These Eyes

David Richard/USA Today Sports

One timeout was all that separated the Cleveland Cavaliers from potentially, vitally making this a series. We were so close. We were as close to Heaven as we’ll ever be. But JR Smith had other ideas.

Cleveland never stood a chance. The Cavs entered the game as 12-point underdogs, and that seemed generous, a testament to LeBron James’ enduring greatness. We all knew how this was going. I repeat – we all knew how this was going, but we played along, for the jokes and the rap beef crossover humor and the KD/Colangelo crossover humor and the good times we had otherwise.

And then…and then, well, okay. JR went ahead and did a JR thing, knocking out Klay Thompson[1] early, and then LeBron instilled his will on the Warriors, and the game of basketball, by enabling offense from everyone around him.

By that, I mean that LeBron scored 51 points in 48 minutes, to go along with eight rebounds and eight assists (Don’t ever say LeBron did nothing for you, fellow Cavs). He was -13, but he was most certainly responsible for Jordan Clarkson going 2-9 for 4 points and being a +8. Kyle Korver, by the way, Ty Lue, because I know you’re reading, was +10 in 17 minutes.

Larry Nance Jr. had just about the best game one could’ve expected of him off the bench. Tristan Thompson’s box numbers aren’t great, and he got cooked early on a few pick-and-rolls that ended with him on either Durant or Curry, but he disrupted enough to make a reasonable impact. Kevin Love was pretty great, coming off a concussion!

It didn’t mean a thing. Outside of David West, who was nothing short of atrocious in his limited time, and Patrick McCaw, who played admirably in spot Iggy minutes, every Warrior was a plus player, many substantially so. Curry hit five three-pointers out of eleven; Klay was 50%, and Draymond showed up for once in these playoffs. That was more than enough, because it always is.

It all unraveled so perfectly. There was the call on LeBron, a Durant charge that turned into a block because of NBA rules minutiae the likes of which I won’t bore you with here. If you’re interested, well – actually, don’t bother. Keep scrolling, and we’ll get to everything else.

About that last possession: George Hill missed the second free throw, which is all-important. The refs were not at the top of their game, but everybody has a different opinion about that. I default to the game being won on the court itself, but enough people more knowledgeable than I raised enough suspicions that I have a raised eyebrow when looking upon everything[2].

Substantively, JR Smith got after it in a very “Don Zimmer-attacks-Pedro Martinez” way. That dog just wasn’t going to hunt, under any circumstances. With a timeout in hand, Earl decided he was going to freestyle, and he busted out a whirlwind of moves before ripping his pants the widest-the-fuck-open they’ve ever been, and this is a man whose pipe has been nigh-caucus fodder. JR Smith stopped caring about the kids years ago, and it manifested itself in the dung he put on display in that last possession. Nice knowing you as a substantive NBA player, Earl.

This was the Cavs’ best shot. I have to believe that, because I’ve seen how the Warriors respond to getting punched in the mouth, and it mostly looks like the overtime period elongated. Steph Curry is healthy. Klay is fine. Kevin Durant once brought me so much joy that I hypothetically invited him to a wedding/ordination via Twitter, so he’s alright. An Andre Iguodala was never going to bring this down.

LeBron James has literally had the greatest playoff run in the history of the NBA for an individual player. He rolled in wearing suit shorts, the ultimate in men’s fashion, and rolled out with an all-time performance.

It was nearly enough, but it wasn’t. The Warriors, full of confidence at having taken the GOAT’s best shot on the chin and survived it, will probably stroll out and put up 40 on the Cavs in the first quarter of Game 2, so we all have that to look forward to.

*     *     *

[1] Who, despite his role in the 2016 Western Conference Finals and subsequent KD-to-Golden State drama, as well as his saving of the Warriors’ season this year against the Rockets, remains the most innocuous star of the Warriors’ stars

[2] You are at your will to decide. Choose wisely.


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