Did the Cleveland Cavaliers win this year’s NBA Championship fair and square, or was it a hoax? Some believe the outcome of NBA Finals have been rigged for quite some time to maximize audience ratings. I must say that I have never been one to abide conspiracy theories, but this latest contest had me scratching my head wondering.
This isn’t about being a sore loser or favoring one team or another. In fact, I was not rooting for either and actually like both teams, and am glad LeBron James has finally redeemed himself with Cleveland fans, a group that unfairly vilified him for leaving them for greener pastures years ago. For LeBron’s sake and given the questionable nature of this series win, I’m glad he punctuated his terrific personal performance and that game 7 win with one of the most spectacular defensive plays (blocked shot) ever seen in the sport, a feat whose authenticity can never be questioned.
It’s not just the fact that the Cavaliers pulled off the statistically improbable by winning the series after trailing 3 games to 1 (which had never been done before), or the improbability of a road team winning a game 7 (road teams lose 80% of the time), or even the fact that these unlikely events took place against the team with the most season wins in NBA history (Golden State Warriors broke the record by winning 73 this season).
It’s actually the way it was done that makes one question its authenticity, and the fact that Golden State had to nearly collapse for Cleveland to win. The Warriors blew away the Cavaliers at home in games 1 and 2, and then stumbled badly in game 3 by scoring only 16 pts in the fourth quarter. Giving Cleveland the benefit of doubt, Cleveland had home court advantage and it was a must-win game for them. In Game 4 the Warriors beat Cleveland handily again, reasserting their series dominance. The balance of the series then turned really incredible: the Warriors’ game 5 fourth quarter amounted to 13 measly points before a cheering home crowd; game 6 in Cleveland continued the scoring drought, with the Warriors scoring a season low 11 pts in the first quarter; game 7, with the championship on the line, the Warriors again choked in the fourth quarter and scored a paltry 13 pts. THE WARRIORS AVERAGED 28 PTS PER QUARTER LAST SEASON!
It’s not just the numbers, it’s the attitude. The team’s star and regular season MVP, Stephen Curry, fouled out of game 6 (itself a rare event) and because of personal antics was almost barred from game 7. In game 7, no one, including its star, seemed to demonstrate the urgency of their pending historic loss, right to the end. For his part, in the closing minutes of the series, Curry made an errant, if not reckless, behind-the-back pass out of bounds, and minutes later launched a 35 ft shot that missed the rim entirely. Is that what a star does when his team is about to lose the most important game of the season?
It’s not just Stephen Curry’s behavior that was lacking. Where was Coach Steve Kerr while this helter-skelter play was taking place? Where was he during the closing minutes of the game, when a coach typically slows down the opposing team’s momentum and offers some last minute strategy? Nowhere. Apparently, this coach had no advice for his team at this all important moment. Making matters worse, the team seemed to take in stride its imminent defeat and ignominious place in NBA history as the only team to ever blow a 3 game lead in the Finals.
Was it all a hoax designed to give Cleveland its first sports championship in more than 50 years or just the worst time for the most successful team in NBA history to go into a fatal slump? One indisputable fact is that this game 7 drew the highest television rating for an NBA Finals game since Michael Jordan’s last championship game. Interesting…