Now that game 6 is upon us, I’ve read more articles and seen more posts about who people think the Finals MVP should be WHEN the Golden State Warriors win the title and frankly, that bothers me. Lebron James has willed his team into a position of winning the NBA Championship. The numbers he’s putting up are staggering, even more staggering than the video game stats he usually puts up. But the fact that people are now assuming that he should be the MVP from the losing squad completely diminishes Lebron’s maturation as a poised, attacking, leader. Yes, this Cavs team is injury-riddled and overmatched talent wise, but five days ago we were all marvelling at Dellevedova’s heart and at Tristan Thompson’s motor and at Lebron’s patience with the ball and ability to insert his will in this series. So, to dismiss these Cavs after losing games 4 and 5 doesn’t seem right. Same way it didn’t seem right to dismiss the best team in the NBA after they lost games 2 and 3.
What people are failing to realize is that this game, and especially the NBA playoffs, is a MARATHON. It’s not a once off like the NCAA tourney or like our Cup competition in January. Over the course of seven games, a lot can change. We’ve SEEN a lot change in this series, from Draymond Green being terrible to scoring 9 of the first 11 points in game 5, from David Lee getting splinters to becoming the Warriors’ newfound hope, from TIMOFEY being THE MAN to not even seeing the court, and from JR Smith being a firecracker whom we didn’t know what we’d get to him being…well, some things will never change I suppose. Point being, I’m not really willing to appoint a Finals MVP yet because I feel as if there is a whole lot of basketball to be played.
After five games, who would mine be? Well, Lebron is averaging 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 8.8 assists (WTF). Even typing those numbers makes me shake my head. Those are the most productive numbers ever in the Finals across the board. Better than Wilt or Kareem or Shaq or Mike or Magic or Bird. Now, would those numbers be less if Kyrie and Love were healthy? Probably. So what Lebron is doing is stepping up to the plate and giving his team the “extra” that coaches ask us to give in big games. He’s doing exactly what an MVP has to do.
On the other hand, we have Steph Curry, who I will admit I’m biased towards because of the Davidson affiliation. But I don’t think people understand what this dude is doing. Championships are won with either dominating post presence or super-duper stars on the wing with perfect complements. Think of the last 10 champions. The Spurs (regardless of Parker or Kawhi getting a Finals MVP award) have always been Duncan’s team. The Heat had Lebron, Wade, and shooters galore. The Mavs rallied behind Dirk, but their championship, to me, was more about the Heat’s inability to perform on the big stage (specifically Lebron). Kobe’s Lakers had him, obviously, but they also had three 7 footers in Bynum, Gasol, and Odom that no one could match up with. The Celtics had Garnett on the block, and for good measure had one of the best small forwards (Pierce) and best shooters (Jesus Shuttlesworth) ever. And Miami in ’06 had Shaq on the block and D Wade cementing himself as having one of the best Finals ever. Nowhere, since maybe Isaiah, have we seen a point guard win a championship being the first option. Nowhere, maybe ever, have we seen a gunslinger like Steph leading his team to the brink of a championship. And it took me s while to believe it was possible. Games 2 and 3 were a reminder that jump shooting teams didn’t win titles…until we all had to realize that we’ve never seen a shooter this good. His numbers? Not Lebron-like, but 26.2, 5.0, and 5.8 on 45% from the field (Lebron is 40% for comparison’s sake), 40% from three, and 94% from the line isn’t just nothing. Add that to the fact that Steph closed out game 1 in overtime and REALLY closed out game 5, and I think it’s silly to think Lebron is the only possible MVP of these first five games. Did he struggle in games 2 and 3? Yes, which makes it even more impressive to me, that a shooter can bounce back like that on this stage.
Any number of things could happen tonight and Friday night (if necessary), so I don’t think it’s fair to say who the MVP should/will be. I do know, though, that we are being treated to one of the greatest Finals’ performances ever by Lebron, and by a performance from Steph that could very much shift the idea of who can lead a team to championships forever. We might as well sit back and enjoy the show!