Former Cleveland Cavaliers beat reporter for Cleveland Scene, write news/policy cover stories & music features at magazines and alt-weeklies nationwide.
Mayhem broke loose last night at Oracle Arena in Oakland. To Golden State fans it was as though a perfect storm materialized directly above, out of stylishly thin, California Cool air. The storm had been brewing for weeks, of course, but their myopia prevented them from seeing it coming.
Dressed in Hawaiian shirts and sporting noisemakers, they stepped aboard the Titanic, Warriors comforted in their choice of such a grand, seagoing vessel, that could never in a million years sink. Why, in the entire history of the NBA nothing like it had happened.
The pall has hung over Cleveland more than half a century congealing into an identity. Now frustration and heartache is who we are. Though the times of sand can shift in a moment, Northeast Ohio’s been waiting at the end of the line an awfully long time. But we don’t need to tell you that.
On the brink of long-promised salvation, we want to tip our hat to the journey. All those years of hurry-up-and-wait with their imprimatur of pain and unbending agony have yielded their first true chance of cessation since Jose Mesa. The best thing, it’s said, about banging your head on the wall is the sweet relief once you stop.
History may be written by the victors, but time makes its edits, especially when the lines were perhaps too hastily composed. The Cavaliers have turned what many perceived as a rout into an obstacle course Golden State’s having trouble completing, sending the Warriors to their third double-digit defeat in four games last night, 115-101.
Here’s the thing – 73 wins are nice and everything, but Veni, Vidi without the Vici is just tourism. After failed two elimination games, the Warriors look shakier Bill Cosby’s defense. Golden State’s legendary composure is cracking worse than the latest losing combatant to a hydraulic press. Maybe they underestimated the intensity of LeBron’s will?
Coronations are never easy. But after last year’s NBA Championship, a 73-win season and more preening than you’d see in the typical episode for My Super Sweet 16, many analysts and Warrior-acolytes (when not one in the same) perceived the NBA Finals as an afterthought. After the two games in Golden State, the thought of the series even going five games seemed implausible to them.
There was an urgent knock at the palace door. Inside a thousand poets were busy penning paeans to the Warriors, while a thousand sculptors tinked out marble tchotchke figurines and a thousand ESPN employees designed new statistics to highlight how completely radical, totally awesome and utterly boss the Warriors are.
If you haven’t read the reports, Kevin Love credited his Sunday’s second half breakout of the Cavaliers 101-97 victory over the Pacers to a talk with LeBron James. That conversation’s been spun in a variety of ways from scolding to pep talk, but the important thing, as more than one scribe’s pointed out, is that they’re communicating.
The game was one of the finest you’re likely to see during the regular season, akin to one of those classic Sugar Ray Leonard-Roberto Duran fights. There were relentless offensive flurries and hard-nosed defensive bursts in the first and second halves (respectively). But the constant throughout was the mano-a-mano between James/Irving and the Spurs’ old/young stars Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.
LeBron. Kyrie. Kevin. The rest of you fellas. We brought you here because we care. We want to see you succeed. Yet time after time we see you repeat the same mistakes, offer the same lame explanations, then self-sabotage again. It pains us to see you spiral backwards on the underside of a boulder like a cartoon Sisyphus.
We don’t want to meet your gaze when you say it doesn’t matter how many passes are made before a shot, despite evidence to the contrary. We try not to snicker when you call out your teammates for not playing defense, throwing rocks from within your glass house.
How can we not be disappointed when we see your potential, then witness inattentive failures like last night’s 104-103 home loss to the Boston Celtics.
What goes around comes around is about as basic as the golden rule, and it’s particularly true of the game of basketball. You can often hear LeBron James talk about playing the game the right way which he speaks of in the same tone as a mystic might divine living. Last night the Cavaliers passed so close to basketball nirvana you could almost hear the Om.
Somewhere in the middle of the fourth quarter of Tuesday night's game you could hear Garven Dreis muttering to himself like a Cleveland sports fan: “Almost there, almost there.” The sadness of his heroic run at the Death Star’s exhaust port – culminating with Darth Vader gunning him down – is that he never got to see the victory.
The poeticism of LeBron James goes well beyond his preternatural balance of grace and force. His play’s a physical representation of Schopenhauer’s “Will and the Idea,” a conception of reality as but a perception upon which an indomitable will strives to stamp its imprint.
The race’s very survival is based on this instinctual mix of dissatisfaction and ambition, as though the world were ours to bend. Indeed maybe it is, though few alive possess the ability to rend time and space into awe-inspiring origami like James’ performance last night.
Welcome from the Bay where after a thrilling overtime game the NBA Finals was decided by X-ray. Though the diagnostician never made it onto camera, the postmortems were written before the shutter could blink: “Kyrie Irving out for months with injury; the Cavs may not win another game.” If disrespect were a mason jar, the Cavaliers would already be pickled and on the shelf.
Basketball is played between the lines, which is fortunate for the Cavaliers because the media had already ordered toe tags after the season-ending injury in game one to Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving. Instead, the Cavs won 95-93 in overtime on Sunday night, showing the kind of gritty resilience that allowed them to weather the two-game suspension of JR Smith, and the loss of Kevin Love and Irving once before on their way through the playoffs to the NBA finals.
The first game of the NBA finals in Oakland between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers resembled the Thunderdome (“two enter, one leaves”) with both teams pushing through the door simultaneously. It took an extra session to determine the victor as the Warriors found another gear while the Cavaliers ran out of gas at the end of regulation.
The Warriors took a 3-2 series lead in the NBA finals on Sunday night with a 104-91 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers in another physical contest that bore only occasional resemblance to the one-sided affair many had predicted at the outset.