The great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
For the Cleveland Cavaliers, it ain’t over till it’s over…but with Kyrie Irving out with a fractured kneecap, it looks like it’s over.
It’s nobody’s fault Irving’s injury happened. A lot of people want to point the finger at Cavs head coach David Blatt for having Irving play 43 minutes on one leg. Some people want to point the finger at LeBron James for missing a shot he made once against the Golden State Warriors at the end of a game. And some are even pointing to rapper Lil B for allegedly cursing the Cavaliers after a video on J.R. Smith’s Instagram showed Smith, James and Iman Shumpert allegedly doing the rapper’s dance, or as Lil B would say, stealing his swag. But injuries are a part of the game and you never want to see an injury happen, especially during a championship series.
What makes it worse is that Thursday night’s overtime thriller between the Warriors and the Cavaliers may have been the zenith. Without Irving to run the point, the Cavaliers must call on Matthew Dellavedova, who might still be looking for the team bus after missing it following the Game 1 loss. Hopefully for the Cavaliers, Dellavedova won’t be lost on the court on Sunday when he’s asked to fill in for Irving.
Game 1 displayed what kind of a series the Cavaliers and Warriors were engaging in – a war of attrition. Whichever team took a misstep first would lose. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, that misstep was in the form of Irving’s stumble on the wing that has the fat lady warming up her vocal chords.
James has been in this situation before, and the situation I’m referring to is being down 1-0 in the NBA Finals. Before, James had Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers, and, of course, Ray Allen.
Now, he doesn’t have Irving and before Irving, he didn’t have Kevin Love. The projected lineup for Game 2 is Dellavedova, James, Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, and Timofey Mozgov. This lineup scored 68 points in Game 1, with 44 earned by James from shooting 18-38. Game 2 will be no different. Expect King James to wage an all-out attack on the Warriors a la King Leonidas, one king versus an army of warriors.
I want to be clear that I am not one of the 99.9% of people who are saying that this series is over. I am saying this series looks like it’s over. What makes sports, especially basketball, so great is the ‘hey, it could happen!’ sense of hope in every contest. Dellavedova may, in fact, build upon his performance in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks. Shumpert and Smith might shake off the cobwebs and score some key points. Mozgov could take a page out of WWE’s Russian character, Rusev, and crush every Warrior in his path. And last but not least, James may distribute the ball more to his teammates to spread the floor instead of shooting like George Custer.
Hey, it could happen. But it might not happen. Irving’s impact can’t be duplicated by anyone else on the Cavaliers. His injury, while unfortunate, is a golden opportunity for the Warriors. This is their chance to smite the Cavaliers and claim the NBA Finals in convincing fashion.
And any sliver of hope from Yoda Berra’s paradox is trumped by the following. When Berra uttered that famous paradox, it was in July of 1973 as a manager of the New York Mets. The Mets were 9 1/2 games behind the Chicago Cubs for the divisional lead and two more months of baseball in front of them. Two months laters, the Mets won the National League East.
The Cavaliers don’t have two months. They have a best of seven series and are already trailing, Matter of fact, virtually everyone has crowned the Warriors champions. We’ll see if the wise man Berra’s words provide some source of energy. It ain’t over till it’s over, but right now, it does looks like it’s over for the Cavaliers.