by grum@work at 12:23 PM on June 10

As good as the story is, I feel like the Warriors are one great stretch from restoring order to the universe. They'll hang 20 in a row on the Cavaliers to make a game a laugher and Stella will get her groove back.

I agree but I felt that way after games one and two as well. I'm starting to waiver on if it will come or come in time.

Whatever happens from here on out, this is going to be a memorable series. Either the series goes long or the Cavaliers pull a monumental upset. Even if the Warriors blow their doors off for three straight we'll remember the first three games stretch out of LeBron.

posted by tron7 at 01:13 PM on June 10

James might be doing well because he has no pressure on him.

If he wins, then it's a "greatest of all time" performance.
If he loses, then it's a "valiant effort" because of the injuries around him.

If he really feels that way, maybe he's simply relaxed now and that's freed him to perform at another level.
(Sort of like after he won his first title, the next one was even easier.)

posted by grum@work at 01:24 PM on June 10

But Barry Bonds was other-worldly: .356/.581/.978 in 74 plate appearances, so the narrative was pretty much Bonds vs everyone else.

In the World Series he put up an insane .471/.700/1.294 in 30 plate appearances!

posted by Ying Yang Mafia at 02:44 PM on June 10

In the World Series he put up an insane .471/.700/1.294 in 30 plate appearances!

Yeah, but in his second at-bat of game two he swung badly at a slider, so how good was he really?

/LeBron comments

posted by dfleming at 04:50 PM on June 10

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