Dearly beloved, a little over six weeks ago, in the prophetic tradition, it was revealed that this “spiritual ballfare” would come down to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. Throughout the entire 2016 NBA Finals that needed all seven games, it always seemed it ultimately would end with the Warriors as the winners.
My thought, not Black Thought, who kept us abreast at what was at stake before each game, was that the back-to-back crowning appeared to be a fait accompli. This scenario fit the first 335 minutes of game action, until Kyrie Irving’s three-point bucket produced a score of 92-89 in favor of the Cavaliers with just 53 ticks to tock.
It was the epitome of favor by a right-on-time God.
Game 7 ended with the Cavs winning 93-89 to bring a title to the City of Cleveland for the first time since 1964. Kyrie, the engine of the Jersey Express Drive on the deciding shot, dipped and dabbed with his dribble until rising up over Steph Curry. The loud “bang” accompanying the shot is the voice of ABC play-by-play man Mike Breen who sensed, like Irving, that this was the one.
“It was 89-89 for a good portion of the game,” said Irving in the post-game press conference. “Especially in that fourth quarter, so I was just thinking the next team that scores has a great chance at winning the championship, and I hope that we can be the team that's on that end.”
A few missed shots by each team was evidence that crunch time, like pimpin’ ain’t easy. A LeBron James block of an Andre Iguodala shot with 1:50 once again demonstrated, along with all his other exploits, that he – not Steph, not even Kevin Durant’s mom is da real MVP. But the baddest shot maker on the court over the last few games and in the series denouement was Kyrie.
“I understood that I didn't have time to be anything less than myself,” continued Irving at the press conference. “I didn't have time to worry about what was going on with what everyone was saying about what we needed to be as a team. What I needed to do, what the lineup should be, what kind of player I, myself, needed to be in order for our team to be successful.”
With De La Soul logic, Kyrie looked into the mirror and saw me, myself and I. All too often early on in the series, he was on the business end of backdoors or playing poor screen defense. He was able to still help out on defense snaring several steals a game usually or blocking a few shots. That seemed to fortify him, as he was no longer the weak-link defensively. By tuning out the white noise, his offensive production continued to soar.
The 6-3 shooting guard ended the series averaging 27.1 points per game, perhaps diminished slightly by the fact that he played limited minutes in the team’s Game 6, 110-77, blowout win, scoring just 10 points.
His shooting percentage was a healthy .468 percent for the series while his counterpart Curry finished with a 22.5 ppg average on a paltry .403 shooting percentage. Furthermore, Chef Curry, who feasted at the throw line early in the series, went the last two games without attempting a foul shot in part due to Irving’s defense.
Irving made all but two of his free throws the entire series, going 31-for-33, including 11-for-12 in the decisive Game 7. He also grabbed almost four rebounds and dished out close to four assists per game.
He clearly was the difference maker who had to watch last year’s team go down to the Warriors, 4-2, from afar. Sidelined with a serious knee injury that occurred in a Game 1 victory that kept him out of uniform until December, Irving felt compelled to deliver.
“I tried to downplay it the whole entire season of the emotional kind of stress that I was putting on myself from getting hurt, not being there with my teammates, watching it on TV,” Irving said. “Then we think about a year later the journey of kind of unwinding here, back in San Francisco and Cleveland, and the amount of great players that were on the floor at one time, and the platform and magnitude of what it really meant for both teams.”
“I just tried to live in it and really just enjoy it as much as possible, but also have a very, very solid mindset that if we stick to our game plan and we limit our mistakes out there on the floor against a great team like this, we'll be all right. Attacking matchups. It really came down to just both teams playing extremely hard, and there was a victory at the end of the game.”
For the Jersey Kid making a name for himself in Cleveland it never felt so good goin’ back to Cali.