Cavaliers create new precedent for NBA upsets

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ stunning win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 completed the greatest upset in NBA Finals history. No other championship in NBA history comes close as far as upsets are concerned. The Warriors were thought of as one of the greatest teams in NBA history. Some experts labeled them best in history because of their record 73 wins. Stephen Curry was considered greatest shooter in the league’s history. The Warriors went up 3-1 in the Finals and then lost three in a row, two at home. Some experts argued that the Cavaliers wouldn’t even win one playoff series if they were in the Western Conference. Well they won one, all right. There are no more criticisms you can throw LeBron James’ way now. He put a team on his back. He won a championship for the Cavaliers and he did it with a mediocre bunch of teammates. He is cemented as one of the greatest to ever play the game. All the hype was genuine.

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The Warriors choked. The Cavaliers didn’t even play great. James was 9-of-24 in Game 7 from the floor. Kyrie Irvin was 10-of-23 and J.R. Smith was 5-of-13. The Cavs only scored 93 points against arguably one of the greatest scoring teams in the history of the league on the road and still won a Game 7. Curry was 15-of-42 on 3-pointers in the Warriors’ final three losses. Klay Thompson was 5-of-20 on threes in the last two games. The Warriors scored 13 points in the fourth quarter in Game 7 at home with a title on the line. Cleveland simply stole that title. The Cavaliers walked into Oakland, took the title and dared the Warriors to fight back. And they never did. The NBA is a man’s game, especially in the postseason. You can’t win a title just by shooting jump shots.

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The Warriors were finally exposed. Steve Kerr was exposed as a coach. Nice Coach of the Year award, huh? He was out-coached by Tyronn Lue, for goodness sake. Stephen Curry was exposed. Nice MVP trophy, huh? The Warriors need to get tougher and grittier. And Kevin Durant or Dirk Nowitzki, or both, are not the answer. Durant and Nowitzki are what the Warriors already have. They are soft jump-shooting big men. Make no mistake, the Warriors don’t need much. This team, after all, won 140 regular season games the last two years and came within one win in the postseason of back-to-back titles. But they do need some more muscle.

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The Cavaliers’ title is great for the city of Cleveland. The Cleveland area has a ton of dedicated, loyal and rabid sports fans who deserved a parade. They have sat back and watched their neighbors in Detroit, Chicago, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh win title after title in recent decades. Cleveland needed this in the worst way. Don’t be shocked to see all of those good vibes rub off on the Cleveland Indians this summer and fall. LeBron going back to Cleveland and bringing a title to that city just might be the best NBA story ever. It’s fairy tale stuff. The NBA needed this in the worst way, too.

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The entire Chicago Cubs infield might start in the All Star game next month. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, second baseman Ben Zobrist, shortstop Addison Russell and third baseman Kris Bryant are all leading the National League fan voting. The only other complete infield to start an All Star game was the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals with Bill White (1B), Julian Javier (2B), Dick Groat (SS) and Ken Boyer (3B). We understand that the All Star game is the fans’ game. But that doesn’t mean the fans should pick the players. The only thing fans should pick is what seat to it in and which beer to buy. Let the players pick the players. Ben Zobrist is not an All Star on any planet or in any universe, except the one that exists on the north side of Chicago. Addison Russell might be an All Star someday but that day should not take place next month.

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The 1963 Cardinals, by the way, did not go to the World Series. The 2016 Cardinals just swept the 2016 Cubs at Wrigley Field in a three-game series. Fairy tales, don’t forget, are not fairy tales without the happy ending. The Cubs have already been labeled as the Golden State Warriors of baseball. That comparison was flattering when the Warriors set the wins record in the regular season and were on their way to a title. It’s not so flattering now. Nobody wants a fairy tale where the price turns into a frog. The regular season in all professional sports means absolutely nothing. It’s just a way to make everybody rich and pay players’ salaries. Individual honors (ask Kerr and Curry) mean nothing. It’s all about the postseason. Anybody can hit threes in February against the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers. Any baseball team can have the best record in June and the most All Star starters in July. It’s all about having the most trophies and parades at the end of the year.

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Former Nevada Wolf Pack baseball coach Jay Johnson has the Arizona Wildcats within two victories of reaching the College World Series finals. Johnson, whose Wolf Pack went 41-15 in 2015, is a truly remarkable young coach. There’s little doubt now that if he had stayed in Reno the Wolf Pack would have eventually gotten to the College World Series. His players love him. His teams play with a child-like enthusiasm and confidence. Johnson rarely goes by the book and tries strange things. Everybody on the roster is used and valued. He shows confidence and a belief in them when even they don’t believe. It worked at Nevada and now it is working at the sport’s highest level.

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When Johnson was at Nevada he took a team photo after every single victory. The Wolf Pack players always seemed to be having as much fun as humanly possible. Nothing has changed at Arizona. The Wildcats were caught giving a shampoo (yes, an actual shampoo) to a teammate in the dugout during one of the College World Series games. How many coaches would allow that to happen in the dugout during any game, let alone a College World Series game? Well, one guy would. And he’s won 118 games the last two years combined and is two wins away from reaching the College World Series final.

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