On Friday, the NBA Finals ended with a demoralizing yet almost inevitable result: The Golden State Warriors took home their second straight Larry O’Brien trophy and their third in four years, defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers by a score of 108-85.
Although the Cavs put up a good fight for much of the series, the final game exemplified just how large the difference between the two teams is, and all but closed the window for Cleveland to win another championship with the way the team is currently constructed.
On the night, the Cavaliers shot 35 percent from the field and just 30 percent from beyond the arc. Beating the Warriors is essentially impossible if a team is shooting that poorly, and Cleveland found that out the hard way as they shot below 44 percent on three of the four games.
Golden State shot 45 percent and 37 percent respectively. The team that shoots the ball better usually wins the game, and the Warriors just have better shooters than the Cavs. Speaking of shooting, Golden State nailed all 16 of their free throw attempts, while Cleveland went just 17-25 from the line. The Cavaliers weren’t hitting their three-pointers, and needed to get points where they could. They had the opportunity to keep the game close through free throws, but did not make enough.
One area where the Cavs won the battle was in transition. The Cavaliers had 10 fast break points to the Warriors’ five. However, this didn’t stop Cleveland from getting blitzed and losing control of the game quickly, as Golden State’s 25-13 advantage in the third quarter all but sealed things away early.
After his worst performance of the season in Game 3, Stephen Curry bounced back in a big way. He wasn’t able to win that elusive Finals MVP award, but his Game 4 outburst made the decision between him and Kevin Durant close. Curry scored 37 points on 12-27 shooting, and hit seven of his 15 three-point attempts. He added six rebounds, four assists, three blocks, and three steals.
Klay Thompson scored 10 on 4-10 shooting but only played 28 minutes, as garbage time began early. Draymond Green scored nine to go along with nine assists, three rebounds, and three blocks. JaVale McGee continued his stretch of solid play with six points, three rebounds, and one block in 16 minutes of action. Andre Igoudala added 11 points, two blocks, and two steals in 23 minutes off the bench.
Kevin Durant capped his Finals MVP-winning series with a triple double, as he scored 20 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, assisted on 10 baskets, blocked three shots, and stole a pass. Durant wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was in Games 2 and 3, but he didn’t have to be.
Pretty much no one on the Cavs played very well, including LeBron James. 23 points, seven rebounds, eight assists, and a block is a nice statline in a vacuum, but not for the best player in the world in an elimination game. His six turnovers did not help matters either. James revealed after the game that he played the final three contests with a broken right hand, which would explain his sudden shooting struggles after playing a fantastic series opener.
Every other Cavalier was even worse than James was. Kevin Love had nine rebounds, but just 13 points on 4-13 shooting. Tristan Thompson scored six points and had four rebounds, which made this year the second straight NBA Finals where Thompson was outrebounded by Stephen Curry. J.R. Smith had 10 points on 3-8 shooting, and George Hill went just 1-for-7 from the field and had as many fouls as points (three).
The bench fared no better than the starters. Larry Nance Jr. was the best of the bunch, finishing with seven points, eight rebounds, four assists, one block, and one steal. Jeff Green finished off his disappointing Finals with five points on 2-8 shooting.
For the second Finals in a row, Kyle Korver completely disappeared, as his 0-6 performance was comparable to his other games. After an impressive Game 3 outbreak, Rodney Hood had eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block, but also turned the ball over twice, and his 10 points came on an ugly 4-of-14 shooting.
When Cleveland traded Kyrie Irving, the team lost a huge part of what made it so dangerous. Irving was an exceptional isolation scorer who could space the floor and pass well; in other words, the perfect compliment to LeBron James.
Irving was to be replaced by Isaiah Thomas, who would ideally be comparable offensively in spite of his defensive shortcomings. But Thomas proved to be an incredible disappointment, and the Cavs were missing the offensive dynamic that allowed them to capture a championship in 2016.
The writing had been on the wall ever since Thomas returned from injury, but fans weren’t forced to accept the reality until after 11 PM on Friday night. The Cavaliers just didn’t have the star power to compete with a 73-9 team who had added a scoring champion MVP in his prime. The Warriors decided to do everything they could to slow down LeBron James and dare Cleveland’s supporting cast to beat them.
The Cavs had every chance to prove the doubters wrong, but couldn’t. As Golden State celebrates their title and prepares to compete for another next season, the Cavaliers are at a crossroads.
It is very possible that LeBron James decides to join another team this summer, but even if he remains in Cleveland, things have to change. The roster will need to undergo another deep cleanse in order to throw something else at the Warriors, as they have mastered the art of stopping the team of James, Love, Smith, Thompson, and others. The eighth overall pick is valuable, but is it valuable enough to add a player who would truly give the Cavs a good chance next June? We will have to wait and see.
A new era of Cavaliers basketball is about to begin, whether LeBron James is a part of it or not.One thing is for certain: this current Cavs team is not good enough to win another championship, and many changes will be made to correct that, as long as competing is still an option next season.