They were down 3-1 in the NBA Finals, the city hadn’t won a sports championship in 52 years, 2 days later the Cleveland Cavaliers were able to kill 2 birds with one stone-or basketball.
The Cavs did the impossible by rebounding from that 3-1 deficit to beat the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7-in front of a hostile environment at the Oracle arena, home of the Warriors. They are the first team in NBA history to do so and they won their first championship in Cleveland since the Browns in 1964.
They needed the leadership of one man, and they got it. F LeBron James, who returned to Cleveland to bring them their first title, came through on his promise by scoring 41 points in Games 5 & 6 and then had a triple-double in Game 7 for the right to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy for the 3rd time in his career.
Just one year ago, these same Cavs fell short to the Warriors in 6 games and even though James did all he could, but the rest of his team just wasn’t there-with G Kyrie Irving and F Kevin Love missing the playoffs with injuries.
James led the Cavs with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to join HOF James Worthy and Magic Johnson. a healthy Irving added 26 points, including a huge 3-pointer to give the Cavs the lead for good and JR Smith added 12 for the newly crowned world champions.
James was named unanimous NBA Finals MVP and a tearful James boldly shouted “Cleveland, this is for You!!”
LeBron James cradled the shiny gold trophy and struggled to sum up what might be his sweetest championship yet, the one he is so proudly bringing home to his native northeast Ohio just as he promised to do when he returned to the Cavaliers two summers ago.
Later, flanked by his three children on Father’s Day, a cigar between his lips and winning net as a necklace with the lingering stench of champagne, James began to understand the magnitude of his accomplishment for Cleveland after a half-century wait.
”I’m coming home with what I said I was going to do,” he said, adding, ”I can’t wait to get off that plane, hold that trophy up and see all our fans at the terminal.”
James and his relentless, never-count-them-out Cavs pulled off an improbable NBA Finals comeback, and Cleveland is title town again at long last.
.In a testy series of blowouts – and a few blowups – the winner-take-all Game 7 provided the thrilling finale with James as the finals MVP disarming two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and his record-setting Warriors.
The native of Akron rattled off moments from the lengthy list of Cleveland sports heartbreak and said what it meant for him to personally bring the Cavaliers their first championship.
Playing his sixth straight finals, James almost single-handedly carried the Cavs back into this series and finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as the Cavs gave their city its first major sports winner since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. He also had three blocked shots, including a key one of Andre Iguodala on a fast break in the final minutes.
An emotional James fell to the floor when this one ended with a second win in a week on Golden State’s imposing home floor, surrounded by his teammates. Only moments earlier, he went down in pain with 10.6 seconds left after being fouled by Draymond Green while going for a dunk, then came back out to make the second of two free throws.
After four successful seasons in Miami and two titles with the Heat, James came back to the Cavs in hopes of winning the title this franchise and championship-starved city so coveted. It took a second try against Golden State after Cleveland lost to the Warriors in six games last year.
Similar to the Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, Cleveland did it after a coaching change, with Tyronn Lue taking over in January for the fired David Blatt.
Kyrie Irving scored 26 points to cap his brilliant finals, including a 3-pointer over Curry with 53 seconds left. Curry sat briefly on the bench to take in the scene after the Warriors made their last basket with 4:39 left.
Green had 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but the Warriors’ record-setting season ended without the only prize this close-knit ”Strength in Numbers” crew cared about from way back in the beginning – through the record 24-0 start as Coach of the Year Steve Kerr was out, Curry’s second consecutive MVP campaign, and the 73 regular-season wins to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ mark.
As Cleveland celebrated in the trophy ceremony, Green returned to the floor to congratulate the Cavs. He stopped by the winning locker room, too, and Warriors general manager Bob Myers brought in the freshly cut nets.
Golden State might always be remembered as one of the best teams ever that couldn’t close it out, and Green is taking at least a good share of the blame after he sat out Game 5 on Monday night suspended for flagrant fouls.
The Cavs staved off elimination twice to force Game 7 back at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors went up 2-0 with a pair of lopsided wins to start this series. Cleveland became just the fourth team to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road.
Curry – who said beforehand he needed the best game of his career – scored 17 points on 6-for-19 shooting, while Splash Brother Klay Thompson added 14 points while making 6 of 17 shots.
President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan, returned to Washington aboard Air Force One late Sunday as the game entered its final, tense minutes. He watched until the end and did not come down the stairs until moments after the Cavs won.
This time, it will be Cleveland hosting the victory parade on Wednesday. A year ago at home, the Cavs had to watch Golden State win its first title in 40 years.
Notes: Veteran Richard Jefferson is ending his 15-year NBA career on the highest of notes. While celebrating winning a championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, a 93-89 Game 7 win over the Warriors, Jefferson announced that he was now going to retire. Earlier in his career, Jefferson played in two NBA Finals with the then-New Jersey Nets, but fell short of winning a ring in both of those appearances. He then had a journeyman career, making stops in San Antonio, Milwaukee, Utah, Golden State and Dallas before landing in Cleveland this year.
In the MLB: The Pittsburgh Pirates struggles continue as they lose to the Chicago Cubs once again, this time in a 10-5 blowout in a 3-game sweep. The Pirates are now a season-low 33-36 with their postseason hopes in serious jeopardy for the first time since late 2012.
Prized Cubs prospect Willison Contreras received a standing ovation as he made his way to the plate in the sixth inning for his first major league at-bat. One pitch later, the Wrigley Field crowd was back on its feet demanding a curtain call.
Contreras crushed the first pitch he saw in the big leagues for a two-run home run, Kyle Hendricks struck out a career-high 12 in six innings and the Chicago Cubs completed a sweep of the fading Pittsburgh Pirates with a 10-5 victory Sunday night.
Contreras, called up from Triple-A on Friday, pinch hit for Hendricks in the sixth and sent A.J. Schugel’s changeup an estimated 415 feet to center. The cheering didn’t let up until the 24-year-old Venezuelan catcher hopped out of the dugout and tipped his cap. A fan even returned the ball to Contreras, which sat in his locker.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo hit consecutive home runs in the third and Javier Baez added a solo shot for the Cubs, all off rookie Jameson Taillon (1-1). Addison Russell hit a two-run shot in the seventh for the Cubs, who have eight homers in two games.
Josh Harrison’s solo home run was the lone blemish off Hendricks (5-6), who walked none and allowed seven hits. His previous career high was nine strikeouts.
Starling Marte returned from injury and had a two-run triple off Adam Warren in a three-run seventh for the Pirates, who have lost 17 of 22 and fell 15 games behind the Cubs in the NL Central. Chicago’s overall division lead jumped to 12 1/2 games over St. Louis with Contreras providing the latest feel-good story.
Contreras arrived from Iowa on Friday and played one inning of defense. Madden announced before the game that Contreras would get his first start at catcher Monday. Rizzo added two RBI singles for the Cubs, who completed their seventh series sweep of the season.
Chicago jumped on Taillon after the rookie took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a victory Tuesday against the New York Mets.
Bryant and Rizzo crushed misplaced fastballs, marking the fifth time this season they’ve homered in the same game. That was overshadowed by Contreras becoming the first Cubs player to homer on the first pitch he saw since Jim Bullinger in 1992.
Of course, Contreras is still a rookie, and the team’s No. 3 catcher. Once the curtain call ended, he had to get back to warming up pitchers.
Notes: LHP Jeff Locke (5-5, 5.92 ERA) starts Monday night to open a four-game home series against San Francisco and Giants ace Madison Baumgartner (8-2, 1.91). Locke has lost his last two starts. C Jacob Stallings, son of new University of Pittsburgh basketball coach Kevin Stallings, started and went 0 for 4 in his major league debut.
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