2015 NBA Finals Post Mortem

It’s over. Congratulations to the Golden State Warriors, 2015 NBA Champs. They earned it by plowing through the regular season, rolling to the Finals, and catching an injured Cavs squad that didn’t have the bodies to match up. They complete their historic season with MVP Stephon Curry and rookie head coach Steve Kerr.

Lebron is dead! Lebron is dead! Ding dong, Lebron is dead!

Lebron is dead! Lebron is dead! Ding dong, Lebron is dead!

 

If we had a healthy Cleveland team featuring Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to go along with Lebron James – that would have been a heavyweight battle for the ages. Instead we got to see Lebron try to beat the Warriors more or less by himself, and he got amazingly close, but just didn’t have the talent left on the bench to put down the Warriors. 5 of the 6 games were close but as the time wound down the Warriors had the depth and energy to persevere.

Lebron dropped historic offensive numbers while picking up the slack for his injured scorers. The 2 replacements from the bench (Tristan Thompson and Matt Dellevadova) had to play heavy minutes, completely depleting the Cleveland bench and leaving Coach Blatt with very few options.

The Cavs did get a little pat on the back for effort, the Cleveland fans showed out nicely (louder than the “roaracle”), and Vegas gave the city of Cleveland it’s “wait for next year” hope by making the Cavs the early favorites as the 2016 champs!

 

20k inside the arena, 20k outside the arena. Well done.

20k inside the arena, 20k outside the arena. Well done.

Series Reset 1-1, Moving To Cleveland

Why The National Media Continues to Favor The Warriors

1. They refuse the Eyeball test. Stats are interesting, insightful, and of course the most important single stat determines a win or loss. The new generation of analytics along with our visually mobile culture create an environment where we are easily swayed by charts and graphs. Basketball is suffering through this currently. There are ‘new method verse old school’ arguments around, and in this case I split the difference. Show all the stats and graphs you want, but don’t disregard the eyeball test! Lebron looks like he wants that Trophy more than he ever has before, his team is wounded and scary, they are bigger, play better defense, and who picks against that? Warriors look like they’ve never been there before, the coach and entire roster. Oh yeah, they haven’t. 9 rings on the Cavs, 17 Blatt trophies, and that shows in that no one on the Cavs are sweating (except Kevin Love at every mention of Kelly Olynyk.)

SLAM!

SLAM!

2. Know the sport.  There are fundamental rules in the NBA game that many people miss. First – Playoffs are different than regular season. Regular season is actually the pre-season and people never understand that. Everything is harder in the playoffs. Everything s l  o   w    s   down, every window closes, every gap is smaller, every possession matters. You know the rule that good offense beats good defense? Reversed in the playoffs. Teams shut other teams down, destroy their offense, sweep them out at every level of the playoffs. No team would beat the same team 4 games straight in the regular season but the playoffs are different. Therefore, any analyst that talks about the regular season during the finals is rubbish.

Regular Season? You talking about the Regular Season? We ain’t talking about the Finals, we talking about Regular Season? We ain’t talking about The Finals. The Finals. You asking me about Regular Season?

 

POW!

POW!

These false experts also forget that the NBA Finals is closer to a pickup game played before the world than any formal event featuring beautiful basketball exhibitions. It’s a blood bath, a grind house, a painful struggle that only true champions survive. Cleveland learned this lesson in 2007 when professional champions from Texas exposed our overachieving newbies and a virgin GOAT. Fools underestimate the Eastern Conference champs every year based on regular season offense, combining both mistakes into the great lie. It’s 5 on 5, 1 basketball, for the chip, and regular season stats, politics, concepts, and offense go out the window.

Shump!

SHUMP!

3. Play the sport. If you, your kids, your brother, even your cousin you hang with spent real time playing basketball then you know a real baller, both playground and organized team. They didn’t need to be great themselves, just good enough to be on teams, go to practice, be on travel teams, good enough to get picked at the courts, and to even hold court. If they were professional or semi-pro they are experts. Yes high school counts, maybe even middle school! Bottom line is until you’ve jammed your hip and ass into some dude’s sweaty crotch over and over to keep him off the boards and chop him down a bit on offense you don’t really know basketball.

Appetizing description, I know, but my point is reading or watching basketball is not playing basketball. It’s a grind, it’s a game of sweat, cuts, poked eyes, bent fingertips, millimeters, frustration, and anger. It’s not stats, a narrative, or psychology. Most analysts never played, and only some of them admit it and let the real experts drive their narrative.

ROAR!

ROAR!

National analysts follow bandwagons and they follow sexy stories. We saw it a decade ago with Lebron. Perhaps the Miami version of Lebron wore out his welcome and the narrative has pushed past him, therefore he is not the sexy story, the obvious story, and this is basketball, not Hollywood. Austin Carr said the Warriors play “good basketball but pretty-boy basketball”. Welcome to the trenches.

Game 2 Notes: Nothing Stunning At All

The Cavs have been having their way with the Warriors for most of the series so far. The first 2 games have been controlled by Cleveland throughout, with leads being elusive and short-lived for these overly-hyped regular season Warriors. It could be 2-0 either way, but each game had the Cavs ahead with the Warriors making late runs to get back in the game.

I sense the virginity at Oracle. True, the Cavs organization has no NBA championships, but there’s 9 championship rings on that roster compared to 0 worn by Warriors. I don’t even think a Warrior player has ever even been to the Finals, whereas the Cavs have 22 previous Finals games on the roster. [See Tales of the Tape for the lowdown]

Steve Kerr is much loved and respected around the NBA. He won 5 rings as a player and was popular on TV. But he’s a virgin as a coach. Blatt has coached 17 championships. 17. Discount that all you want, it’s still more than Kerr.

Steph Curry is much loved and respected around the NBA. Steve Nash perhaps helped the Cavs last week by declaring Curry the best shooter of all time!  But he’s a baby-faced virgin too, on a bigger stage than he’s ever been on.

The media is still amazed at how this supposedly superior Warriors team and being handled by what they consider a 1-man show from a weak conference coached by a newbie. None of this is true, even though it’s the narrative they are all pushing.

Golden State is the latest NBA gimmick, and gimmick’s don’t always win championships. Sometimes they do, and I’m not writing off the Warriors completely. I do believe they were the best regular season team but that means nothing now. They are still capable of shooting 50% from 3 and spanking the Cavs. It’s a long series.

You are now going to see the best basketball player in the world play in front of the best fans in the best NBA arena. Sure Oracle might be slightly louder, but it’s due to the ancient building’s lack of acoustic treatment, not because Warriors fans are somehow more psyched than Cleveland fans.

No California sports fans are out-rooting Cleveland sports fans. Cavs fans know the game, know that defense is more important than “splashing”, and know when it comes down to the game on the line, they’d take Lebron Ramone James over anyone not named Michael circa 1992.


 

Previous Finals Posts:

Game 1: Missed Opportunities

NBA Finals: Tale of the Tape

Cavs v Dubs: The Main Event

Game 1 – Missed Opportunities

Wow what a game, what a story.

The big Russian dunks on everyone!

The big Russian dunks on everyone!

First off, message sent.  Everyone claiming the Warriors were clear favorites, ready to wipe the pathetic “leastern conference” champs out with ease, watched the Cavs handle the Warriors for most of the game. Cleveland responded to every Warriors run, made just as many big shots, and controlled much of the game. The “Roaracle” sat nervously on it’s collective hands.

Secondly – what a huge missed opportunity! The first team to get a road win takes the advantage and the Cavs had one right in their hands. They couldn’t finish it out in regulation, let the Dubs take a late lead, then had to tie it and had nothing good for the last shot. Lebron was very good but a stepback three is not needed there, he should have driven and looked for contact.

Then after 44 minutes played Kyrie tweeks his knee again and the Cavs collapse in OT. Uncle Drew had looked good until then, scoring on and defending MVP Curry, but it wasn’t enough.

Warriors are the deeper team but they looked small compared to the Cavs. They are also dirtier under the glass than I thought — holding, pulling, and applying arm-bars all over Tristan and Mozgov, and very few were called. Bogut and Green used every trick in the book to keep the Cavs off the glass, and most of them were illegal, but almost nothing was called.

I’m more surprised than mad about that. The Warriors were more physical than the Cavs and they got away with more dirty plays, and I expected that to be opposite.

I still say Cavs in 6 or Cavs in 7. Lebron, Mozgov and Kyrie played well for the Cavs but no one else really did. Lebron outscored the splash-bros by himself. If/when the Cavs click they are going to blow the Warriors out, hopefully they do it at least once in Oakland.


Previous NBA Finals posts:

NBA Finals Tales of the Tape

Cavs v Dubs: The Main Event