Well, unfortunately Cleveland fans have been forced to watch another chapter in their long run of sports misery tonight.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, better known lately as “LeBron James and Spare Parts,” were eliminated by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. As valiantly as the Cavs fought to stay alive in a series many thought they were going to get swept out of, it just wasn’t enough in the end. Golden State celebrates their first title since 1975, and Cleveland fans are yet again forced to wait for a next year that continually avoids them.
You’ll read the final score of Game 6 and see what appears to be a close contest. You’ll see a fourth quarter in which the Cavs scored 36 points thanks in part to a last-minute flurry that ended up all for naught. But, dig deeper into the box score and you’ll see that, despite only losing by eight points, Cleveland put forth an effort that was just too haphazard to overcome.
19 total team turnovers. If you want to find a reason as to why the Cavs were forced to watch the Warriors accept the Larry O’Brien trophy on their court, it’s tough to find a bigger red flag than this. Cleveland started the game as sloppy as possible, practically spoon-feeding Golden State opportunities thanks to poor ball-handling and bad passes, just to name a few issues.
Off of said turnovers, the Warriors cashed in 25 points. If there’s one team in the NBA you don’t want to give additional chances to, it’s Golden State. Tonight, they gave you a prime example of this.
Sure, the Cavs turned the final two minutes of the night into a furious rally in attempts for one last-ditch effort. But, it wouldn’t have been necessary if it weren’t for all the mistakes. With Quicken Loans Arena roaring from the get-go and a chance to save their season, the Cavs – in no uncertain terms – dropped the ball.
James, despite a game-high 32 points, was also responsible for a game-high six turnovers. Falling an assist shy of yet another triple-double, it certainly appeared as though fatigue was becoming overwhelming for him. It’s understandable, sure, since James has had to play a ton of minutes after watching key teammates drop like flies due to injuries. Regardless, in a game as crucial as tonight’s, you simply can’t give your opponent more ways to hurt you.
The Cavs did so in Game 6, and as a result, their season has come to an end.
Now, I don’t want this to seem like a slight on James. There’s a zero percent chance the Cavs even sniff one Finals victory without the enormous contributions the four-time MVP turned in during this series. Unfortunately, the losses of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving meant someone else needed to step up and help James, and he just didn’t get enough of this.
Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov were able to contribute double-digit points tonight, and each had a strong series overall. Outside of these two, though, the Cavs just couldn’t seem to find anyone to contribute offensively this series.
Iman Shumpert was understandably struggling through injuries to his shoulder and groin, but it was clear the confidence in his shot was shaky throughout the Finals. He shot 1-for-6 tonight, and the rest of the series wasn’t much better.
J.R. Smith saved his best for the final minutes of tonight’s game. His three-point shooting finally showed up, albeit when the contest was all but finished. Outside of this, he was a no-show more often than not this series. Without Love or Irving, the hope was Smith’s long-range shooting could be a huge secondary option for Cleveland. Unfortunately, even when it showed up, it didn’t stay long.
The Cavs fought hard all series, but at the end of the day, it’s just too difficult to overcome the miscues which plagued them in Game 6. When they occur against a team as loaded as Golden State, it only makes things worse.
Cleveland now preps for an offseason of intrigue, as they have contract talks with Thompson and (hopefully) a Love opt-in on the agenda. Make no mistake, though; the mishaps the Cavs dealt with tonight will certainly be on their minds for a long time.
As for the city itself, it’s another summer where, once again, the focus is on a wait for the elusive “next year.”