Tag Archives: Cleveland Cavaliers

Running Diary: Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals

This Game 6 has the chance to be legendary. The self-proclaimed (albeit universally acknowledged) best player in the world, carrying his broken-down team on his back, against the whirring machine of basketball perfection that is the Golden State Warriors? That’s compelling enough, appointment viewing, but adding in the tortured histories of the two franchises and the amazing basketball that’s been played so far this series makes this game warrant an official running diary.

I’ve done this a couple of times before, so you know the drill: I write down my reactions live, along with when they happen, as a way of recording what people were seeing, thinking, and feeling, at any given moment.

For the record, I have no real rooting interest in this game. I’m in a pool that I can win if the Cavs win tonight and lose Game 7. To hedge my bet, though, I bet with a friend on the Warriors in this game, so I don’t have any monetary interest in this game, leaving me free to root for a night of amazing basketball.

Anyways, the game is about to start, so let’s get to it!

9:11: And we’re off!

9:12: Interestingly enough, David Blatt is starting off with his twin towers, Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, against Golden State’s small ball lineup. In it, Blatt is hoping that all the benefits of the super-size lineup, particularly the offensive rebounds, outweigh the huge negative of having Mozgov, a center, match up against Andre Iguodala, a wing player, on defense.

9:15: Well Thompson just got a lefty hook for two points by posting up the much smaller Harrison Barnes. Cleveland’s size advantage is paying off early.

9:19: And just now, a couple of possessions later, Iman Shumpert got an open corner three off a Mozgov post-up. He missed, but that’s the type of shot that the Cavs need to create from their physical advantage.

9:21: One of the best things about the NBA is the chess match that occurs when teams try to shift matchups in their favor. A couple of examples of this to watch out for are with LeBron and Steph Curry. Iguodala is the only Golden State player who can stick with LeBron, so the Cavs will likely run their star through a series of picks to force a smaller player to switch onto him for a LeBron post-up. Likewise, the Warriors will likely plan a bunch of Curry-Draymond Green and Curry-Iguodala pick-and-rolls to get a slow-footed big man, either Thompson or Mozgov, to switch onto Curry. Then, as he’s been doing all season, Curry can dazzle them with a bunch of awesome dribbles, then swish a step-back three.

9:24: Iguodala missed his first couple of shots and just played hot-potato with the ball, afraid to shoot an open three-pointer. Luckily Curry bailed him out by nailing a corner three, but if Iguodala can’t hit shots from outside, Mozgov, who’s ostensibly guarding him, can just stick around in the paint, mucking up the spacing integral to Golden State’s offense.

9:27: The Warriors just breathed a sigh of relief as Iggy just hit a couple of midrange jumpers.

9:28: Again, with the size advantage, Golden State doubled a Mozgov post-up, leading to a nifty pass in the post to Thompson for a dunk.

9:29: IGGY WITH THE HEAT CHECK!!! CORNER THREE!!!

9:37: End of first quarter check-in: Iggy has seven points and a drawn offensive foul against LeBron, the Cavs star has only four points on a mere six shots, and Golden State had a fifteen point lead at one point. Their record when they lead a game by fifteen points or more at any point? 57-0. Ethan Strauss astutely points out that, in addition to this impressive record in these games, even more impressively, the Warriors are undefeated, an astounding 82-0, when they score more points than their opponent.

9:41: We head into the second quarter with Golden State up 28-15.

9:42: James with a crazy fade-away three as the shot clock expires.

9:47: One thing to keep an eye out for: the Cavs have shot eleven free throws already, with about nine minutes left in the second quarter. Klay Thompson has three fouls as well, which could prove troublesome later on, and even now, as Steve Kerr sits him so he doesn’t pick up another foul.

9:52: Mozgov with the emphatic rejection of Iguodala.

9:53: The comparatively small Leandro Barbosa was just forced to switch onto LeBron, and James took it to the hole for two points. It’s this type of switch I was talking about earlier, with the Cavs attempting to get LeBron a physical advantage over his defender for easy points.

9:54: Shumpert slams his body into a Green screen, knocking him over, mirroring the same play with JR Smith from last game.

9:55: ABC just showed that play from Game Four. Wow, Green’s really been setting some great screens.

9:56: No flagrant for Shump, Golden State to inbound the ball.

9:59: Cleveland’s made a little bit of a run, coming back to within five points, 34-29, after a Shumpert jumper.

10:00: Some nifty passing from Golden State on a transition play, leading to an open three for Harrison Barnes. Golden State with the 37-29 advantage with 5:07 left in the first half.

10:07: The free throw disparity is impressive, 17-2 in favor of the Cavs, but they’re still down by eight points. Eight of those free throws are from Cleveland’s twin towers, including six from Mozgov. It’s clear that Golden State’s smaller players are struggling with the bigger Cavaliers, although they’re okay with it as they’re making up for those fouls on the offensive end.

10:08: Shumpert and Iguodala each just picked up their third fouls. This isn’t good for either team, straining Cleveland’s depth, and depriving the Warriors of the one player who can effectively defend LeBron one-on-one.

10:11: Speaking of James, compared to the lofty standards he’s set for himself, he’s been struggling so far this game, with only nine points and two assists.

10:13: LeBron with a beautiful drive past David Lee.

10:14: Curry with a nice left-handed finish in transition against JR Smith.

10:15: James nails a three. 43-38 in Golden State’s favor.

10:16: Curry makes a quick pass to escape a double team leading to a basket from Green.

10:17: With Iguodala on the bench, LeBron has been having his way with Shaun Livingston. After those last two shots and a couple of free throws, James just slipped a nifty low-post pass for a Thompson dunk.

10:19: With the last possession of the first half, James drives, throws up an off-balance shot and misses, but Tristan Thompson follows up with a thunderous slam with less than a second left. The half ends with Golden State clinging to a tenuous lead of two points over the resurgent Cavs, 45-43.

10:36: The game resumes, and Cleveland begins the second half with the ball.

10:37: Mozgov makes a layup to tie the game at 45, then Thompson hits a shot to take the lead for the Cavs. They’ve combined for 22 of Cleveland’s 47 points.

10:39: Barnes hits a three to put the Warriors back on top by one.

10:40: Barnes steals the ball from Shumpert. Iguodala gets the ball on the other end, fakes a pass, and slams it in for a dunk.

10:41: Green nails a three off of a pocket pass from Klay Thompson. Warriors by six. Blatt calls a timeout to regroup.

10:48: LeBron takes on Thompson for an easy basket, then heads back down the floor to grab his tenth rebound. He’s got a double-double with 6:41 left in the third quarter.

10:48: Thompson picks up his fourth foul and Kerr takes him out.

10:51: Curry gets a rebound, dribbles down the court, and throws a bounce pass to Iguodala for a dunk to make it 61-51. Blatt calls another timeout to try and stop the bleeding. The Warriors are on a 16-4 run right now.

10:59: A nice play from the Warriors. The Cavs double Curry off a pick-and-roll between him and Green, Curry slips a pass between them to Green, and Green lofts it up for an alley-oop to Festus Ezeli.

10:59: Curry misses a three but Ezeli crashes in for a booming dunk, even drawing an and-1 foul on Mozgov. Ezeli hits the free throw and the Warriors lead by fourteen, 69-55.

11:05: The game seems close to getting out of hand. Green just bullied James Jones in the post for a couple of points, and Golden State takes a fifteen point lead.

11:09: The third quarter ends, 73-61, Warriors.

11:10: LeBron looks exhausted. He’s still been great, but not his usual otherworldly self, with a couple of lackadaisical plays where he’s been caught just standing around.

11:12: The Cavs have a 43-27 edge in rebounding, a 29-13 edge in free throw attempts, and three of its players have double-doubles. Its main problem is that they’ve turned the ball over fourteen times, to Golden State’s six. When you factor in that Golden State thrives in the chaos in transition that ensues after turnovers, it’s no wonder that the Cavs are playing from behind.

11:15: Down thirteen, LeBron just says screw it, drives down the floor on Barnes, and hits a layup.

11:18: James steals a pass from Green, gallops down the floor, and rises up for the dunk! A 7-0 run from Cleveland brings them to within seven. 75-68, Warriors.

11:21: Curry swishes a three and the lead is back to double digits.

11:23: LeBron passes to Mozgov for a dunk, 78-70.

11:23: Livingston with a put-back dunk off an Iguodala miss, making it 80-70.

11:23: Smith with a three on one end but Iguodala comes back down the floor to nail a three to keep the lead at ten.

11:24: Mozgov physically overpowers Iguodala on his way to the rim for a basket, Warriors 83-75.

11:24: Curry with another three!!!

11:26: Klay Thompson finally hits a three off a nice feed from Curry and it’s 89-75.

11:28: The officials miss a backcourt violation on Curry and instead call a kick-ball on Shumpert, giving the Warriors the ball. Kerr calls a timeout with 6:09 remaining in the game. It’s 89-77 and the Cavaliers are running out of time.

11:32: Off the inbound, Draymond Green passes to Iguodala in the corner and Iggy hits the three. That’s Green’s tenth assist, giving him a triple-double.

11:35: Klay Thompson was just called for an offensive foul and fouls out. He’s got more fouls (6) than points (5). Assuming the Warriors don’t relinquish their thirteen point lead with 4:16 left in the game, Thompson’s performance will be forgotten by history. He’s lucky he’s not on the losing team.

11:43: A right hook for Tristan Thompson and the lead is down to eleven with 2:39 remaning.

11:44: Curry slips past Shumpert and drives to the hoop for an uncontested layup. It’s 98-85, and the Cavs call a timeout with 1:50 remaining.

11:49: JR Smith just nailed the second of two threes, bringing the Cavs to within eight. They’re down 100-92 with 55.2 seconds left.

11:54: LeBron drove for a layup, then the Cavs fouled Curry, but he only made one of his free throws. Then JR Smith came down the floor and hit another off-balance three. It’s 101-97!!!

11:56: Curry hits two free throws and Smith finally misses. Iggy is fouled, hits one of his free throws, and LeBron comes galloping down the floor, jukes his defender, and sets his feet for a wide-open three pointer which he then misses. After a couple of fouls and missed shots…

11:58: THE WARRIORS WIN 105-97

Three Important Notes:

  1. LeBron could not look more exhausted. He gave it his all and it just wasn’t enough. He could not have done anything more than he did.
  2. The Warriors just finished up one of the best seasons in the history of the NBA. They went 67-15 in the regular season, and 16-5 in the playoffs, for a combined record of 83-20, the third highest win total in NBA history, behind only Michael Jordan’s two best teams in Chicago.
  3. Steve Kerr deserves plaudits for his risky gamble in starting Iguodala over Andrew Bogut for the last three games of the series.. It worked out wonderfully, and with it, he dictated the pace of the game, the matchups therein, and won all three of those games, to win the series, and the championship.

The NBA never stops moving, though, and while the Warriors bask in the glow of their championship, the draft hype is about to go into overdrive. The draft is eight days from now, on June 25th, and we’ll be back in this format for the draft.

Until then, all we can do is applaud the Golden State Warriors and toast the marvelous 2014-2015 NBA season.

Onto the draft!

The Lottery and the Cavaliers

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Well, I was in the middle of writing the Week In Review column about the lottery when I realized that I had enough to say that I needed to devote a whole column to expressing my thoughts on the lottery. Hope you enjoy!

The Cavs won the lottery. This has a lot of ripples, like tossing a boulder into a small pond. Most relevant to me, it’s going to be hard for me to write about how God hates Cleveland anymore now that they’ve won three lotteries in four years. Of course, the only year in the last year that they didn’t win the lottery had Anthony Davis as the top pick, the last ‘sure thing’ superstar center in the draft since 2008 when Greg Oden was the presumptive 1st overall pick (although we all know how that panned out) so maybe God STILL hates Cleveland. We can always hope. Or, maybe, three first overall picks in four years may be compensation from the Basketball Gods for LeBron leaving, and ripping their hearts out in the process. This is all waaay too confusing. Let’s hold off on a decision to make sure that Cavs don’t screw it up, either by taking Embiid and his back problems flaring up or taking a point guard like Dante Exum while somehow forgetting that they’ve already got an all-star point guard (see: Irving, Kyrie). Don’t count out the Cavs from doing something stupid like that, they’re capable of doing anything. They’re absolutely crazy.

 

Should the Cavs should be rewarded with the first overall pick? They’re incompetent and horribly run, but at least they tried to win this year. They sent picks and Andrew Bynum to Chicago for Luol Deng and they sent a couple of second rounders to Philly for Spencer Hawes, although that evidently didn’t work out too well. The question is whether or not the trying hard outweighs the fact that the Cavaliers are a dysfunctional organization.

 

This conundrum also applies to the Suns, Bucks, and Bobcats—wait, Hornets. (Quick tangent: As far as I can tell, the whole point of a team’s name is to sound strong and powerful. That’s why you see names like the Giants or the Kings throughout sports. I’ve always thought it amusing when teams use names like the Hornets—am I supposed to be intimidated by a bug? Being the Bobcats was a lot better and moving down the scale-of-scary-names was not a great idea. At least they weren’t as bad as New Orleans, who originally had the name of Hornets and then decided to become the Pelicans.  Wow, I’m scared. I suppose that tangent wasn’t all that quick, but whatever.) We’ll be getting to the Hornets in a bit but I’ll quickly go through the Suns and Bucks.

 

First, Milwaukee. They tried to win this year and never officially started tanking, but they were led by Herb Kohl who just wanted to make the playoffs. While they wanted to do well, they didn’t exactly go the right way about doing so. Of course, the best thing for them to do to be good is to tank (which is what they ended up unwittingly doing) just showing how weird it is to be in a league in which eight teams were aiming to willfully throw their seasons away in order to get better in the long run and how that strategy actually makes sense.

 

Now for Phoenix. Phoenix was planning on throwing away their season, but when they were unexpectedly good at the start of the year, the rolled with it and finished with 48 wins which would have made them the three seed in the Eastern Conference. Of course, in the West, they missed the playoffs and ended up in the lottery anyway. How are they not being rewarded for trying their best? To solve this problem, here’s what I propose: a complete change of the lottery system.

 

It’s always great when a borderline good team manages to acquire a transcendent player to turn them into a very good team. Of course, with the lottery, that never actually happens. Why not change the lottery around? Clearly, you can’t have tanking, nor can you have the elite teams getting even better, so here’s my proposal: You have the same lottery format, but with switched odds. So, this year, Phoenix would have had a 25% shot at the #1 pick. You can’t tell me that it wouldn’t be awesome to see Wiggins or Embiid tearing up the NBA with the Suns next year. Teams couldn’t purposely lose games because they’d be destroying their hopes for the playoffs AND for the lottery. The only potential downside is an eight seed tanking out of their spot for a good shot at the 1 pick, but that’s okay for three reasons: One, rather than having eight teams tanking, we’d only have, at most, two or three. Two, teams attempt to tank out of the playoffs to get into the lottery anwyay. This year the Hawks did their best to get out of the playoffs but they were unable to, due to the incompetence of the Knicks and Cavs. Three, it’d be fine with me if we were improving teams that were already half-decent. Why aren’t we doing this? Get Silver on the line!

 

The Cavs moving up to number one overall is quite bad for the Pistons as they had a top eight protected pick that they owed to Charlotte in the Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette bad contract swap. When the lottery began, Detroit was in the 8th spot, but when Cleveland moved ahead of them, they moved down to the 9th pick, meaning that they had to send it away to Charlotte. It means that the Pistons won’t have a draft pick in Steve Van Gundy’s first year, something that dampens the excitement that he brought to their organization. On the flip side, the Bobcats are an up-and-coming team and, after adding a high draft pick, they have a chance to get even better. That’s how the lottery SHOULD be, improving teams that are genuinely attempting to get better. Who would rather see a young star having his growth stunted by having to carry a crappy team by himself over a team that’s already pretty good getting two high-ish picks and reinforcements. For me, at least, it’s no contest. Charlotte now, depending on how well they pick, have a chance to improve enough to get the 4th or 5th seed, maybe even the 3rd seed (and if LeBron leaves Miami to go to the West, the two seed). Hell, if Toronto can get the 3 seed, certainly Charlotte with a couple of new, very good, rookies can too.

 

Other ripples: after destroying its team and MCW’s good habits, the 76ers only have the third overall pick and the tenth overall pick, which they got from New Orleans in the Nerlens Noel and top 5 protected pick for Jrue Holiday robbery—I mean trade. The Cavs moving up affected the Sixers a lot as they moved from the potential 2nd overall and 9th overall to 3rd and 10th.  Kind of sucks for the Sixers and their fans when after ravaging their team and throwing away a season they only get the 3rd pick. It’s great for everyone else though: it shows that tanking doesn’t result in a guaranteed superstar and that the lottery works (although that’s debatable after the Cavs winning three times in four years). Other than that, there’s all the aforementioned story lines in play from before.

 

Hope you enjoyed and I can’t wait until the draft (I think I’ll even write a running diary for that too).