NBA Finals Game 4 between Cavs, Warriors: What did you think of the coverage?
CLEVELAND, Ohio – We look at how ESPN / ABC did with its coverage of Friday’s deciding Game 4 of the 2018 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers:
Mike Breen (play-by-play), Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson (analysts), Doris Burke (courtside). Studio: Michelle Beadle (host) with Jalen Rose, Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce (analysts).
Obvious one: It was a deciding game. And by the third quarter, it was decided. Warriors, 108-85, series over. Plus the secondary storyline of whether LeBron James will return to the Cavs.
We can only hope for a close game when Van Gundy and Jackson are behind the mike, so the commentary stays on basketball (which they know) and not meandering commentary (which they can resort to, especially in blowouts.) Early on Jackson noted what it will take to defend Durant, and that George Hill was doing a good job. (Durant, though, finished with a triple-double - 20 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists – against multiple defenders.)
They debated whether Curry’s post-shooting contortions were seen as fouls to referees. Van Gundy commented on how good of a cut Smith made in the final two minutes of the first half, when he darted along the baseline for a pass from James to hit a three-pointer. And Jackson called out James’ lack of help defense on a play in the paint.
(Perplexing) quote of the night
MJ and JVG, about James after cameras picked up the Cavaliers star screaming on the sidelines: “When he’s at his best he’s inspiring guys between these lines. And I don’t think he’s done that tonight.” – Jackson.
Van Gundy followed up with the obvious: “He’s been the best player in this Finals. But that isn’t even enough.”
Interesting: The New York Times published a breakdown of what percentage of a team’s stats come from individual players. James tops everybody.
James finished Game 4 with 23 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. He played all but 38 seconds in the first three quarters.
James’ playoff line, we see from a late-game graphic, is just shy of a triple-double: 34 points, 8.5 rebounds, 10 assists.
When the dust settled, though, during post-game chatter the analysts tipped their caps to James.
• “Shots like that truly take the life out of you.” – Jackson after Stephen Curry hit a difficult shot in the first quarter.
• “You mean anyone can go? I’m there. I love Taco Bell.” – Van Gundy after a graphic during play told fans to “Run into Taco Bell on Wednesday, June 13 from 2 to 6 p.m. to score your free Doritos Locos Taco.” I can’t knock JVG for the shameless plug, though. Precedent was set with Joe Tait and his waxing on about DiGiorno’s Pizza during his time behind the microphone in Cleveland.
• “Even though Korver is struggling we don’t see him miss like that.” – Jackson, after Kyle Korver drew Klay Thompson’s third foul, with fewer than eight minutes to go in the first half.
• “It’s a blight on our game.” – Van Gundy, about the nuances of players drawing fouls he doesn’t see as fouls. Van Gundy, a former coach, hammers this point home every game. He’s not wrong.
• “This is bad effort by the Cavs, absolutely embarrassing effort.” – Jackson, seconds before the Warriors went up 84-65 in the third.
• “I don’t think a sportsman should be dictated by if you shake hands or not. To me it’s by how you conduct your business and by how you compete on the floor.” – Van Gundy. There’s a lot to be said, though, when NHL teams who, after checking and shoving each other for 60 minutes of hockey, line up for the traditional postgame handshake. It doesn’t hurt. It’s class, and a good lesson.
Analogy of the night
Jackson likened the Cavs’ effort Friday to Roberto Duran’s infamous ‘No mas’ fight against Sugar Ray Leonard in 1980. Except for the fact that the Cavs finished the game.
By the numbers
• Going into the game, James has scored or assisted on 56.5 points per game in the playoffs.
• Breen noted Curry had 11 points total in Game 3. He poured in 20 in the first half of Game 4 and finished with a game-high 37.
Cameras in the Q picked up Syracuse basketball coach Jim Boeheim, rapper-actor Ludacris, Drew Carey, Khloe Kardashian, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, and Eagles players Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz.
Of course James is a free agent, so speculation will increase as to whether he stays in Cleveland. Burke alluded to it in the first quarter, and Breen and Jackson revisited it in the fourth quarter. Van Gundy said to build the team around James, the star must commit early. Commentary shifted to the topic as the Warriors pushed the lead in the final quarter to double digits. Also: The NBA Draft is Thursday, June 21.
How ESPN did with Cleveland’s Game 7 win over Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals.