Last night was one of Cleveland’s best sports nights in a long time.
In front of 21,000 delirious fans at Quicken Loans Arena, LeBron James and his gritty, gutsy teammates took a 2-1 series lead in the NBA Finals with a 96-91 win over Golden State.
It wasn’t without heart palpitations though.
The wine and gold held a 20 point lead late in the third quarter, but the Warriors, who can score points more quickly than any team in the NBA, came roaring back and closed to within one point in the 4th quarter.
We remember Joe Tait saying as long as you never give up the lead it kind of stops the opponents momentum, and David Blatt’s group never did. Matthew Dellavedova hit a miracle shot while being fouled, and his subsequent free throw put the Cavs up four, and they held on from there.
Of course, there was another virtuoso performance by LeBron James, who is reminding everyone involved with the sport that even though Stephen Curry and James Harden finished one-two in the MVP voting this year, the best player in the sport wears #23 and plays in Cleveland.
James scored 40 points (he is averaging 41 per game in The Finals), grabbing 12 rebounds, and had 8 assists and controlled the tempo and pace of the game. But he received support from his teammates, as everyone who got in the game made a big contribution.
Little used Mike Miller played five minutes, and made a great play diving on the floor after a loose ball saving it to Dellavedova at the end of the first quarter.
Delly added another performance to his growing legend, scoring 20 points, with 5 rebounds and 4 assists, and pestered Curry all night long.
However, he would up in the hospital following the game getting treatment for cramping. And in other bad news, Iman Shumpert reinjured his shoulder in the first quarter, but returned to the game basically playing with one arm, and still made a contribution defensively with his ability to get his hands in passing lanes and on the ball when the Warriors went to the basket.
Hopefully, both will be able to play tomorrow night because Cleveland can ill afford to lose anyone else.
The will and determination of this team is unreal. LeBron James keeps mentioning it because it seems like the national media have forgotten, but the Cavs are playing without two all-star players in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
They are also missing the guy who started at center on opening night in Anderson Varejao.
But they keep persevering, keep grinding.
Which only makes us as a fan base even more proud of them. They have adopted the “hard-working town, hard-working team” that Michael Stanley sang about twenty years ago.
The job is only halfway done, though.
Because we grew up here, we cannot think positively about this just yet.
The Warriors’ fourth quarter, scoring 36 points, scares us. We do have confidence though, that the coaching staff will figure out what Golden State was doing and will have something to counteract it.
Why? Because they’ve done it all during the playoffs.
The Cavs still need to control the pace of the game if they want to continue having success in this series. And they have to continue “making it tough” for the Warriors on the offensive end.
No matter what the outcome is, these Cavs should be praised for their grit, which is difficult when you have the best player in the world.
When that guy plays that way, it’s easy for everyone else to fall in line.