Frankly Frankel: June 18, 2016

18 Jun

Two words: Game 7.  This is Frankly Frankel on this Saturday, June 18, 2016.

  • The twists and turns from this NBA Finals have been nothing like we’ve ever seen before.  At first, it appeared the Warriors were going to make quick work of the Cavaliers after pulling away in Game 1 to win by 15 points, and then absolutely obliterating Cleveland in Game 2 winning by 33 points.
  • I actually thought that with how ineffective Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were in Games 1 and 2 that Cleveland blew any chance it had to make this a series.  I was not correct, shockingly.
  • The tide quickly turned in Game 3 with Cleveland winning by 30 points, but Golden State responded in Game 4 to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
  • However, in Game 4, a scuffle between LeBron James and Draymond Green appears to have turned this series around in Cleveland’s favor.  Upon the league reviewing the scuffle, it was determined Green would be assessed a flagrant-1 foul, his fourth flagrant foul of the postseason resulting in an automatic one-game suspension.
  • To be clear, Draymond wasn’t directly suspended for his actions in Game 4.  He was suspended because of all the other times he’s crossed the line this postseason, including the time he intentionally kicked Steven Adams in the nuts.  That was one of the dirtiest plays I’ve ever seen and the fact he didn’t get suspended for that was head-scratching, so it’s only right (poetic justice) that he finally faced some sort of consequence for his actions.
  • With Draymond Green out for Game 5, two things happened Cleveland fans have been waiting for years to see.  Kyrie Irving all of a sudden started looking like the player the Cavs selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft, and LeBron James started hitting jump shots, which was something he hadn’t done in the past two NBA Finals.  It’s a major part of the reason why Andre Iguodala won the 2015 Finals MVP.  Since LeBron couldn’t hit a jumper if his life depended on it and he was having as much trouble as LeBron has ever had against an opposing player driving to the rim, Iguodala ended up walking away with the “Bill Russell” trophy.  Things dramatically changed the past two games.
  • In Game 5 at Oracle, Kyrie and LeBron each dropped 41 points to force a Game 6, and in doing so, became the first teammates in NBA Finals history to each score 40 points in the same game.  It was as good as Kyrie’s ever looked in his NBA career.
  • Then on Thursday night in Game 6, LeBron did it again, putting the team on his back by dropping 41 points to lead Cleveland to a 115-101 victory for force a Game 7 after all was seemingly lost following Game 4.
  • LeBron’s Game 6 performance will go down as one of his greatest career performances.  At one point in the second half, he scored 18 straight Cavaliers points, and finished with a game high 41.  My favorite play from the game was LeBron’s stare down block on Curry, in case Steph needed any reminding about who the best player in the NBA is.  If anything, these Finals have proved LeBron is still undoubtedly the most talented player in the NBA and the debate about Steph Curry being in the same conversation should not continue any longer.
  • It didn’t hurt in Game 6 that Steph Curry fouled out for the first time ever in his career, and to be fair, Curry was being hosed with the calls that went against him.   The one call I stand by though was the blocking foul that was called against Curry and not a charging call against LeBron that Curry was hoping for.  It looked to me like Curry wasn’t set and shifted over to initiate the contact with LeBron.  That’s not a charge.
  • There’s no excuse however with the way Curry acted after recording his sixth foul.  He started screaming and pouting (like a child), and fired his mouth guard at a fan in the front row who just happened to be the son of Cavaliers minority owner Nate Forbes.  That was the first time I’ve ever seen Steph lose his composure like that, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.
  • Curry’s wife Ayesha let everyone know how she felt about the officiating after the game tweeting, “I’ve lost all respect sorry this is absolutely rigged for money… Or ratings in not sure which.  I won’t be silent.  Just saw it live sry.”
  • My jaw dropped when I saw this tweet, even though it was deleted about 10 minutes and nearly 81,000 retweets after the fact.  It’s completely understandable to be upset after your husband’s team loses, but to suggest that the NBA rigged the game for the Cavs to win crossed the line, and I can’t imagine Steph was too pleased when he heard about this.  If you’re Ayesha Curry, you simply cannot be tweeting things like this.
  • Interestingly enough, Ayesha Curry wasn’t the first person to say these Finals have been rigged.  Disgraced former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who served 11 months in jail for betting on games he officiated, told Sports Illustrated the NBA purposely suspended Draymond for Game 5 to extend the series.  The last thing the NBA can afford is for the Finals to be rigged, and I sincerely hope this isn’t the case because there’s nothing worse for a sport than seeing the integrity of its games be questioned.  It’s the reason Pete Rose is banned from baseball and isn’t allowed in the Hall of Fame despite being the all-time hits leader (sorry Ichiro).  The fact that the issue is even being raised is a major red flag for the league. Adam Silver cannot be too thrilled about this.
  • An absolutely mind-boggling statistic about these NBA Finals is after everything that’s happened, and seeing multiple games decided by 30-points, the Cavaliers and Warriors have each scored 610 points in the Finals.  Scary.
  • The story-lines surrounding Game 7 are as good as I can ever remember.  Can the Warriors validate their record 73-win season by capturing the title?  Will the Warriors become the first team in NBA Finals history to blow a 3-1 series deficit?  And perhaps the one I find the most riveting is what Game 7 means for LeBron’s legacy.
  • If the Warriors lose Game 7, you can throw 73 out the window.  The comparisons with the 1995-1996 Bulls will be forever moot, and another amazing stat is after losing just nine games during the regular season, the Warriors have already lost eight games this postseason, and a loss in Game 7 would be their ninth of the playoffs.  Becoming the first team to blow a 3-1 series lead in the Finals would be incredibly epic to see, especially when you consider how dominant Golden State was all season long.
  • As for LeBron, this Game 7 means EVERYTHING to him.  Just imagine the reaction if he succeeded in leading the city of Cleveland to its first professional sports championship since 1964.  You might as well just change Cleveland’s name to “LeBron, Ohio.”
  • Despite how dominant LeBron has been in the past two NBA Finals, falling to 2-5 in the Finals for his career would officially kill any comparisons between him and Jordan, and it would be an eye-opening blemish on his resume.  LeBron needs this Game 7 unlike any game he’s ever played in his NBA career and I can’t wait to see how he rises to the challenge.
  • Speaking of the pressure LeBron is under, I found Richard Jefferson’s comments about how LeBron is putting the team on his back rather compelling.  Jefferson talked in depth about the load that’s on LeBron’s shoulders and admitted he wouldn’t be able to handle it if the same amount of pressure to deliver were placed on him.
  • Before I give my prediction, let me just say all the history is on the Warriors’ side heading into Game 7.  Home teams are 15-3 in NBA Finals Game 7s, and a road team hasn’t won an NBA Finals Game 7 since 1978 (38 years).
  • Teams with the NBA MVP, in this season’s case Steph Curry, have won 18 straight Game 7s overall, and as I mentioned before, no team has ever come back from a 3-1 series deficit to win in the Finals.
  • As much as I want LeBron to win a title for Cleveland and for Golden State to be denied a title, my gut says the Warriors and Steph Curry respond.  I think Steve Kerr put the officiating crew on notice after how they officiated Game 6 to the point where I expect Golden State to get many more favorable calls in Game 7, and I think Steph Curry rises to the task in the biggest game of his career.  Give me the Warriors 104-100.  Sorry, LeBron (KOD).
  • Be sure to tune in next time for another edition of Frankly Frankel, and make sure to follow me on Twitter @lucasfrankel.  Enjoy Game 7!
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