Monday, June 20, 2016

Cleveland Cavaliers make fans proud winning a title for the ages

June 19, 2016
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver hands the Finals MVP trophy to LeBron James after the NBA Finals Game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors played in Oakland on Sunday, June 19, 2016. (Thomas Ondrey/The Plain Dealer)
OAKLAND, Calif -- Has your heart stopped pounding yet?
Were there tears in your eyes when you saw the Cavaliers raise that trophy at midcourt of Oakland's Oracle Arena?
The Cleveland Cavaliers are champions. Let's repeat that: THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS JUST WON THE NBA TITLE!
As I write those words, I'm still having a hard team believing it.
Final score: Cavaliers 93, Golden State 89. Game 7 of the NBA Finals. As the players danced and embraced and stomped and screamed and cried ... Cleveland fans were doing the same thing.
And the Clevelanders who somehow secured tickets for this game were chanting: LETS GO CAVS ... LETS GO CAVS!!!
This was all happening on the court of the team that was 73-9 in the regular season, best ever in the NBA. This was happening on a court where the Warriors had lost only two home games in the regular season.
This was happening on the road ... and remember how the Warriors won the 2015 Finals and celebrated at Quicken Loans Arena. That turnaround was very sweet to the Cavs' players and coaches.
This was happening because a team from Cleveland didn't just make history, it changed history.
The Cavaliers put up a stop sign to a streak of 164 seasons in which no major Cleveland sports franchise has won a title -- the last being the 1964 Cleveland Browns. Fans watched their team do something that has never happened in NBA history -- come back from a 3-1 deficit to win The Finals.
They watched their team do it behind the leadership of their native son -- LeBron James. He is the MVP of the The Finals, and no one else was a close second.
Yes, this is why he came back ... to bring a title home. As he said on the court after the game, "Cleveland, this is for you."
James did it in MVP fashion: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists. He had three tremendous blocks, including one late in the game when he put on his cape and flew seemingly out of nowhere to block an Andre Iguodola layup.
James played 47 of the 48 minutes.
After six games, each team had scored exactly 610 points. And this one wasn't decided until James swished a free throw with 11 seconds left to put the Cavs ahead by four points.
James scored 11 of the Cavs' 18 points in the fourth quarter. And the defense held the Warriors to 13 points in that final period.
But there was more.
There was Kyrie Irving showing that he is worthy of the moment, a prime-time playoff performer, putting 26 points next to his name. There was Irving swishing a 3-pointer with 53 seconds left to break an 89-89 deadlock.
There was Irving showing James, "You don't have to do all this alone."
There was Kevin Love ... the Cavalier who has received the harshest criticism ... showing up to grab 14 rebounds and score nine points.
There was J.R. Smith scoring 12 points and playing gritty defense on Klay Thompson, who scored an ugly 14 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
You want a label for this -- something besides The Drive or The Fumble? It's gotta be THE COMEBACK.
In Finals Game 7s, the home team was 15-3 entering Sunday, with the 1978 Washington Bullets (over Seattle) being the last road team to win.
Entering the Finals, the Warriors were 9-1 on their homecourt. The fans were insanely loud, standing the entire game -- often chanting WAR-YOURS ... WAR-YOURS.
"If you don't feel pressure in a Game 7, you're probably not human," said Golden State coach Steve Kerr. "I told our guys that. Of course, they're going to feel pressure. Of course, there's going to be some anxiety. But how lucky are we to feel that pressure? You could play on a lottery team your whole career and just make a bunch of money and go watch playoffs every year."
It was pressure. Players were nervous. But in the end, the Cavs prevailed.
"People ask when is the right time for LeBron to step up and take over," said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. "He's really done that in The Finals. He's put us on his back. We were down 3-1 and our backs were against the wall. He understood that he had to do more, and he took it upon himself to do that."
Before the game, Lue told his players: "You've been leading up to this moment your whole life, your whole career -- to be put in position where you're in the NBA Finals, Game 7. And with a chance to win it all. You couldn't ask for a better or bigger time."
James has now won three titles. He's been to The Finals in each of the last six seasons.
"Everybody counted us out," said James. "When everyone counts us out and we come back to win ... this is why I came back home."

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