The Golden State Warriors come at you in waves. They're too deep, too good, too together, and too talented to lay down when they're getting beat down by a singular force. LeBron James is not just a singular force. He is one of, if not the best in my lifetime, the greatest players of all time and can single-handedly shift the nature of a basketball series in 48 minutes. The Warriors, a historically great 67-win team with the best defense in the world, executed their gameplan against LeBron to perfection. And it was an inch away from not mattering in the slightest.
In Game of the 2015 NBA Finals, LeBron James battled back the persistent attacks the Warriors threw at him. Over and over again, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, all took turns on the King and he stared them right down and brushed it off in a battle akin to the one at Thermopylae. James himself, functioning as Leonidas and the rest of the 300.
Hook shots, fadeaway jumpers, timely 3s, foul calls, staring down the crowd, it was all part of the bag of tricks LeBron has pulled off in the Finals. Again. Early in the fourth quarter, James came down, palms pointed downward, hushing teammates as the Warriors mounted another of their patented runs, pushing the lead to 3 on a Mo Speights jumper. James calmly sank a turnaround floater, forced the Warriors into a defensive 3-second as they gambled in the paint, got Timofey Mozgov on a wide-open finish next, and finished it off with another contested Kobe-esque shot.
A crowd ready to burst into oblivion suddenly murmured through the quarter like a gossipy high school lunch room. LeBron James lives for that moment, this crowd, and the scary silence permeating through the concrete walls.
Then suddenly, as the San Antonio Spurs can attest, the Warriors finally broke through. They were dominated on the boards. Then David Blatt went small in an attempt to unleash spacing for James. Steve Kerr, a rookie head coach, somehow possessed the *ahem* cojones to shift Draymond Green, having an awful game on both ends, to the center position.
The Cleveland Cavaliers did not score in overtime until LeBron James' meaningless layup with 10 seconds left.
These Warriors have never been here. Never been on a stage this large and the expectations this lung-crushing high. It crushed them in the first quarter as it has seemingly throughout the postseason. Jumpers went askew, the defense in shambles with LeBron finding a rhythm rendering humans meaningless in its wake. And as the stakes grew higher, the Warriors fell back into a familiar position: pushing and shoving and moving until they broke down that wall. The King. \
And what seemed like the game the Cleveland Cavaliers had to win, was lost. Battling through a superb Kyrie Irving showing, Timofey Mozgov dominance, Tristan Thompson frenetic, chaotic movement, and some funky bench rotations, this seemed like the ripest moments in a fruitful Golden State Warriors season.
Instead, Curry spun James off his body and drained a jumper for the lead they'd never relinquish. He exhorted the crowd to tear down the roofs on pure volume and adrenaline, before he even shot the free throws. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala all took turns embracing the moment, reaching back into their emotions during the week and letting the nerves fly.
Now the Warriors go up 1-0, perhaps even stealing one in James' Herculean effort. Now Kyrie Irving is leaving the locker room in crutches. Healthy or not, the Warriors waves will keep coming. LeBron James will keep fighting them off, one by one, over and over. But this time and like so many times in LeBron James' career, there isn't enough around him to matter. The Warriors aren't complaining.