April 20, 2024

Kyrie Was the Brightest Star in the Hottest Spotlight


When the Cavs were down 3 games to 1, I wrote this article…

Even in Cleveland, Miracles Do Happen

Heading into Game 5, LeBron threw down his Clark Kent glasses and went into Superman mode to save the Cleveland Universe from its 52-year curse.

Once the final horn sounded, a hurricane of praise and adoration for LBJ flooded the television and internet, and rightfully so.  This impossible comeback (all 32 previous NBA finals teams that were down 3-1 eventually failed) as well as HIS comeback to home from the bright lights of Miami, are stories that would seem more improbable than even the most far-fetched Hollywood sports movie.

But let’s brush away this LeBron Lovefest and the Death of the Cleveland Curse for a moment and look back at what happened on the court last night.  The bright lights of an NBA Finals Game 7 are infinitely hotter than any moment in professional basketball. The enormous pressure, as well as the wear and tear of a grueling, intense world championship series can smother even the world’s greatest players. Here are some shooting performances from a group of NBA All-Stars (including at least 11 present or future Hall of Famers) in the last six Finals Game 7s:

Magic Johnson (5 for 14), Larry Bird (6-18), Robert Parrish (4-16), Isiah Thomas (4-12), Patrick Ewing (7-17), John Starks (2-18), Hakeem Olajuwon (10-25), Richard Hamilton (6-18), Tony Parker (3-11 & 3-12), Tim Duncan (10-27), Paul Pierce (5-15), Ray Allen (3-14 & 0-4), Pau Gasol (6-16), Kobe Bryant (6-24), and Chris Bosh (0-5).

That’s a combined shooting percentage of 30%.

Last night was a display of two punch-drunk heavyweight champions running on fumes in this final round of an epic slugfest. The Cavaliers, which shot 46.5% in first six games, shot only 40.2% last night.  The smooth-shooting Warriors drop was from 43.8% to 38.6%. Steph Curry (6-19), Klay Thompson (6-17), and James (9-24) all shot well below their usual standards. Draymond Green had an excellent game (11-15), but he also got plenty of wide open shots.

But on the most tense stage, it was Kyrie Irving that shined brightest.  On paper, his 10-23 shooting performance (43%) was very pedestrian. But to any viewer’s eye test, he was the head of the class. Most of his shots were contested, and his slight 6’3 frame didn’t get him any easy points in the paint. His pull-up jumpers off amazing ball handling were jaw-dropping. His two 3rd quarter transition finishes over Green –twisting, turning and then elevating the ball off the top of the backboard (with his weak hand)– broke at least three laws of physics. That second ‘And-1’ bucket caused a minor earthquake in the Buckeye State, considering that several million people simultaneously jumped three feet off the ground.

Then, there was his game-clincher with 53 seconds left.  Since ‘The Shot’ label is already taken, I christened it ‘The Three’.  Not only was it a spectacular, pressure-packed fall-away triple with Curry in his shirt.  It was also the only made basket of the game’s final 17 shots.

So Cavalier Nation, what I wrote prior to Game 7 is now even more true…

Savor this High Point of a 45-Year Journey: Part One

follow on twitter:  @macaljancic

Image via ESPN.com

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