POSTED: Jun 20, 2016 12:30 AM ET
GameTime: Locker Room Celebration
The Cleveland Cavaliers celebrate in the locker room after winning the 2016 NBA Finals.
After being down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the Cleveland Cavaliers put together a run for the ages, winning Games 5 and 6 to even the series and push it to a decisive Game 7.
And what a game it was. Momentum swung like a pendulum, as different players took turns stepping up and shining in the spotlight, whether it was Draymond Green hitting five threes in the first half or J.R. Smith getting hot to start the second half.
But at the end of the epic series, the ball was in LeBron James' hands with the chance to ice it, and to bring a championship to his hometown of Cleveland for the first time in 52 years.
And King James delivered, not only a 93-89 victory for the Cavaliers, but also a championship trophy and NBA Finals MVP trophy.
Congratulations to the World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. But before the party starts, let's look at what went Right and Wrong in Game 7...
LeBron With The Jam
LeBron James drives in for the two-handed slam.
James did it all throughout the series, and the Warriors had no answers for him in Game 7. James repeatedly created and searched for mismatches against Golden State and exploited them, and turned in several signature moments in Game 7, including a ferocious dunk in the first quarter and a chase-down block of an Andre Iguodala lay-up in the fourth. With the Warriors leading 87-83 with 5:24 to play, James scored six consecutive points. LeBron finished Game 7 with 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, three blocks and two steals, and played all but one minute. LeBron led every player in this series in every significant statistical category. "For me, I'm true to the game, and I know what I bring to the table," James said. "I came back for a reason. I came back to bring a championship to our city. I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew what I learned in the last couple years that I was gone, and I knew if I had to -- when I came back, I knew I had the right ingredients and the right blueprint to help this franchise get back to a place that we've never been. That's what it was all about. Right now it's just excitement. It's not even relief. It's just excitement for us as a team, as a franchise, as a city, as a community. To be able to continue to build up our city, to continue to be an inspiration to our city, it means everything. I'm happy to be a part of it."
LeBron Sends It Back
LeBron James goes up for the nice block.
The two-time MVP had averaged 31 points per game in games 3, 4 and 5, and said he needed to play the game of his life in Game 7. But after a Curry three tied the game at 83 with 6:57 remaining, he didn't score again. The Cavs worked hard to involve Curry in pick-and-roll coverages and make him defend, and over the final 5:38, Curry went 0-for-5 with a turnover, including missing four three-point attempts. Curry finished with 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting from the field (4-of-14 on three-pointers). "A lot of it was kind of myself kind of leading the charge and settling too much," said Curry. "At home in the fourth quarter, I felt like we could go for that dagger punch and didn't really put any pressure on the defense getting to the paint and trying to force the issue that way, and really just kind of settled too much. That's something that is tough to kind of swallow with the opportunity we had in front of us."
Irving With The Clutch Three
Kyrie Irving nails the 3-point jumper to put the Cavaliers up by three.
Kyrie Irving has always had the ability to get to the basket and finish against basically any defender. But in Game 7, it was a contested three-pointer that became Irving's signature moment. Irving got rolling in the third quarter, scoring a dozen in the period. With the game tied at 89 with 53 seconds to play, Irving isolated against Curry on the right wing and drained a long three-pointer to give Cleveland the lead for good. Irving averaged 27.3 ppg over the first six games of the Finals, and finished with 26 in Game 7.
Golden State lost starting center Andrew Bogut to a knee injury in Game 5. After going to a smaller lineup in Game 6 and getting outrebounded by 10, Golden State coach Steve Kerr went to a bigger starting five in Game 7, inserting Festus Ezeli and using Anderson Varejao for long stretches. Ezeli and Varejao play a total of 19 minutes, and combined to score 1 point and had 1 rebound. Together, Ezeli and Varejao posted a -18 plus/minus rating. When Kerr tried to steal minutes in the fourth quarter with Ezeli, James forced the Warriors to switch and repeatedly took advantage of Ezeli. "My thought there was that they were not making threes, and LeBron in particular had not made a three," Kerr said later. "And I really felt like we needed rim protection. They had gone big. They had Love and they had, obviously, LeBron and they had Tristan. I felt like we needed to have rim protection. And Festus obviously gives us our best option there, and LeBron made a great play, a couple of great plays, and that helped turn things."
The Cavs' big man had a roller coaster ride in the Finals, missing a game due to a concussion and scoring just two points in Game 5 and seven points in Game 6. But with Cleveland's rebounding machine Tristan Thompson in foul trouble early in Game 7, Love attacked the glass, grabbing seven rebounds in the first quarter and finished with 14 rebounds and nine points.
The Warriors' big three may be Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, but Barnes is often the benefit of the chaos they generate, getting open shots when they draw double-teams. In the regular season, Barnes averaged 11.7 ppg and shot 46-percent from the field. In Games 5 and 6, Barnes went a combined 2-for-22 from the floor, scoring a total of five points. In Game 7 Barnes shot 3-for-10 from the field, finishing with 10 points. Barnes finished the Finals shooting 25-for-71 for 35.2-percent. The Cavaliers gave Barnes open looks, but he wasn't able to capitalize.
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