Legacies are defined and greatness is measured by how many times victory is achieved in the NBA Finals. For the past three years, we have seen a real old-fashioned rivalry. These two teams have gone head up an astonishing 20 times in three years. A clash of modern day titans. One man chasing Jordan and one team chasing his Bulls.
But in order to have a defining moment, you must first be tested. The Warriors have rarely been tested in the last three years, let alone this year. In their last 31 games, the Warriors have only lost once. By his own admission in the post-game press conference, Steph Curry would admit “It’s been awhile since we’ve played in such a close game.”
Quicken Loans Arena was the site of game three. Every bit the hostile environment a home crowd is supposed to be. Cleveland fans heckled Draymond Green’s mother in the stands to the point CPD was involved.
It was loud it was raucous and the crowd had every bit the impact on the game that its Cavaliers did.
LeBron James is facing the end of his run. At 32 years of age, the King is no longer on the upswing and this Golden State team with another victory stands to become the greatest three year run in NBA history. James and his team fueled, by the energy of “The land”, played the best game of the season. The defense forced turnovers, was nasty, and played as aggressively as could possibly be strangely officiated.
With a full battery of teammates contributing in every way imaginable, James battered the Warriors with drive after drive. Switching up his style in game three, James began raining three after three on the Warriors. Finishing with a game high 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 9 assists, it became clear to the Warriors in the third quarter that the continued necessity of singularly Herculean efforts had robbed James of his legs. But having failed his team in games one and two, Kyrie Irving was a fully costumed Robin to James’ Batman.
Irving was magnificent in his own right, having previously been unable to shake the confining presence of Klay Thompson. Irving went off, scoring a total 38 points. In the third quarter where the Warriors usually dominate their opponents, the Cavaliers would finally take control and win the quarter +11. With his barrage of spectacular plays and lethal shooting the Cavaliers looked poised to take game three and reenter this series.
“I caught LeBron walking off at the end of the third quarter and you could just tell he was exhausted.” – Draymond Green
And it was precisely at this moment when the Warriors realized the Cavaliers were nearly finished.
The defining moment came with about 0:45 left to go in the game with the Warriors down one. KD dribbled the ball up court with James in front of him. In a sequence that can only be described as “as cool as the other side of the pillow”, with the game on the line, Durant trotted down the court and pulled up. Draining the go-ahead three right in Lebron James’ face. Redeeming himself for losing to James’ Heat in the Finals years ago. Validating his reason for leaving OKC in the first place. Joining a team that could beat the Cavaliers and win a title.
Defensively, the Warriors have been like watching a bullfight. The bull comes in, its majesty looking every bit the unconquerable beast. But slowly, through teamwork, cunning, and execution, the Cavaliers have given their absolute best and come up short.
More than anything, the Warriors have benefited from Kevin Durant’s slashing ability, the pick and roll and outside shooting presence. While this series is by no means over, 3-0 isn’t 4-0 by any stretch of the imagination. The Cavaliers still don’t have an answer for a few basic questions that have them on the brink of being swept away in another of Golden State’s historical conquests.