Against all odds, the Cleveland Cavaliers are your 2016 NBA champions, beating the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals at Oakland, Calif. Led by LeBron James, they beat the best regular-season team of all time on the road, becoming the first team to overcome a 3-1 Finals deficit en route to their first championship. James earned Finals MVP honors, so let's start with him.
1. LeBron pulled it off
The best player of his generation sprinted back on defense with less than two minutes left and the score tied. The Warriors' Andre Iguodala and Stephen Curry had executed a perfect fast-break give-and-go, and Iguodala had what looked like a sure layup. Just before Igoudala could bank it in, James flew into the picture and got his hand on it.
A day earlier, James had complained about never winning Defensive Player of the Year. He'll have to settle for one of the biggest defensive plays in Finals history.
Before this series-defining moment, the clinching free throw, the emotional scene after the buzzer and the heartfelt post-game interview, James had compiled a relatively quiet triple-double. He did not score as easily as he did in back-to-back 41-point games to force Game 7, but he played all but 71 seconds and kept Cleveland cool when it looked like Golden State might pull away. And then he delivered in crunch time.
The line: 27 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists, two steals, three blocks, five turnovers, 9-24 FG, 1-5 3PT, 8-10 FT. But those numbers only begin to tell the story.
2. Draymond Green did everything he could
Green said he was part of the best team ever after the Warriors won their 73rd game. Few will give them that distinction now, but that does not mean Green's unbelievable season and ridiculous Game 7 should be forgotten. Like James, he sat for barely more than a minute. His line -- 32 points, 15 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, two turnovers, 11-15 FG, 6-8 3PT, 4-4 FT -- was even better.
The 3-pointers stood out. This series started with the Cavaliers daring Green to shoot from the outside, and it ended with Golden State looking for him behind the line. Here are the six makes:
Green is special because he can do just about everything on the court, and he did that for the Warriors with the stakes at their highest, though it was not enough.
3. Love flips the narrative on its head
Kevin Love has taken more than his fair share of criticism throughout his two seasons in Cleveland, particularly in the Finals. The game has changed, and power forwards who aren't comfortable switching onto smaller players can be exploited. Golden State did that, and he had trouble finding other ways to contribute.
Many called for Cavs coach Tyronn Lue to bench Love in the deciding game. Instead, Lue started Love, who responded by posting the best plus-minus of anyone who took the court. He moved his feet as quickly as he could defensively -- including great one-on-one defense against Stephen Curry with less than a minute left -- and he battled underneath the basket. Love finished with nine points on 3-of-9 shooting, but his 14 rebounds, four on the offensive end, were crucial.
No, Love is not a perfect fit in Cleveland. But he is an NBA champion.
4. The Cavs overcame the math problem
Golden State went 15-for-41 from deep, and the Cavs went 6-for-25. Almost all of the time, that is a horrible formula. Remember Game 7 of the Western Conference finals, when the Warriors went 17-for-37 on 3s and the Oklahoma City Thunder went 7-for-27?
Cleveland, though, dominated Golden State in points in the paint, rebounding, free throws and fast-break points. And it held the Warriors, as dangerous an offensive team as this league has ever seen, to 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Speaking of that final frame: The Cavs went 2-for-5 from 3-point range, with James and Kyrie Irving both hitting enormous 3s. Golden State, meanwhile, missed nine of its 10 3-point attempts.
5. The Warriors have some (irrelevant) excuses here
Here are several things that are true for Golden State:
Green sat out Game 5 due to a suspension, and the Warriors missed him.
Andrew Bogut sat out most of Game 5 and all of Games 6 and 7 because of a knee injury, and they missed him, too.
Andre Iguodala was not himself because of a back injury in Game 6.
Harrison Barnes' shot completely abandoned him after Game 5.
Curry has been less than fully healthy for the entire postseason.
If you're looking to dissect how Golden State failed to close Cleveland out three times in a row, all of these factors went into it. Every championship team goes through adversity, though, and it would be disrespectful to both the Cavaliers and the Warriors to blame any or all of these things for the final result. With two minutes left, these two terrific teams had each scored 89 points in the game, 699 points in the series. Golden State had chance to take the lead and the trophy, all you can ask for, and James took it away. Fair and square.