For two consecutive seasons, there have been lingering questions about whether this Cavs team, even at full health, was good enough to win a championship. More specifically, there have been major doubts about whether Cleveland’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love had what it takes to challenge the defending champs, who’d just tore through the regular season en route to the greatest win/loss record in NBA history.
Was Irving just too one-dimensional? Would Love’s ongoing chemistry issues ultimately torpedo their title hopes? Was LeBron James, at 31 years old, with so many miles on his body already, still capable of putting a team on his back and leading them to the ultimate goal?
All of those questions evaporated in the waning moments of Game 7 on Sunday night as each member of the Cavs’ Big 3 made a game-altering contribution that culminated in the greatest NBA Finals comeback in league history. First, there was LeBron. With just under two minutes remaining and the game tied at 89-89, the Warriors led the fast break, which ended with what appeared to be an easy layup for Andre Iguodala and a two-point lead for the Warriors.
What happened next will go down in Cleveland sports lore for all eternity. LeBron, who was somewhere back near the halfcourt line as Iggy was making his final approach, transported himself through space and time for an earth-shattering chasedown block. It was just the type of chasedown block that had become LeBron’s signature defensive move early in his career, and now he had done it on the biggest stage when it mattered the most and with the type of athletic prowess that the rest of us subhumans can only marvel at. LeBron James jumped higher than he ever had before in that mome
nt, and possibly higher than any earthbound creature who’s been subject to the laws of gravity.
Next up was Kyrie Irving, who might as well have been wearing his Uncle Drew costume at this point. With the game still tied at 89 apiece with just under a minute to go, all the criticism about him being a shoot-first-ask-questions-later point guard who doesn’t play defense or make his teammates better went up in a fireball as he took the reigning two-time MVP off the dribble and calmly knocked down what ended up being the title-sealing shot of the game. With a championship on the line, there was no time to dwell on any of that other stuff. Irving only had one thing on his mind at that point: “Mamba mentality.”
But the game wasn’t quite over yet. Not by a longshot. It was still a two-possession game, and the Warriors are a deadly group in these types of clutch-time situations. So there was no question who they’d turn to. They got exactly the type of action they were looking for, which was to force Kevin Love, a notoriously poor perimeter defender, on to Steph Curry, who would presumably embarrass him with a series of ankle-breaking moves before launching a deep three to tie the game.
It almost felt like fate. Two of the Cavs other Big 3 had just made potentially series-altering plays, and here was Kevin Love to submarine their title hopes by proving once and for all that his inability to switch on defense in scenarios like these was the fatal flaw that would all but assure his departure from the team this summer. What Love did next might be the most impressive sequence of the entire game.
Miraculously, Love not only held his own against one of the best ball-handlers in the NBA (not to mention the greatest shooter of all time); he forced the ball out of his hands, then stayed in front of him long enough through a series of moves to make him launch an off-balance shot that missed badly. And that was the ball game. Kevin Love, the lightning rod for all of the Cavs’ criticism all season long, was one of his team’s biggest heroes in its defining moments. With that, the Cavs Big 3 ended the discussion about whether they’re good enough to win a title. The only question now is whether they’ll end up back here next season.