Is there a sports curse inflicted upon Cleveland? I know they have been tortured for decades and decades and decades without any sort of championship. I know “The Drive” that John Elway orchestrated in the 1987 AFC Championship Game tore the hearts out of Cleveland fans. I remember watching the 1997 World Series – and the collapse in the late innings by the Tribe in Game 7 that handed the title to the Florida Marlins.
I know bad things have happened to Cleveland. But are they actually cursed? After Game 1 of the NBA Finals, they might just be.
Before the series rematch began, most experts believed this was a coin flip. But for Cleveland to win, (1) Kevin Love needed to show up and be consistent – 20 and 12; (2) they needed to find a way to stop the hot 3-point shooting of Golden State; and (3) they had to aggressively attack the paint on both ends of the floor.
Well, let’s see how the Cavs did:
- Love went for 17 and 13 – not show-stopping but not bad. Definitely good enough for the Cavs to win. Check.
- Warriors’ sharpshooters Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20 points on 8 of 27 shooting. From 3-point land, both teams shot 33% — for Golden State that is a far cry from the 40-plus percent they shot during the regular season and playoffs combined.
- Cleveland out-rebounded their counterparts 47-41 – as expected.
So you look at the stats and what the Cavs, seemingly, needed to do to win, and you probably think they at least gave themselves a great shot. But then I expand on it and tell you that Golden State’s leading scorer was Shaun Livingston, 20 points; that LeBron James was an assist shy of another playoff triple-double; and Kyrie Irving led all scores with 26 points. KInda crazy if Cleveland lost now, right?
Ummm …. see what had happened was.
What happened was the Warriors’ bench had themselves a game – to the tune of outscoring the Cavs’ bench 45 to 10. Guys like Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa carried the load when superstar guards Curry and Thompson had off shooting nights.
Furthermore, while the Cavs won the rebounding battle inside, the points in the paint shockingly favored the smaller-sized Warriors, 54 to 42. With the outside shooting off target most of the game, the Western Conference Champs relied heavily on backdoor cuts for easy buckets in the lane and 12 to 15 foot floaters by players who fill their roles perfectly in head coach Steve Kerr’s system.
What it all amounted to was a 20-point Warriors’ lead in the 4th quarter. When such great shooters like Steph and Klay are off and your team has one of the greatest players to ever put on a uniform, you need to take advantage and steal that game on the road. Instead, Cleveland got beat by role players, Golden State’s bench, and smaller lineups who somehow won the scoring battle inside.
And then just when the Cavs looked to be making a run – cutting the deficit to 11 from 20 with 3 minutes to play, Steph and Klay go all Steph and Klay. Back to back 3s from the Splash Brothers just when the Warriors needed them, and that was the icing.
If Cleveland really isn’t cursed, I’m at a loss explaining this one.