Game over.. 105-97.. Warriors 4, Cavs 2. The Golden State Warriors are now the 2015 NBA Champions, their first in 40 years!
But wait, what is this we hear from some parts of the basketball world? That the Warriors are just lucky ’cause they didn’t really have any injuries? Well, such emotions are understandable. But lucky against a “tired and undermanned” Cavs? Oh, change the channel..
Let’s then take a look at the whole picture as deeply as we could to see more than just the protagonists.. And see who’s really lucky.
The Warriors finished with the league’s best regular season record, 67-15. And credit a good system for topping a tough Western Conference going into the playoffs. They swept the inexperienced Pelicans led by the talented Anthony Davis, 4-0 in the first round. So yes, they were lucky somehow..
But hey, they earned their luck as the top seed.
More lucky is the fact that it’s not the Thunder that took the 8th seed as OKC struggled mostly without injured superstar Kevin Durant; and at times, without premier defender Serge Ibaka and the explosive Russell Westbrook. Otherwise, the standings would not have been what it is. Or if Durant caught the late bus, imagine what the Warriors would have to go through if they faced a healthy Thunder squad.. The series could have went the distance.
West Semis. Golden State faced a classic grit and grind squad in the Grizzlies – falling 1-2 in the first 3 games before finishing them off, 4-2. The Grizzlies here just lacked shooters to keep up with Golden State, but is it the Warriors’ fault? Lucky again.
West Finals. Yes, here we see the Warriors were indeed lucky as their Finals opponent (Houston Rockets) came from the bracket of teams that could beat them (especially any Eastern team in the Finals) in a series – the Mavs, the Clippers which had to go through 2 game 7s, and the defending champion Spurs. The Rockets basically just relied on Harden for offense despite being a talented team, so they also have a coaching system issue like the Cavs – still, their ‘never-give-up’ attitude should be praised in overcoming a 1-3 deficit against a powerful Clippers team enroute to the West Finals.
So yes, the Warriors were lucky as the Rockets cleared the tough Western field for them – but it’s not like those 3 said teams were blaming injuries or curses as a fan’s placard “playfully” suggested in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Yet why then weren’t the Rockets able to beat the Warriors? Again, it’s the system.
Everyone knows the East is weak, so any good Eastern squad basically has one foot in the Finals. And being the second seed in the East, the Cavs had the luxury of facing a groping Celtics team led by their only threat in 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas in the first round.
Result? 4-0 Cavs. This was when Cleveland lost Kevin Love on a dislocated shoulder.
East Semis. Without Love, were the Cavs then at a disadvantage against a contender like the Bulls? Not really. Game dynamics would change if Love were around against Pau Gasol, but he wouldn’t have stopped Pau; and it’s the Bulls who would have advanced despite a still reconditioning Derrick Rose. Then again, Love’s absence gave an opportunity for Thompson to play more and help defend Gasol better until Pau couldn’t really play with his injured hamstring.
Result? Cavs 4-2. So, like the Warriors, luck has actually smiled at the Cavs several times this season as well.
First. If Varejao didn’t get injured, they wouldn’t have thought of getting the bigger, stronger and more talented Mozgov. That’s luck! This then included a trading spree which brought in Smith and Shumpert to the Cavs while shipping Waiters to OKC – now, they got an even better squad which the league and observers took notice. And not until the NBA Finals did many “analysts” say that the Cavs actually lacked talent. Whoa, why lacking in talent when they even acknowledged the strength of the squad? It’s the Finals, no time to cry.. Injuries or DNPs are different from a last second shot.
Second. If Chris Bosh didn’t have health problems, it could have been the Heat in the Finals – what with the acquisition of Dragic and the improvement of Whiteside! Bosh is just much more valuable for Miami as Gasol is to the Bulls than Love is for Cleveland.
And if Irving didn’t get injured, the Cavs wouldn’t have discovered a two-way gem in Matthew Dellavedova. Yes, they get more offense with Irving and though the game’s dynamics would change, it would still result in a Warriors’ championship. Golden State simply adjusts well.. Unless, Steve Kerr really felt that they were just lucky against the ‘injured’ Cavs then they were, in the first place, lucky to be in the NBA Finals itself.
Now, the Cavaliers being “tired and undermanned” is their choice. It’s the Finals, no time to cry! Just look at the stat sheet and their roster. Do they only have 7, 8 players? Didn’t you notice how many “DNP – Coach’s Decision” were in the list? Uhm, at least Haywood looked good in his headband.. See? Coach’s decision.
And don’t forget the East Finals. T’was the Cavs against a superstar-less squad in the Hawks – who eventually played without key players like their All-Star shooter Kyle Korver. Yet did analysts even feel sorry for the “less-talented” Hawks? No, but only for the Cavs who lost in the Finals. People never even thought how lucky the Cavs were to face their 2nd “star-less” opponent (in the Eastern playoffs?!) – that their only challenges would have really been from the Heat and the Bulls if not for injuries. The East is just too weak. Incidentally, the Hawks had the East’s best record, a testament of what a good system could do despite being “less talented.”
While LeBron James’ effort is commendable, he just had to carry the Cavs because the team’s system doesn’t trust its players enough to even play. Why did the Cavs sign them up, anyway? For scrub time? Practice? Or, cheering purposes? Well..
For a thinking analyst or fan, this then sort of diminishes (fact is, the Cavs even lost to a first-timer) whatever James displayed as “his numbers were expected” given the playing time and freedom he has to even force anything without reprimands. After all, he’s the remaining superstar of the team entering Game 2. It was a gallant stand by the Cavaliers though as they played through a ‘questionable’ system..
Now, who’s really lucky?? You should know. It’s been a magical 2015 season, and the Warriors deserves all the credit.