In a Finals series that featured the NBA’s best team against arguably the best player in the league, the best team won. Indeed, as the Dubs’ popular shirt goes, there is “Strength in Numbers”.
The Golden State Warriors have finally exorcised the painful stigma of last year’s NBA finals collapse. After leading by a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead last year, the Warriors were mercilessly bruised, battered and brutalized by the unrelenting offensives of the bigger and brawnier Lebron James and company. The Cavs would celebrate their first-ever crown, at the expense of a Warriors team that had an overachieving 73-9 regular season record, yet an underachieving playoff run where they failed – so embarrassingly – to retain their crown.
This time around, the ‘small-balling’ Warriors came better prepared. With the recruitment of 4-time league scoring champion Kevin Durant, the Dubs steamrollered their way through the playoffs, bludgeoning the Portland Trailblazers, the Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs along the way before squaring off with last year’s nemesis, the Cavaliers of Cleveland.
For the third time, the Warriors and the Cavaliers would meet at centerstage. Eyeball-to-eyeball, nose-to-nose, grit-to-grit. Like two gladiators armed to the teeth, nostrils blazing, spittle drooling off their mouths, the Dubs and Cavs were mad dogs ready to pounce, do mortal combat, and kill or be killed in the process. This was no longer just a rivalry. This was war!!!
The precision-shooting Warriors would race to a dazzling 3-0 lead, with the first 2 games in shockingly convincing fashion. But the third game – played in a hostile Cleveland countryside – finally presented a truly competitive Cavs team. Although the Cavs would fall short in the last 2 minutes, the final 118-113 tally would prove tantalizingly sweet for Cavs diehards. For the first time, the Cavs would go neck-to-neck with the pedal-to-the-floor Warriors in a high-scoring ballgame, something that Coach Ty Lue had been praying for.
The stubborn Ty Lue finally got his wish when the Cavs overachieved in Game 4, registering eye-popping records for most points scored in the first quarter (49), as well as the first half (86).The final score of 137-116 would come out as a scoring record for a Finals game. Blame it on a lethargic and overconfident Warriors defense in the 1st quarter, as this would feed the confidence of the Cavs’ shooters. By the time the Warriors buckled down to work in the 2nd stanza, Kyrie Irving, JR Smith and the rest of Cleveland’s shooters had found their groove.
But that crazy scoring binge would not be sustained. By Game 5, Lue’s gamble to try to outrun and outscore the Warriors would fall flat. The Dubs’ firepower was simply too intense, too heavy, too much, too soon. And no amount of super-strength from Super Lebron could stop the super-frenzied Warriors’ counter-offensives.
The clash of titans is over. The Dubs have silenced the ghost of last year’s ignominous defeat. The Cavs go home with their heads bowed. Momentarily. The Warriors of the west are now 2-1 against their eastern rivals, the Cavs.
And their saga continues.
Will the stars connive to make the 2 super-studded teams meet again next summer? Will SuperMan bring in more super-friends in his fight against the super-team? Will the Dubs retain the core of this super-team that has been next to flawless this past playoff season? Are we witnessing the start of a dynasty, one that promotes a revolutionary small-ball concept? Are 4 superstars now the formula to make a champion team?
NBA 2017 has been a ball, sportsfans. Till next season!
All photos courtesy of NBA.