Monday, June 20, 2016

Goals and Outcomes

Cleveland finally did it. Was a highly entertaining finale to the NBA season last night.

LeBron James gets the hero title, of course, even if Kyrie Irving was the one hitting the game-winner. Meanwhile the Warriors couldn’t find a hero of their own despite a valiant effort from Draymond Green to play that role. I want to say relying on three-pointer necessarily invites the sort of variance shown last night (GS hot in first half, cold in second), although the way the Dubs shot from the arc this year they seemed to challenge that oft-cited claim to the point of making us all doubt it actually applied to them.

James’s streak of going to six straight finals (four with Miami, two with Cleveland) and winning three is remarkable. The whole going-back-home narrative is intriguing, too, no matter where you happen to stand on “King James.”

Speaking of going home, looks like the Cavs hit Vegas last night on their way back to Ohio. That’s where I was the last two times the NBA Finals featured a Game 7 -- in 2010 and 2013 -- so it was fun to be able to sit down and actually watch such an event this time around.

Incidentally, Jason Mercier’s last seven days in Vegas have been something else, too, with the two bracelet wins a runner-up, and his securing added bounties of all those many side bets. It feels like this summer the side action is in some cases overwhelming the main prize pools, creating some added storylines.

Looking back at my post from Friday, I made a few predictions for Game 7, although most were non-specific enough to have a better than average shot of being accurate.

There’s no doubt the Warriors suffered a most ignominious conclusion to their record-setting season, becoming the first team to lose a 3-1 lead in the finals.

I also said the Cavs wouldn’t be as consistently brilliant as they’d been in the previous two games (they weren’t) and the Warriors wouldn’t be as consistently bad (they weren’t either). Suggested there would be evidence of some nerves, too, especially at the start and the finish, and that’s exactly what happened as the game started very slowly, then both teams had trouble scoring during the endgame (with GS incredibly going the last four-and-a-half minutes without scoring a point).

In a way all of these predictions were a little like “side action,” not unlike prop bets or inventing other in-game contests to up the interest level.

My “hot take” on Friday was to suggest there’d be a controversial call (or non-call) that many would highlight after the game as having affected the outcome, but I can’t really say that happened. There were a few missed calls and questionable fouls during the course of the game, but on the whole the refs did an admirable job, I thought, and I noticed nothing especially egregious down the stretch when it really was a situation when a single whistle could’ve changed everything.

In fact, the only example I can think of was Andre Iguodala’s block of LeBron James’s layup with exactly three minutes to go in which Iguodala got mostly hand and little ball.

As it turned out, it was over at the U.S. Open where it looked as though a ruling really would inordinately affect the outcome. I won’t go into the whole story of the delayed one-stroke penalty assessed to eventual winner Dustin Johnson -- you can read about it here -- but will say it seemed a terrible example of the rules and the mechanism of enforcing the rules potentially overwhelming the players’ control over the competition.

Can’t say I had much of a rooting interest in that one, although like most I was glad to see Johnson overcome what seemed an unfair circumstance to succeed. Didn’t really have a rooting interest in Cavs-Dubs, either, which I realized I was glad about as the fourth quarter was winding down.

I was flashing back both to this year’s Super Bowl (where my Panthers fell) and the NCAA final (where my Heels lost a heartbreaker). It’s much less stressful watching without such intense feelings about how the sucker is going to turn out.

Makes it easier, too, to be less critical of the refs. Without a focus on perspective-altering goals, outcomes can be more clearly assessed.

Image: “Basketball Net” (adapted), Akash Kataruka. CC BY-ND 2.0.

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