The Cavs Title Through the Eyes of a Cavs Lifer
Special to Boiled Sports
From Tim V, BS co-founder and emeritus
Last week, the Cleveland Cavaliers did the improbable. They completed a comeback that had never before been accomplished. They came back from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals against the team that had the best regular season record in history. At this point, I've not told you anything you didn't already know. What I can do though is give it to you from my perspective as a lifelong Cleveland sports fan.
In game 1 the Cavs came back from a double digit deficit to take the lead in the 3rd quarter, only to then go on to lose by 15. The national media would have you believe that it was never close. It was, and I wasn't too worried about it. Then game 2 the Cavs played like they were seeing a basketball for the very first time and got obliterated by 33. National media was reporting that the Cavs had already secured the largest margin of defeat in a 4 game series and they had only played 2 games. That was annoying me. Still though, I wasn't super concerned. I didn't care that the Warriors seemed to be planning a parade already. The Warriors had held home court, now the Cavs needed to do the same. I knew that in game 3 the Cavs needed to come out with much better intensity, and they did, jumping out to a 20 point lead in the first. Knowing that first quarter leads in the NBA don't mean a lot and that the other team (doesn't matter who they are) always makes a run, I didn't expect the Cavs to coast to an easy win. Golden State cut the lead to single digits at half time. At that point I was a little nervous. Were they going to pull a Purdue special and have a big spaghetti and turkey dinner at the half? They didn't; they came out with fire and went on to win by 30. I was feeling like a nice slice of humble pie had just been served, and was feeling good going into game 4. I was super pissed watching game 4. It looked to me that the Warriors "great defense" was really just "constant fouling" that wasn't getting called. Since I'm definitely biased, maybe those non-calls were going both ways, but it sure didn't seem like it to me. Every little thing was getting to me. The refs, Draymond Greens big mouth, Steph Currys on court arrogance, Klay Thompson calling it a "man’s league" and last but definitely not least, staring down an insurmountable 3-1 hole. I was pissed. The game was on Friday and I was pissed all weekend. My wife can attest to that. On Sunday I was calling for some old school justice to be served. I was ready to call on the bench mob to show the Warriors what a man’s league really looked like. If the Cavs were going down, I wanted Golden State to feel it. At the same time on EsPN radio, Bomani Jones is having a serious discussion about whether Kyrie Irving is even a top 10 point guard. Are you serious, Bomani? You're a freaking idiot. Your opinion on any topic is no longer valid.
At this point, I certainly didn't think the Cavs were going to with the series, but I felt that if the Cavs could steal game 5 then for some reason game 6 would be no problem back in C-Town and then in game 7 anything could happen. The fact that I was allowing myself to think that way was weird to me. In the meantime, Draymond Green got suspended for a flagrant nut punch, which gave the Cavs a better chance than they would have had otherwise, so I'll take it. Still, I never thought game 5 would be easy, but I was wearing the same shorts I wore for the game 3 win, because obviously my shorts make a difference. The game was tied at half, but it was becoming obvious that Steph Curry was very susceptible on defense and the Cavs kept exploiting that. Klay Thompson normally guarded Kyrie Irving, but they'd run high screens to get Curry to switch onto Irving. Irving could get his shot at will in those situations. James and Irving each scored 41 in that game and the Cavs outscored the Warriors in Oracle arena by 15 in the second half to secure the victory. Now it was 3-2. Much more doable. I felt very confident and calm going into game 6. I knew if the Cavs could come out hitting shots then the Warriors were going to press as they weren't used to coming from behind. The Cavs never trailed and were up by 20 at the end of the first before coasting to a 15 point win.
Screw you, here comes game 7! Let it be known that I hate game 7's. For reference, see 1997 World Series game 7 when the Indians were leading in the bottom of the 9th and blew it [I was sitting next to him as this happened, resulting in me hearing Tim utter the F word for maybe one of two times ever in my presence. –J]. I hate game 7's. I was so anxious that I could barely watch it. I was recording it and during commercials I had to change the channel. During halftime I had to watch something else. I had to keep my mind on something, anything. Cavs up by 1 after 1. So far, so good. Cavs down by 7 at half time. This sucks. How are you going to respond? Please respond! Draymond Green is going off. I really don't like him. If he was on my team I would love him. Instead, the opposite. I'm aware of that fact and still I really detest him. It's the way he runs his mouth. I want him to suck but he doesn't. That's irritating. Just shut up! I'm getting angry just writing this. Anyway, in the meantime, one time Cavs fan favorite Anderson Varejao is flopping like a fish out of water. If you sneezed on him it would look like he got punched by Superman. That was also aggravating. Cavs close back to within 1 going into the 4th quarter. Seriously? I'm having a panic attack over here. I'm standing in front of my TV because I can't sit down. There's about 5 minutes left in the game. The Cavs are missing every shot they take. Come on! Hit the shot! The Warriors are going to keep scoring! COME ON! Except... they didn't. The Cavs and Warriors didn't score. Forever. Hanging on every possession. Hit that shot! Crap. Make a stop! Hallelujah. Over and over it went. Then Andre Iguodala heads in for a dunk. JR Smith alters and LeBron James came out of nowhere for a clean block. At the time I didn't realize the significance of it. Now? It's known as "The Block." It's got its own short phrase and it's not about a gut wrenching loss. Holy crap. There's now a minute in the game and the Cavs run another high screen to get Curry on Irving. He takes the 3. He hits the 3. I stand there dumbfounded with no reaction. What just happened? Doesn't matter, there's still plenty of time for Golden State. That's what I was thinking. Then the clock winds down. 10 seconds. Foul. 6 seconds. Curry misses a three. Kevin Love is jumping around like a kangaroo. What just happened? I continue to stand there. I don't say anything. I don't even make a noise. I stand there. For easily 10 seconds. Then I turn to look at my wife and then back at the TV. Is this real? What am I supposed to be doing right now? How am I supposed to feel? I see things happening on the TV that are saying the Cavs won. It is failing to sink in. I feel a smile on my face but it's still unreal at this point.
It doesn't really begin to hit me until I go outside to take the dog out. Make note that I now live in Tampa, Florida, so there's no screaming or honking or shenanigans going on by me. I watch everything I can. I'm streaming Cleveland channels on every device. I'm soaking it in. I see Cleveland going crazy but not burning the city down. I'm a little surprised to be honest. Before the playoffs started I told the wife that I was flying home if the Cavs won it all. I'm now looking for flights. I want the wife and kids to come with me, but she says no, so I book a flight and a car. The next day she changes her mind. Too late. All flights out of Tampa and Orlando are sold out. We talk about driving, but in the end she decides to stay with the kids and I will go to Cleveland solo. This ended up being a very wise decision, but more on that later.
I'm flying from Orlando to Cleveland on Tuesday morning. On the shuttle from the Orlando airport parking lot to the terminal there's another Cavs fan going home for the parade. I'm getting congratulated by strangers as if I had something to do with it. Then in the airport I see a ton of Cavs gear being worn. On my flight, 2/3rds of the people are wearing Cavs stuff. We get congratulated by the pilot and welcomed to the home of the world champions. The plane erupts. It's all so surreal. Then I step off the plane and I'm amazed that everywhere I look, it's like I'm at a Cavs game. Flights de-planing are full of Cavs fans. Everywhere is full of Cavs fans. This is just a prelude. I actually get a little emotional. It's still sinking in.