Somewhere, for the finals Charles Barkley is yelling into a phone “I TOLD YOU THAT JUMP SHOOTING TEAMS CAN’T WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP!”. Hey, maybe he was right. Maybe the newest way isn’t the best.
Monday’s game serves as a reminder that the old school, drive to the rim, dominate the boards, bump and grind style of play is still just as effective as it used to be. This was how Cleveland came back from being down 3-1. This is how they ended the championship drought. Old. School. Toughness.
To see this more clearly, take a look at the trademark of the new era, the three point shot. Yes, it is worth one more point than any other regular, boring old man shot inside the arc. But boring is sometimes safer.
The Warriors took a gargantuan 123 shots from beyond the arc and made 44 of those shots in games 5, 6 and 7 (35.7%). On the other side, Cleveland only attempted 76 threes, making 26 of them. A point difference of 132 to 78.
Yet the Cavs still won, tallying 20 more field goal makes than the Warriors for the series (117 to 97), boasting also a better field goal percentage (48.3% to 38.3%).
On top of this, Cleveland attempted and made more free throws than they did long distance shots whereas Golden State attempted twice as many shots from downtown than from the stripe.
This is the long way of saying something very simplistic: If you take more good shots over the course of a few games, you will probably win those games.
Granted, you may get down in the series and you may not hit a homerun straight away and you may not make the crowd go bonkers in an instant. But you will probably win by the war of attrition, an important aspect of NBA playoff competition. This war is also fought on the glass, dominated by the Cavs with a progressively extinct type of player: the big man.
In the last three games, the Cavs outrebounded the Warriors 134 to 117. LeBron James and Tristan Thompson came alive in game five, dominating the glass from the tip of that pivotal game in Oakland, backed up by another 16 rebound game by Thompson in game 6 in front of a starving Ohio crowd.
And then it happened.
The forgotten one returned in game 7.
Kevin “I know I’ll be traded this offseason, but I need to look like I like LeBron so no one will kill me on the internet” Love pulled in 14 rebounds to help end the championship drought in the place known simply as ‘The Land’.
The same faults we saw in the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder (lead by a Dothraki looking, New Zealand Warrior King) arose yet again, this time to sink them for good.
Who knows. Maybe this changes nothing. Maybe the NBA is going to move the same way it did before. Towards threes, analytics, prototypes and positionless play. Away from the grit, the grind and the ginormous.
But in 2016, the old school, rough and tough team beat the flashy, finesse and favoured team. And really, the Championship, is all the validation the Old School needs.