OAKLAND -- We need to come to an understanding over the final few weeks of the 2014-15 season that nothing we have learned or hold as self-evident carries weight anymore. None of our accumulated knowledge during the course of 82 games and three rounds of playoffs can guide us anymore. Efficiency is dead. Order has been subverted. Expectations are meaningless.
In order to get through the remainder of these NBA Finals -- the first finals in history to send the first two games into overtime -- we must put all that aside and concentrate on what LeBron James called "The Moment."
"I think the game is such a small thing, when you think about the moment," James said. "We have a chance to be a part of history, but it's the small steps that you take to get to that point."
Look, there's no other way to properly explain how a visiting team can shoot less than 33 percent from the floor and walk out of Oracle Arena with a victory. A team, by the way, that is playing without two NBA All-Stars and is using just seven rotation players that managed to blow an 11-point lead in just over three minutes.
The Cavaliers did that, while holding Stephen Curry to a 5-for-23 shooting performance, and while LeBron missed 23 of his 34 shots en route an astounding triple-double that still included 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists. No one's ever done that, which was in keeping with the rest of the evening. A lot of things no one's ever done happened on Sunday.
The Warriors scored only 14 points in the third quarter, their lowest total of the postseason. They shot less than 40 percent for the first time this postseason. Curry, the reigning Most Valuable Player and one of the greatest shooters who ever played, was scoreless when matched up against Matthew Dellavedova in the half court.
"It had everything to do with Delly," James said. "He just kept a body on Steph. He made Steph work. He was spectacular, man, defensively. We needed everything from him."
Curry's response to the question of what Dellavedova was able to do against him was telling. The Warriors were not in the mood to hand out praise.
"Nothing really, just besides playing their game plan and playing defense like every pro is supposed to," Curry said. "Not giving up on any possession. But I doubt this will happen again, with the adjustments I'll make once I'll look at the film. And like I said, one game is not going to make me stop shooting or alter my confidence at all."
The biggest rebound of the game? That went to Dellavedova, who followed up a James Jones miss by crashing the glass from the weak side and getting the two free throws that wound up winning the game. Of all the moments, that may have been the biggest and most unexpected. Maybe. There were so many others, from Mo Speights blowing a breakaway dunk to Jones scoring on a pull-up jumper ... the list goes on and on.
The Cavs have made this a series of unlikely moments. If Game 1 was an almost uninterrupted string of spectacular back-and-forth sequences, Game 2 was an ugly, grinding affair. They successfully brought the free-wheeling Warriors to a halt, forcing them to play each possession amid a tangle of bodies and arms. Passing angles that were so tantalizingly available in the first game were non-existent. Shots that went up interrupted in the flow of organized chaos that is Golden State's trademark became rushed and hurried.
It was brutal to watch at times, absolutely antithetical to the glorious basketball that made Game 1 such a classic. This is what the Cavs have to do and this is what they have become. Reluctantly, perhaps, but it's effective nonetheless.
"Yeah, that's what it is, it's the grit squad that we have," James said. "It's not cute at all. If you're looking for us to play sexy, cute basketball, then that's not us. That's not us right now. Everything is tough. You know, we're going to come in with an aggressive mindset defensively. And for us to win a finals game shooting 32 percent from the field, it's just a testament of how gritty we can be. It has to be that for the rest of the series, no matter how many games it takes."
The bad vibes that hovered around the Cavs after Kyrie Irving's injury in overtime of Game 1 were gone, replaced by the buoyancy of the underdog who pulled off the impossible. On Saturday, LeBron suggested that he could play 40-42 minutes of finals-level basketball. He gave the Cavs 50 on Sunday. Once again, he plowed through the teeth of the Golden State defense, only this time he was able to facilitate as well as score.
"We're undermanned," James said, clearly relishing the challenge. "I mean, we're without two all-stars, and I don't know any other team in this league that would be able to do that, to be able to be without two all-stars on their team and compete the way we compete and be a force. So the guys are taking that very personally."
And yet. All game long, everyone waited for the Golden State run. Each time it seemed a wave was imminent, the Cavs fought back against the tide and sent it crashing harmlessly back to the shore. Finally, with just over three minutes to play, it happened.
Curry got loose, burying a pull-up three right in front of LeBron. Klay Thompson, the only Warrior player to have an effective offensive night, drove the lane for a layup. J.R. Smith did J.R. Smith things, inexplicably fouling shooters all the way to the bench. Draymond Green was everywhere, blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. The game was suddenly tied and overtime beckoned again after the Cavs missed two great chances to win it in regulation. Again.
Either team could be up 2-0 at this point and either team could be staring at that same deficit. A split seems fair here, filled as it is with relief and lament on both sides. We have a series and there's no telling how things will play out. That's how it should be in the finals and that's what the final few games of this season have given us. We know nothing and must anticipate everything. The only thing left to reveal itself is how it will all end.
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