The end of the third quarter in nearly every college football game is marked by both sidelines being full of players raising up four fingers in defiance to the physical drain and beating that they have taken during the first 45 minutes of football. Those player’s know that the energy and endurance that they bring to the fourth quarter will play a huge role in the final outcome.
Last night, Lebron James played 46 out of the 48 minutes of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, which for most any NBA player is way too much. Yes, Lebron has defied the science of basketball a million times and is a physical freak. However, James’ last made field goal occurred with 6:54 left in the 4th quarter. His last three shots from the field were: (1) a front rim missed 12-footer, (2) a missed body contorting lay-up, and (3) Iguodala’s block on his three. Additionally, he had a poor closeout on a Durant’s game-tying three. And yet, none of this was really Lebron’s fault. He nearly completed back-to-back triple-doubles by going 39/11/9 from the field (falling one assist short of the feat).
In a perfect world for Cleveland, James would have only played around 40 minutes of Game 3 by getting a three to four minute breather at the end of the first quarter & beginning of the fourth, and a similar rest at the end of the third quarter. However, King James only received two minutes of bench time last night at the end of the first quarter. Those two minutes were an utter disaster for the Cavs as Curry drained back-to-back threes, and Livingston & Green picked up two easy dunks. With LeBron off the court, the Cavs were a (-10) plus/minus, so Lue really could not afford to give James another rest.
The scoring drought at the end of the game by the Cavs may have been foreshadowed by a similar struggle at the end of the first half. In the final two minutes of the second quarter, the Cavs were outscored 10-6. On the surface this does not seem that bad, except this margin was buoyed by Kyrie going full Uncle Drew in the final 5 seconds with a coast-to-coast drive and off-balance lay-up as the clock expired. In the final 2 minutes of each quarter (for a total of eight minutes of game time), the Cleveland Cavaliers were outscored by the Golden State Warriors 31-12. That margin seems to reflect not only a tired team being required to chase around four all-stars, but also a tired LeBron. James is being tasked with playing point guard as the number one ball-handler and distributor, the key defender drawing Durant shadowing duties, and the emotional driver of not only the Cavs, but the entire Quicken Loans Arena. The craziest part is that LeBron nearly handled all of those demanding tasks against the best NBA team of the decade, without almost any in-game rest.
Thus, let’s raise a glass to LeBron James, you brought your best last night and delivered the game that all NBA fans were waiting for this Finals. Also, you can tell Paul Pierce to shove it because this is not a “torch-passing” scenario. You are still the best NBA’s player and if Durant wanted the crown – he could have had a shot at it last year by closing out the West Conference when up 3-1.
Hail to the King Because We are Assured that He is Human,