Wednesday, June 14, 2017

As Anticipated, the Dubs Wrapped It Up in Game 5

My other recaps this Finals:
-Game 2
-Game 3
-Game 4
No way would the Golden States Warriors blow another 3-1 lead.  Thus, they are the 2017 NBA Champions.
Hats off to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  They really did make a valiant push for a Game 6.  LeBron James led the way with his 41 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists, the finishing touches to what proved to be another monster Finals performance from the King.  In this eighth Finals appearance of his, he was able to record the most total triple-doubles made in the Finals (nine), as well as become the first player to ever average a triple-double in a Finals.  Meanwhile, Kyrie Irving didn’t go Super Saiyan like he did in Game 4, but still chipped in a solid 26 points.  J.R. Smith showed up for the third straight game – 25 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 7-of-8 from three point territory.  Early in the 4th quarter, they even cut the Dubs’ lead to three after being down by 17 at some point.

But against this Dubs team, these weren’t enough.  In Game 5, Kevin Durant had 39 points on 14-of-20 shooting, completing a Finals average of 35.2 points-per-game and doing so through “50-40-90” efficiency (while playing great defense, as well).  It comes as no surprise that he was awarded the Finals MVP.  In addition, Stephen Curry had 34 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists, which finalized his average this series at 26.8 ppg, 9.4 apg, and 8.0 apg – his best Finals outing among the three he’s been in so far.  If this had been any other Finals, he would have been the Finals MVP.
And as cherry on top, Steph shot this final trey over Kyrie -- a sort of "revenge play."  In the previous Finals' Game 7, Kyrie hit an iconic trey over Steph with 53 seconds left on the clock, which Steph failed to answer back.  I guess this play now serves as his answer, a year later.  
Draymond Green and Klay Thompson didn’t score much, but they played great defense, as usual.  I will be greatly disappointed if the former doesn’t win Defensive Player of the Year this season and if the latter doesn’t make All-Defensive First Team.
Aside from providing defense, the two also practiced some dancesport lifting in Game 5.
Klay, particularly, was awesome in this Finals.  He was a consistent relentless perimeter defender.  For several times, he had covered LeBron, Kevin Love, and especially Kyrie Irving successfully.  Even in the times they got the best of him and got their points, he still made them really work hard for them.

However, the Game 5 performance that delighted me the most is Andre Iguodala’s.  It’s nice for him to somewhat remind everyone that he was the 2015 Finals MVP, as he had his best offensive game in this series, earning 20 points through backdoor plays and emphatic dunks like this…
And it looked like LeBron was too scared to block any of them.

It’s really silly how people criticize this Dubs team for being too “stacked.”  Well, in the 80’s, the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics were also made up of All-Stars and former All-Stars, as well.  Also, it’s not like the Dubs assembled a “super team” the way the Heat did it: by seducing free agent superstars from across the league.  Rather, the cornerstones – Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green – had all been drafted by the Warriors.  How about a recent MVP joining another recent MVP’s team, a team which had just gone to the Finals?  Well, that isn’t unprecedented.  It already happened when Moses Malone joined Dr. J’s Sixers, and that team turned out being selected as one of the top 10 NBA teams of all time.  Thus, there’s really nothing scandalous with how the Dubs assembled their team.  And it’s valid to say that, in order to guarantee triumphing over a basketball celestial like LeBron, it had to take a 73-9 team that has the first-ever unanimous MVP (i.e. Stephen Curry) plus a Kevin Durant.

This Dubs team is an all-time great.  Hands down.  Despite LeBron probably having his best Finals yet, the Cavs still lost in just five games.  It’s a testament of how incredibly dominant this Dubs team is.  If not for that fluke of a Game 4 – where the Cavs had a record-setting game, while the Dubs had an off night – it would have been a sweep.
I’ve always been impressed with LeBron this decade, and I acknowledge his greatness (and I’ve kind of forgiven and forgotten how much of an arrogant, whiny bastard he could be).  As an NBA fan, I appreciate him as a player.  But, at the same time, I’ve also found it more fun rooting against him.   I mentioned this before.  But he’s like a ridiculously overpowered final boss of a video game.  Hence, in that sense, I root for the video game protagonist – meaning, whoever is LeBron’s opponent.

This had been the case with the 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 Finals.  But with the last three seasons, I wasn’t necessarily rooting against LeBron in the Finals; I’ve been genuinely rooting for the Warriors.  Ever since the Lakers stopped becoming a playoff presence, I’ve begun rooting for the Warriors come playoff time ever since their 2013 playoff run (wherein, at sixth seed, they upset the third-seed Nuggets, which had ten more wins than them in the regular season).

Look, I’ll always be a Laker fan.  But the Golden State Warriors has turned out becoming the first non-Laker, non-fictional, non-Philippine-national sports team that I’ve started to care for.  It’s because they’re simply a lot of fun to watch.  I honestly enjoyed them as much as I had enjoyed the Kobe-and-Shaq Lakers in the early 2000’s and the Kobe-and-Pau Lakers in the late 2000’s-early 2010’s.  They can thrive in both fast-paced transition execution and slow-paced half-court sets, and their defense is as sensational as their offense.  This team is objectively special.  As a basketball fan, liking and being awed by this team can’t be helped.
Indeed, they have tons of talented players.  But they dominate, not necessarily because they overwhelm opponents with sheer star power, but because they have such an amiably unselfish culture.  Even with two MVPs in the team, egos never clashed.  Heck, the Dubs may be a bit arrogant at times, but they never have to deal with jealousies or huge egos among themselves.  When Kevin Durant won the Finals MVP, Stephen Curry didn’t mind that it wasn’t him.  Klay Thompson could be “the man” in another team, but he’s perfectly happy with what he has with the Warriors.   Each one of them is as willing to take a back seat as he is ready to step up, whatever is required for the good of the team.  Durant doesn’t act like it’s his team, nor Curry.  It’s everyone’s team, and one’s success is everybody’s success.   Hence, this mind-set translates to how they play on the court – they don’t function as a set of talented individuals, but as a collective, unstoppable, well-oiled machine.  They don’t fight as Lion mechas; they assemble into Voltron.  They are a legit team.  Each one of them has prioritized looking to make plays for his teammates.  They screen for each other, pass to each other, and have each other backs.  It’s virtually perfect basketball.  “The Golden Democracy”, as what Kobe called them.

Being a Lakers fan, my greatest wish is for Coach Walton to replicate the culture and success he had experienced with the Warriors.  It would be nice if the Lakers could start winning again next season.  At the same, as a Dubs fan, I will be rooting for them to win the title again.

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