The Cavaliers played the Warriors tonight in what was billed as a potential Finals preview. If that is indeed what it was, the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the NBA Finals 4-0.
There are a number of causes for the Warriors' listless 110-99 loss—slow defensive rotations, Curry and Thompson combining to shoot 10-30, missing free throws—but the biggest is also the easiest to explain: that LeBron James fellow.
James has been gangbusters since returning from injury a month-and-a-half ago, but tonight's 42 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists performance was his best of the season. Even more impressive was that it came against the best defense in the league, and two outstanding defenders in Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala. At least they fared better than Marreese Speights, who was so badly abused by James in his seven minutes spanning the first and second quarters that he didn't see the floor again.
The numerous problems that reared their ugly heads during the Cavaliers' 2-10 stretch have suddenly vanished. The acquisition of Timofey Mozgov gave them a credible center to play next to Kevin Love. JR Smith—whether because he finally gives a shit, because Cleveland has no nightlife, because all he has to do is shoot wide-open threes, or more likely some combination of all three—has mostly been good JR. Iman Shumpert has provided sorely needed depth. Nobody is complaining about David Blatt anymore.
But those are all peripheral influences, and the renaissance is mostly down to a healthy and dominant LeBron James. Before he missed eight games to rest a balky back and knee, it was conceivable that James was finally on the downside of his career. Granted, James supposedly on the downside was still one of the best players in the NBA, but it was reasonable to think that 11 years of deep playoff runs and banging with power forwards had finally taken their toll. But like the Spurs—where every year is supposed to be the year where they are too old—James is timeless, and remains the undisputed best player in the NBA.