The best team doesn’t always win. It’s a phrase we hear often in sports, more so in football than any other. They have one game to play and anything can happen. Basketball and baseball are different in terms of the number of games. A best of seven series should ultimately determine who was the best of the best and the true winner. That wasn’t the case this past season in the NBA, according to Golden State Warriors’ forward Andre Iguodala. The 6th man was on The Breakfast Club last week discussing the 2016 postseason, where the 73-win Warriors had an epic collapse in the Finals and blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Iguodala claimed that the Oklahoma City Thunder were the toughest matchup for Golden State and the best team in the postseason. He then said that the Thunder should have won the title.
Like Golden State, Oklahoma City also blew a 3-1 lead. Unlike the Warriors, they didn’t have homecourt advantage. Unlike the Warriors, they didn’t have the misfortunate of losing one of their best players due to suspension. Unlike the Warriors, they didn’t lose their best rim protector for the final couple of games of the series. Why would Iguodala go on record and say these things? Some look at him like a sore loser, others use it to bash Kevin Durant even harder for leaving a team that was one win away from the Finals to join one who’s been there in consecutive years.
Much like the 2015 Warriors, the Cavaliers at times aren’t getting enough credit. The healthier team won each year in the Finals and at times, that’s what it really comes down to. Momentum swung hard in this year’s Finals when Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5. The Warriors were still favored to win at home after a dominating Game 4 victory in Cleveland. Golden State came out flat despite all the noise they made off the court against LeBron James and his squad. James answered and his team followed suit, leaving Golden State without an answer. After a commanding 3-1 lead in a series that looked all but over, Cleveland responded. The Warriors were held without a basket for the final five minutes of the season. A James’ block and Kyrie Irving's historic jumper sealed the deal to give Cleveland their first NBA title.
The Thunder came back from a 14 point deficit in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. They should have won Game 2 at Oracle, but Stephen Curry erupted for 15 points in just a couple of minutes and they were never able to recover. The length on Oklahoma City presented a challenge like no other for the Warriors. Playing Durant and Russell Westbrook is also no easy task as two of the top five players in the league were healthy and on a mission. They resorted back to hero ball and it was the only reason they ended up losing the series. That and Klay Thompson having the best performance of his career (yes, better than 37 points in a quarter vs. Sacramento). Thompson made 11 three-pointers and Golden State needed each one to keep the hostile OKC crowd in check and stop the Thunder from making a run of their own.
Oklahoma City never had the luxury of Green being suspended. They didn’t play a Warriors team whose best big man outside of Green was either Festus Ezeli or Anderson Varejao. The Thunder also played the Spurs in the prior series and made San Antonio looked extinct. They made the Dallas Mavericks look like they didn’t belong in the postseason. Cleveland kept it close with the Detroit Pistons, had an impressive sweep over the Atlanta Hawks, and lost two more games than expected against the Toronto Raptors.
Tons of energy was used by the Dubs to come back down from a deficit against two hungry stars. Game 3 and Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals were a couple of the worst beat downs I’ve seen the Warriors take and I’ve been watching this team for years. Golden State looked completely lost and despite blowing the lead against the Cavaliers, they didn’t look as bad in the Finals as they did in the Western Conference Finals. Curry’s injury made him worse as the postseason went on too. He missed several open jumpers against Cleveland, but the Thunder were the ones that made him work through multiple different screens to get shots up.
LeBron James was the primary difference. Kyrie Irving also played the best basketball of his career. No one else on Cleveland made a monumental difference. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both played well all postseason long. Steven Adams had his coming out party and Billy Donovan showcased why he belongs in the NBA. James took over the Finals and proved that he is still the best player in the league; he rose to the occasion when no other star in the postseason did.
Like it or not, the Cavaliers got breaks that the Thunder didn’t. They faced easier competition and didn’t have to go through the tough Western Conference. By the time Golden State and Cleveland reached the Finals, the Cavs were without a scratch while the Warriors were bruised and broken. Credit Cleveland for taking advantage and winning the NBA title. There is no doubt that they deserved the championship. However, Andre Iguodala was right. The Thunder were the best overall team in the postseason and should have won the title. They gave Golden State a run for their money and nearly took it all. The Cavaliers just took the change.