It's possible LeBron is the GOAT, but now we're seeing the Warriors are the best ever
It's possible the Cavs superstar and Golden State's superteam are the best we've ever seen
CLEVELAND -- We are one game away from knowing that the guy who may be the best player of all time has no chance against what is perhaps the greatest team of all time.
Not when LeBron James, chasing Michael Jordan and heeding the clarion call to take over and shoot more, pours in 39 points on 15-of-27 shooting -- and adds 11 rebounds and nine assists. And it's still not enough.
Not when Kyrie Irving, back home in Cleveland where again he found his superstar switch, flicked it to the tune of 38 points during a mesmerizing performance that seemed certain to allow Cleveland a win a critical, momentum-turning Game 3 here in the NBA Finals. And it's still not enough.
And not, in the end, when Kevin Durant, the super-weapon added to a Warriors team that without him won 73 games last regular season, rose up at the 3-point line with 45 seconds left, trailing by two, and dropped a 26-foot dagger that turned LeBron's day of triumph into a nightmare.
Warriors 118, Cavaliers 113, and the series now at 3-0.
Really, truly, utterly: What more can the Cavs do?
What more could LeBron do?
What more could any of the greats -- Michael, Magic, Bird -- really have done?
We like tidy narratives, and we tend to do nuance poorly if at all, but what if LeBron James can be the greatest player of all time and the Warriors can be the best team ever? What if the Warriors claim that mantle Friday with a win in Game 4 that would sweep King James and his court out of the Finals and make Golden State the first 16-0 postseason team in NBA history?
You really believe that banishes LeBron to secondary status, whatever comes in the years ahead, despite how well he played Wednesday, how well he has played now in three straight Finals for the Cavaliers when he has redefined Finals excellence?
Game 3 made a mockery of the idea of parity in the NBA. If parity cannot be forced by LeBron James' greatness, no one out there has a chance. Not Boston, even if they get Gordon Hayward and the right guy with that No. 1 overall pick. Not the Clippers, together again, or the Spurs, even if Chris Paul joins forces there. Not Utah, not Houston, not anyone.
Consider this: In the first half, the Warriors shot 50/60/100 from the field. And still the Cavs persisted. Because LeBron James is that great, that formidable in the face of a team unlike any ever assembled.
Everything required of Cleveland and James to again stem the tide and cut the series to 2-1, as they did against the Warriors lat year, once again was done. Irving was sensational. J.R. Smith found his rhythm, hitting 5 of 10 3s on the way to 16 points. Cleveland won the points-in-the-paint battle, 46-38. They even saw Durant go quiet for a key stretch, including a muted third quarter where he scored a single point. And LeBron again played like the best player on earth -- maybe the best ever -- leading Cleveland to a four-point lead with two minutes left and a sense of surety coursed through Quicken Loans Arena.
Then the Warriors became the Warriors. Steph Curry, who had 26 points and 13 rebounds, hit a running layup.
Then Durant hit a jumper.
Then after Kyle Korver missed a 3, and Durant rebounded the ball and pushed it upcourt, the hero of the night for the Warriors hit that 3 -- one for the ages, if it does indeed break the Cavs' will.
Curry is a two-time MVP, and played like one. Durant is a former MVP and he, too, played like one.
LeBron was amazing. He just was. But sometimes your greatness runs into a greater fact, and it turns out it is this: The best player of all time is not enough for the best team we've ever seen.
Let's do nuance right, just once: The Warriors are the best NBA team ever. And LeBron James is still on track to be its best all-time player.
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