I took the lift downstairs on Monday at lunchtime and walked through the foyer of the office tower I work in. In the corner a large crowd had gathered three deep to watch the big screen TV. It was game seven of the NBA championship series between the Warriors and the Cavs, and everyone wanted to know how it would turn out.
It’s hard to remember a better series, though it started off looking as if the Warriors would breeze past the Cavs. Two big victories gave them a 2-0 lead. The Cavs had their own big victory after that, but in Milwaukee went down to San Francisco again to trail 3-1, with only one more home game up their sleeve. Just to level it up at 3-3 was a feat, but no team had ever come back from 3-1 down to win championship. Not until Monday.
I only saw bits of the game while I was working, but when the result went through the NBA fans among us quickly gathered to discuss. Monday night at home I watched a replay of what has to be one of the greatest deciding games ever. The last five minutes particularly were epic.
In the end it came down to defence, with neither team able to score fluently or open a break. The difference came down to two plays: Kyrie Irving finding himself free and sinking a big three pointer (in the context of the game it must have felt like five points); then LeBron trailing in defensively and making a fantastic, unexpected block. It was his series. He was magnificent, and in the end I was barracking for the Cavs largely because of him (great player, but a good bloke too).
Must be bitterly disappointing for the GSW. They dominated all year, like no other team ever has. Come the finals though they weren’t as sharp, scraping by the Thunder when perhaps they should have lost. They lost just nine games in the regular season, but went 15-9 in the play-offs. Steph Curry went from looking like maybe the best player in the comp for much of the season, to just very good. Then they lost Green, suspended, for game five, and Bogut, injured, for the last two games. They had reasons, and then they had to contend with the legit best player in the comp, LeBron James, lifting his team to special performances.
Then on Friday there was the NBA draft. As expected, Ben Simmons was taken pick number one by the 76’ers (one of my favourite teams – I started watching the NBA in the eighties when they were a great team, often battling against the Knicks). At pick ten, Thon Maker, another Aussie, was taken.
I read yesterday that only Chicago has had more native-born sons go pick number one in the NBA draft than Melbourne has. That’s an extraordinary stat. Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bogut, and now Ben Simmons, all born in Melbourne and number one draft picks. If I can be extra parochial, Bogut and Simmons are both dyed in the wool Bomber supporters, as is Dante Exum.
There’s becoming a strong Australian influence in the NBA – the last three championship winning teams have had an Australian on their roster – and it’s growing. Looking good for the Olympics in a few years time, when they’re ripe.