Monday, June 20, 2016

Give It Up for Cleveland

As a Bulls fan, the 2016 NBA Finals presented me with several potentially troubling scenarios. 

A Golden State win would anoint the Warriors as the greatest team of all-time, displacing the 1995/96 Bulls in the process.


And a Cleveland win would add weight to the argument that LeBron James is the most singular player of all-time, kicking Michael Jordan to the curb in the process. 


So you see? Not easy.

My lifelong predilection of rooting for the underdog eventually won out, aided by a nifty bounce pass from geography.

Tasked with the titanic challenge of defeating a team with a 73-9 regular-season record, even a 57-win team like the Cavaliers were decided underdogs. Plus, Cleveland is a tad closer to the Midwest than San Francisco, so the geography component is, if you'll excuse me, a slam dunk. 


So what happened? The Cavs promptly fell behind three games to one. When you consistently root for the underdog, you expect this. It is part and parcel of the whole rooting-for-the-underdog dynamic.

But then things took a hard left turn.

Draymond Green, Golden State's remarkable power forward, had his Achilles heel exposed: he has a penchant for letting opponents get under his skin. And as it is in the NBA, the player who retaliates is not only the one who gets caught, but who pays the price.

And after grabbing LeBron James' crotch near the end of game 4, Green sat out game 5.That is the price for amassing four flagrant fouls in the post-season. It was a break, pure and simple. And the Cavs were smart-enough and good-enough to take advantage of it. That is what champions do.

They won game 5. They won game 6. And with momentum on their side and Golden State clearly rattled, they won a tightly-contested game 7.

And as luck would have it, James not only made a critical block late in the game, swooping in from nowhere to deny a sure-fire lay-up, he effectively put the game out of reach via a free-throw with just seconds left.

The Browns, Indians and previous editions of the Cavaliers all gave the city ample reason to reach for Prilosec. And this year's Cavs had two great excuses for providing Cleveland another. 

The visitors had compiled a sparkling 3-15 record in NBA Finals game sevens, in addition to the fact no one had ever come back from a three-games-to-one deficit to win the Finals.

But the Cavaliers did.

With the elusive championship finally arrived, Cleveland can celebrate a hands-in-the-air doozy. It will be an unusually happy Monday morning in Ohio, methinks. 

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