When LeBron James left Cleveland to “take my talents to South Beach,” six years ago, his home state made him public enemy number one. He tried to right his wrong by coming back to bring a title to his Cleveland, but failed after two-thirds of the Big Three were hurt for last year’s Finals.
Fast forward to this season’s championship, Cleveland falls into a 3-1 hole, and a vast majority of people start to write them off. His team needed him in Games 4-6, but they needed him the most in Game 7. And he showed up.
The game started off very slow offensively for both the Warriors and Cavaliers, with Cleveland taking a 23-22 lead. James was doing almost everything for the Cavs and tallied six points, five rebounds, and three assists, but also turned the ball over three times. Kyrie Irving, who absolutely shined as the perfect complimentary piece to LeBron, got off to a rather slow start as well with just four points on 2/4 shooting; the same was for J.R. Smith, who was just 2/5 with four points. Kevin Love, who was catching a ton of flak for being so unproductive throughout the Finals, was attacking the glass early and hauled in seven rebounds.
Draymond Green was doing his best impression of LeBron and was relishing every moment of the seventh game. He jumped out to a superb all-around quarter with seven points, two rebounds, and three assists while Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry combined for 11 points on 4/8 shooting. As was common throughout the series, the three-ball kept the Warriors relevant, and they shot 5/11 from downtown in the first quarter to keep pace with the Cavaliers.
The best players show up in do-or-die games, and Green was on a great trajectory after an explosive second quarter. Heading into Sunday’s game, Green was shooting just 29% from three but was able to light up Cleveland’s defense and shot 4/4 from deep en route to a 15-point period. Unfortunately, his teammates gave him almost no help and combined for the remaining 12 points. Most notably, Thompson didn’t hit a shot in five tries and Curry was just 1/4 for three points; it’s entirely possible that the game could’ve been put away if the Splash Brothers were most accurate.
Despite Green’s excellent quarter, the Cavaliers certainly didn’t help themselves with their futile offense. Outside of LeBron, who was 3/6 with six points, no other Cavalier had luck on offense and Cleveland hobbled to a 19-point quarter on 33% shooting. Irving was just 2/5 himself with five points. The first half closed out with the Warriors up 49-42, but both sides were atrocious offensively — Cleveland shot 38 percent, and Golden State shot 40 percent.
Out of the break, James’ individual offense was terrible. He was just 1/5 from the field with four points, but, in typical LeBron fashion, he dished out five assists and didn’t shy away from feeding his teammates. Irving didn’t suffer from a lack of offense and was just brilliant as usual. His 12 points led the team, and he did it efficiently with 4/8 from the field. Smith was also able to get going on offense and notched eight points on 2/3 from downtown. The Cavs field goal percentage jumped up to 52, and they slowly chipped away at Golden State’s lead.
After his 22-point first half, Draymond Green slowly faded out of the Warriors’ offense, and Thompson and Curry took 9 of the team’s 19 shots. Is it wrong for the two best scorers to take those shots? No, but Green was 8/10 in the first half, and the Splash Bros. were just 5/17 combined. Regardless, they finished with five each; Green had six, and Barnes led the Dubs with seven as they trailed 33-27 in the quarter and saw their lead trim down to 76-75.
Since I love objectivity, the fourth quarter was tragic offensively, but both teams were totally locked in defensively. Cleveland scored 18 points on 32 percent, and Golden State went for 13 while shooting 26 percent. Despite the lack of offense, the team’s went back and forth for nearly eight minutes. At the 4:39 mark, Klay Thompson scored a layup to tie the game at 89. And that was Golden State’s last bucket. Before that, LeBron hit a stepback three with the shot clock winding down to give them the 89-87 lead, but their offense wasn’t much better than the Warriors’ until the clock ticked under two minutes.
Kyrie Irving made a great move on Curry, threw up a floater, and missed everything. Andre Iguodala came up with the loose ball, passed it to Curry, and the two started a two-on-one fast break. Curry delivered an on-target pass to Iguodala, who went up and got blocked by LeBron, who made an absolutely marvelous defensive recovery.
That block gave the Cavaliers all sorts of energy, and it was evident on an ensuing play by Irving. Thompson, who had guarded Kyrie almost all series, switched off and left Curry on an island with the NBA’s most dangerous dribbler. Uncle Drew had Curry’s number all series, and this was no different.
He started to size up Curry. It began with a double between-the-legs move, followed by a hesitation, and then Kyrie used an in-and-out step back to create space.
It worked, and Irving elevated over the back-to-back MVP and drilled a three with Steph right up on him, giving the Cavaliers a 92-89 lead.
The game’s final score was by LeBron — only fitting, right? He went up for a dunk, got fouled by Draymond Green and went to the line after staying on the floor in apparent pain. He got up, knocked in one free throw, and walked off the court a short time later as an NBA champion.
The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals, and LeBron James was unanimously voted Finals MVP.
James had a third-straight scintillating performance and capped off the NBA season with a 27 point, 11 rebound, 11 assist triple-double; Kyrie Irving was spectacular as well and finished with 26. It’s also hard to overlook Green’s fantastic performance, as he finished with 32 points, 15 rebounds, and nine assists; Curry and Thompson weren’t so fantastic, and the two had just 17 and 14, respectively.
Game 7 By The Numbers
LeBron joined Jerry West and James Worthy as the only players to triple-double in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. (via Basketball-Reference; note: Jerry West did it in 1969, but their database only goes back to 1983-84.)
James led the Finals in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks, becoming the first ever to do that for an entire series.
The Warriors lost nine games in the playoffs after losing just nine all during the regular season.
Kyrie averaged 27.1 points per game in the Finals which was the highest ever by a teammate of LeBron. (via ESPN Stats & Info)