The Golden State Warriors achieved their revenge for the mark left by the Cleveland Cavaliers on their 73-win season last year by conducting a 4-1 gentleman’s sweep of Cleveland to take the 2016-2017 NBA Finals.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love played in the same NBA Finals, and all there was was whining. Complaining about super teams, not enough defense, too many sweeps, not good enough for a sweep, the officiating—and so on. When did we as NBA fans get so spoiled? Reason being the theme of this Finals, apparently, was dissatisfaction from everyone I talked to. Here are three reasons why this was one of the best NBA Finals in recent memory and maybe further.
1 – The record books were rewritten. Setting aside any franchise or playoff record and only looking at NBA Finals records broken, this was a ridiculous Finals. It was the first time the same two teams have faced off in three consecutive years. In game four alone, the Cavs set a record for points in a quarter (49), in a first half (86), three-pointers made in a half (13) and game (24), while LeBron passed Magic Johnson in Finals triple-doubles with nine. Both sides also combined for 154 points in a half, another record. It should also be noted that the Warriors broke the record for three’s made in a quarter with nine the game before, while joining elite company with a 15-1 record, something done only twice before. The Warriors also had a ridiculous 122-point average throughout the Finals, another record. The Warriors also set a record in the Finals with a 15-game win streak through the playoffs until game four of the Finals. The Warriors also tied the NBA Finals record for fewest turnovers in a game one with four. Durant also made his way into the record books, becoming just the sixth player ever to score 30 or more points in every Finals game of the series; Meanwhile LeBron, for his part, averaged a triple-double for the first time in Finals history. Sensational.
2 – The talent present was astonishing. Between the two starting rosters, 11 players have made an All-Star appearance (another record). For the starters alone, 30 All-Star games were represented. LeBron, Irving, Curry and Durant are all players every team in the league would build around. All of them consistently take over games for their teams and are not afraid to take the big shot with the game on the line. The players behind them— Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Love—are all stars with the ability to control games in their own right. But they do not just score; with the starters for both teams combining for 163 double-doubles in 2017. The games were high-scoring affairs because of the insane amount of talent in the games, not because of poor defense. The silky way that these stars of the sport, players that have bested the world more than once in basketball, against one another to constantly push the bar of greatness was something to behold.
3 – The Finals showcased the changes in the game, not the flaws. Yes, more points are put up than before, the stats go up in gobs and smaller players can find success around the rim because of differences in how the game is called. None of this made the Finals bad. Every sport, even one as set in stone as baseball, changes and evolves with the incoming talent that shifts from one skill set to another over years and decades. Every sport changes the rules set by those before in an attempt to make the game safer, or more entertaining to watch. When looking at the Finals, instead of complaining about the defense, take note of the ease in which these players can create their own shots, get to the rim, pull-up, catch and shoot, as well as facilitate.
Wrapping it all up –
Super teams are going to happen as long as we continue to dumb down an entire career to how much jewelry a player retires with. When legacies are made by raising a banner, we can expect those players to be good enough to control their fate and try and make sure they end up as one of the greats.
All of this should not takeaway from what we saw in five games. The incredible efficiency shown by both teams along with the ability for so many players to launch a deviating attack from deep, as well as drive to the basket was matched by every super star’s willingness to give up the ball and facilitate for a bucket. And while all the wins ended in large margins, the constant deep threat always kept one team in it and most of the opening three quarters offered only six or so points of separation. These were great games—do not let pessimistic NBA fans tell you different.