NBA Finals 2017: Game 3 Recap & Game 4 Predictions
Alright. My vagina officially hurts from riding this bandwagon. But, let me just filter through the back and forth claims of hypocrisy real quick...
There are absolutely parallels when it comes to the decisions of Durant and LeBron. Both did, as many other super-stars have in the past, left for greener pastures with the back of their hands facing competitive spirit, middle finger drawn. From the perspective of an athlete with a legacy on the line and a ferocious desire for glory, you can't blame them. You can't blame the lobbying of a team to other star players. Every team does it during free agency. The league revolves around achieving enough W's in the regular season, and a minimum of 16 W's in the postseason. The 24 hour a day media is like an unreachable succubus that has nothing better to do than to drain from your image, one whisper of criticism at a time. If you aren't flawless, you're worse than nothing - you're a let down. This goes for the front office and ownership chairs in the league as well, mind you. Ticket sales, contracts, commercials, jersey sales, TV deals, endorsements, shoe deals, social media buzz, awards, rings, & the ever grandiose Hall of Fame recognition. Majority of us would not fancy the pressure.
LeBron left Cleveland for a 47 win team in Miami to join Wade with the understanding that they could lure Bosh over as well. He did it in a juvenile, unnecessarily flashy manner. Their salaries relevant to the cap at the time, without taking the max, did not allow for anything other than rookies and aged, but still functional role players, to surround themselves with on this near-completely retooled team. They were top heavy and by the end of the 2011 post season, saw the cracks in their game plan be exposed. They required an entire season to figure out how to mesh their games in a non-overlapping fashion and to build a motivated bench.
Durant left OKC for a 73 win team in Golden State to join a team with an established core, coach & game plan. This was at the time where the salary cap sky rocketed thanks to the new broadcasting deal. It allowed the Warriors to shed a few contracts and sign one of the top three players in the league to go along with one of the other top three players in the league, along with their existing core of All-Star's. They've went 13-4 in games without Durant this season, including two playoff games. Their head coach hasn't been present during a significant portion of the playoffs. They're now on game away from sweeping the entire playoffs in what was probably an average of over 20 points a game. Durant was one game away from beating this Warriors team last season when being up 3-1.
You feel me? This is something important. And at the same time, irrelevant.
In 2010, Durant was a critic of LeBron's decision. In 2016, he surpassed anyone's wildest dreams of collusion. There are similarities. There are also subtle, distinct differences. Hindsight will continue to determine just when the popularly fantasized spirit of competition was gutted.
LeBron James is now averaging 32/12/10 throughout these finals. I said that the last-ditch effort had to be him and Kyrie going off for 40 each with their surrounding teammates hitting open shots and playing defense. Well, they were a collective 3 points short of that. Their teammates were a hell of a lot further from their perspective game plans. I don't know what to say. LeBron James has been in the midst of conversation as the greatest player of all time this season. The Warriors are now in the midst of conversation as being the greatest team of all time. This is a team sport. Not sure that I need to elaborate further. Durant? Left Oklahoma to develop as a player and as a man! That's cute. Wonder how much that publicist made to write that shit for him. K.D. circa 2010 would be able to elaborate better than I can right now.
Game 3 was the best of the series thus far. Durant killed it in the final half minute due to the energy he was allowed to conserve with having multiple options to fall back on. That's the key difference there. Cleveland has the sporadic Love, hobbled Kyrie & best player in the world. Pepper in some weak seasoning of role players that are still hungover from the previous championships like J.R. Smith, whom apparently hit the sauce early after the game 3 loss and now claims that his twitter was hacked after claiming Cavs in 7. Don't get me started on how bad Deron Williams has been. He's scoreless in his first, and probably last, finals debut. Can't pass either. Essentially every possession of his has resulted in an air ball, or turnover.
It was clear that by the fourth quarter of game 3, the Cavs were gassed. They missed key shots and Durant drilled a dagger of a three in LeBron's face just as LeBron had done multiple times throughout this series. Both individuals have gone off. This isn't a series of who is the better player. This is a series of teams. This is a series of who was the better G.M. This is a series of behind the scenes moves that simply reached different results when it came to addition.
Going into game 4, Cavaliers need to follow the same game plan from the previous game while urging Tristan Thompson to show up defensively on the boards & Kevin Love showing up offensively. This also means LeBron and Kyrie going for 40 a piece. This feels like repetitive nonsense at this point with the constant what if's and if not for's. Cleveland's juice ran dry early in the Boston series. They're not clicking in the seamless fashion that GSW is right now. They beat the odds last season and became the first team to recover from a 1-3 deficit. Will they double up on the odds and come back being down 0-3? Probably not minus injuries and supreme levels of choking. The sort that first united Golden State with Durant...
...sorry, I can't help it. Look, I'm perturbed like the rest of fans and critics. This feels off. Something's missing. Feels like a slow drain of the spinal fluid within the NBA. There's a deterioration of the quality. Of the product. Moth's have infested, and believe me it ain't the player's faults. A cheapening of fabrics. Direct reflection of money, power & struggle. Legacies are on the line in game 4 just as much as they were in game 1. Durant is high-stepping toward the pedestal. LeBron is resting on having already accomplished his promise. Doesn't go far enough to detract from being 3-8 in the finals should game 4 transpire as expected. But how far of a legacy can Durant build off taking the easiest possible of paths, and succeeding? Who knows, maybe he's right and no one will remember any of this by the time he's 49 and retired. Maybe that's just how our minds work in this fast-twitch media age.
Anyone that has ever criticized LeBron, and now find themselves as a bandwagon fan of Golden State out of spite, should automatically remove themselves from any and all arguments having to do with basketball. Because they don't get it. They're reactionary. Knee-jerk. Hypocritical. I'll be the first to admit that I hated LeBron, fresh into my basketball entrée that was 2009. I was first learning about the game and uploading any and all data into my cerebral. Learned quickly of the stats of the game, but not so much the meat of it until I developed a love and understanding for the game itself. Of the spirit of competition that goes into it. The lack of days off to be great. The unruly nature of the beast and all the intellectual patterns that go into understanding the fast-twitch movements and decisions that make up every second that ultimately decides whether you win, or lose. They'll criticize him for passing to a wide open Korver who's made a career off hitting those corner threes. Feels again, like a tired argument being revived. He's made a career off disrupting defenses physically and making smart plays. If it had made sense in his head to continue the drive, I have no doubt he would have chosen that.
A lot of people will be happy when Cleveland loses game 4. They'll be happy in the oddest of ways while reminiscing on the deserved hate back in 2010; conveniently forgetting that he returned and delivered on his storied promise in a historical fashion. As the greats do. But what makes a player great in this media driven age? What's in a legacy? Accolades be damned. What about the details? Maybe this is just fan-driven drivel. Hell, ratings are up higher than ever. Maybe we should really just be asking ourselves, our we not entertained? I'll jump off the bandwagon of GSW hate soon, I'm sure. Can't blame the players at the end of the day. I'll just echo for right now what a lot of people feel, and that is cheated as a fan.