Man, Game 4 sucked. Just as a basketball exhibition, it sucked, in exactly the way that all blowouts suck, before we even get to the part where it was an elimination game in the NBA Finals. However valiantly the Cavs fought earlier in the series, Game 4 made clear just what a ghastly, hilariously lopsided Finals matchup this NBA season produced, and the Warriors, bless them, had the good form to sweep the mess the hell out of my face with just one five-minute overtime period over the minimum allowable amount of basketball. For that I am grateful.
There came a point in the third quarter where the Cavs were down something like 15 points and ran an offensive set that ended with Jeff Green isolating on the baseline against Jordan Bell, and hoisting a turnaround jumper, and missing. Minutes later, the Cavs gave up a series of offensive rebounds that ended with Klay Thompson stepping into a wide-open wing three-pointer. The very next Cavs possession produced a Larry Nance Jr. 18-footer. The crowd wanted to boo. The canned stadium voice started an embarrassing “Let’s Go Cavs!” cheer that was joined by exactly no one. The game and series and season ended there, with the Cavs spending possessions on contested mid-range shots by Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr., in an echoing arena, getting scolded by Mark Jackson.
Look. If we’re being honest, the Finals were a formality—the season functionally ended when J.R. Smith ran out the clock and murdered his own team in Game 1. If we’re being even more honest, it ended when the Warriors downed the Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals. If we’re being totally honest, it ended when Chris Paul went down with a hamstring injury in the final minute of Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, although I would even listen to the argument that it ended when Kevin Durant joined the Warriors two whole years ago. If you’re feeling especially grouchy this morning you can go ahead and blame the Warriors for depriving the basketball-watching world of a competitive Finals series, but in order to do so you will have to plug your ears and shut your eyes and shout LALALALALALALALALA while I point out that the Cavaliers ran a baseline isolation play for Jeff fucking Green in the third quarter of an NBA Finals elimination game.
An important thing the Warriors accomplished Friday night—beyond, you know, winning an NBA championship—was the utter vanquishing of the Cavaliers, as contenders, forever. The route through the Eastern Conference playoffs was a grueling uphill battle for the Cavs, and what it earned them, ultimately, was absolute clarity about where they stand in the NBA hierarchy. They are exactly good enough to get crushed flat in a series by the Warriors, and no better, which means they are not actual contenders at all. Game 1 was fun! The Warriors took Cleveland’s Game 1 flurry the way an older brother lets a younger sibling whale on their elbows in the opening salvo of a backyard scrap. The Cavs heard the swelling music and caught a happy whiff of glory, and then the older brother shoved them to the ground and pinned them in place with one strong hand. Okay, son, that’s enough of that.
I don’t know about you, but I am extremely ready for an NBA season to produce a Finals matchup that is not this one. Thankfully, LeBron is now fully in the chapter of his career where he’s playing for championships and nothing else, which means he can’t possibly spend any portion of what’s left of it playing on this miserable Cavs team. He’ll enter free agency this summer; probably that means he’ll sign his next contract someplace else. If the Cavs are remotely serious about keeping him, they will move heaven and earth to overhaul this roster so that there is no chance of do-or-die playoff possessions ending with Jeff Green baseline turnarounds or Larry Nance Jr. 18-footers. I’m sorry to say that was real, no you didn’t dream it, but it has also passed, like a humongous kidney stone. The Finals are over; the season is over; this chapter of NBA history is finally fucking over. Good riddance.