Thursday, June 14, 2018

Top 10 Moments of the 2018 NBA Finals

Finals recap:
Other memorable moments of the 2017-2018 NBA Season:

This year’s Finals was pretty short due to a partly disappointing sweep.  Nevertheless, I thought it didn’t lack entertainment value, and there was a couple of memorable moments – amazing ones, fun ones, disappointing ones, weird ones.  Here are my ten-ish favorites (as well as thoughts on why LeBron isn’t the Greatest Of All Time yet):

10.) Love and LeBron’s Recurring Facial Expressions in this Series

It was like each time Durant or Curry put up a shot, Love was expecting a heart attack to happen.

Meanwhile, frustration was the key theme of LeBron’s face.

9.) Draymond’s Reaction When Informed that J.R. Smith Claimed He Knew the Score Was Tied
This happened during his post-game interview after Game 1.  As what I’ve often declared, Draymond Green has the personality of a WWE Superstar.  This is once again so apparent here.  The comedic timing of his snappy head tilt was so perfect, it made everyone in the room – as well as everyone watching the interview – laugh.

8.) When Klay Thompson Immediately Googled Himself After Game 4
Draymond: “Oh, snap!”
Klay: “Yeah!”
Draymond: “Klay just googled himself… they say ‘three-time champion’ already.”

Another hilarious Warrior moment.

7.) When LeBron Folded at the Challenge of Locking Down KD
LeBron is great.  But overall, I was really disappointed with his Finals performance this year.  After a playoff run in the East that made me think he has finally developed a killer instinct and the willingness to be relentless, regardless of how stronger or weaker the opponent is, this Finals showed that there’s still the old LeBron in him that checks out whenever the going gets tough.

The sequence above is the embodiment of LeBron’s attitude in most of the Finals.  KD was on fire in Game 3, and the Dubs were up by three with under a minute left.  The Cavs required a stop to keep themselves in the game.  Instead of rising to the occasion by confronting KD and locking him down, LeBron timidly retreated away, delegating the task to the hapless Rodney Hood.  What happened next turned out being KD’s biggest moment of the series (see no. 2 of this list).

6.) When the Oracle Arena Crowd Savagely Trolled JR Smith in Game 2
With J.R.’s iconic Game 1 blunder in mind, the Warriors fans rewarded him with a loud standing ovation during player introductions in Game 2.  Then later, while on the line to shoot some free-throws, he was given an enthusiastic “MVP” chant by the crowd.  No chill, Dub Nation.

It was the most hilariously surreal moment of the Finals – outside, of course, of J.R. Smith’s hysterical slip-up itself.

5.) LeBron’s Finals T-Mac Impersonation Part II
He should do this in every Finals he gets into in the future.  If ever, this play would become more of a signature play of his than of Tracy McGrady, who usually performed this during almost every All-Star game he was in.  How so?  Simple.  The Finals is a bigger stage than the All-Star Game.

4.) When Steph Curry Set the Record for Most Three-Pointers in a Finals Game
Among the nine treys, this wizardry over Kevin Love is definitely the most memorable.

3.) LeBron’s Legendary Game 1 Performance
Against a titanic powerhouse team that boasts several future Hall of Famers – and in the biggest stage of the season no less – LeBron went Ultra Instinct in Game 1, dropping 51 points.  It was arguably his greatest game of the season.

Disappointingly, it was the first and only noteworthy game from him in the Finals.

I was really hoping he would rise up to the challenge and tenaciously perform with such kind of badassery all throughout the Finals.  Now, I wasn’t expecting him to win the entire thing.  But I expected him to be a nightmare for the Warriors in every single game, in a way that would make them appear vulnerable – just like in that Game 1.  I expected him to be the mighty final boss of a video game that a party of players had to gang up on.  Though they would eventually beat the game, as gamers usually do, it would be a struggle nevertheless.  I expected him to be the Thanos to the Warriors’ Avengers.  Though ultimate victory is an inevitability for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in Avengers 4, the Mad Titan at least gave them a tremendous blow in Infinity War.  I expected LeBron to play perpetually like he did in Game 1.  I expected him to average around 50 points a game.

Is it unfair to hold him at a ridiculously higher standard and expect that much from him?  Absolutely not!  Isn’t he supposed to be the GOAT?  If so, expecting him to play like a god among men in the Finals is only appropriate.

2A.) KD’s Legendary Game 3 Performance
I put Kevin Durant’s Game 3 performance over LeBron’s Game 1 performance because of the context of that game.  It was a game in which Steph and Klay shot a combined 3-of-15 from behind the arc for 21 measly points, while Draymond Green only grabbed two rebounds.  The Warriors would have lost even if KD had a good game.

But KD didn’t just have a good game; he had a transcendent game.  Okay, let me take back what I said about LeBron going Ultra Instinct in Game 1.  Rather, LeBron was Jiren in Game 1, and KD was Goku getting pushed into going Ultra Instinct in Game 3.  Yes, that metaphor works much better.

Anyway, KD did everything for the Warriors in Game 3.  He persistently made buckets.  He created scoring opportunities for teammates with his playmaking.  He crashed the boards.  He played great defense.  The result: 43 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, and – most importantly – the win.  The title and the Finals MVP were basically won at the final buzzer.

Of course, the most unforgettable part of KD’s performance is the “déjà vu dagger”:

But almost as unforgettable is…

2B.) The Warriors’ Hilarious Immediate Reaction to KD’s “Déjà Vu Dagger”
KD being deadpan like a boss as Steph and Draymond scream at him like giddy hippos was so bizarrely comical.

1A.) J.R. Smith’s Epic Fail
Of course, it’s number one.

1B.) LeBron’s Meltdown on the Bench

Immediately after Game 1, I thought that the footage of an utterly upset LeBron briefly chiding J.R. after such boneheaded gaffe was going to be the defining image of him in this Finals:

But a few days later, footage of the Cavs bench prior to Game 1’s overtime went viral.  His reaction after confirming that they still had a timeout left is probably going to be more iconic:
The total demoralization was apparent.  It looks like it was at this exact moment where LeBron psychologically threw in the towel.  After towering like a Titan in regulation, he shriveled in overtime – and the LeBron of the first 48 minutes of the 2018 NBA Finals never showed up again for the rest of the series.

Sure, I understand that the situation was brutally heartbreaking.  Game 1 should have been a Cavs win.  If not for a charging call that was overturned into a blocking call after review, which should not have been reviewed in the first place.  If not for Kevin Love giving Steph Curry a weakass “and one” foul instead of a firm one that would force a missed layup.  If only George Hill didn’t choke and miss his second free-throw.  If only Coach Lue made sure that everyone was aware that they had a timeout left and had the foresight of instructing everyone to call for a timeout if they grabbed the offensive rebound and got into a pickle.  If only J.R. Smith wasn’t a buffoon.   All of those things piling up on you when you just phenomenally scored 51 points must be exasperating beyond imagine.

But, again, I expected more from LeBron.  J.R. Smith is J.R. Smith.  Hilariously botching things is somewhat of a given from him.  On the other hand, he’s LeBron effin’ James.  Isn’t he supposed to be better than Kobe or MJ?  If that is true, then he should have had the same – if not greater – kind of sociopathic mental toughness, competitiveness, and focus that those two had.

If it had been Kobe or MJ in LeBron’s place, he would have channeled all those frustrations into concentrated wrath, that in overtime – and throughout the rest of the series for that matter – he would unleash it on the Warriors, playing like he would like to rip their throats out.  Kobe and MJ’s MO was turning negativity into motivation.  They were like the Incredible Hulk.  The greater the adversity, the angrier they got.  The angrier they got, the stronger and fiercer they became.  As a result, they wouldn’t back down from any big challenge.  They would go all out.  And thus, you could expect that when they lose, it meant they had been legitimately subdued despite their stubborn resolve.  Not because they waved the white flag.

At the very least, if LeBron had chosen to rise above the adversity and just played his heart out,  I honestly would only have pure respect for him, win or lose.  His 3-6 Finals record wouldn’t have meant a thing, as long as he showed that he went down swinging till the end.

Hands down, he is an all-time great.  However, considering all the things I stated above, to elevate him now as the GOAT is plain silly.

No comments: