LeBron James and Kyrie Irving attempted to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers across the finish line, but ultimately fell short against the Golden State Warriors on Monday, losing 129-120 to lose the championship.
Outmatched by the Warriors, James and Irving nonetheless put on an offensive spectacle for the second year in a row, scoring 67 combined points in Game 5 after scoring 71 combined points in Game 4 and 77 combined points in Game 3.
After Game 5, James said he could accept the Finals loss because he knows he gave it his all. It seems fair to assume the same of Irving, who was dazzling offensively at times.
After Game 5, Irving spoke at length at how James’ work effort inspires him and how he hopes to maintain their relationship for years to come (via Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver).
“Man, that guy is — I think that some people would say he’s on the toe of — like he’s on the line of greatness. But that guy is way over. Man, he’s freaking awesome. As a student of the game, it would be a disservice to myself if I didn’t try to learn as much as possible while I’m playing with this guy. Every single day demanding more out of himself, demanding more out of us, the true testament of a consummate professional. And understanding how things work, not only just in the game, but off the court, things that matter, just taking care of your body, understanding the magnitude of what the goal is at hand and what steps it takes in order to achieve that goal.
“You can’t skip any steps. And that was one thing that I came to understand, because as a young player you want everything to happen right now. And ‘Bron’s been in this league for a while now, and he’s seen every which way from on the court, to off the court, to dealing with some of you guys, to dealing with the whole world of just choosing a side. Whether you want to believe him or not, he’s still coming.
“And that’s the type of guy that I want to be with every single time I’m going to war, because I know what to expect, and you stand your ground, too, with a leader like that. You don’t want to take a step back. You move to the front line with a guy like that, and you want to bring your game up to another level.
“That’s what I’m going to continue to do, because I know that if we continue to be with one another and keep utilising one another, man, the sky’s the limit.”
Irving added another thought about what James accomplished, at age 32, in his seventh straight Finals, even in a losing effort.
“He left it all out there on the floor, and to average a triple-double in the freaking Finals, man — add that to the LeBron long list that everyone keeps forgetting.”
It’s unclear what the Cavs’ future holds. There are already murmurs of James’ dedication to the team. They have few means of drastically improving this offseason, and some think they need to drastically improve to contend with the Warriors.
One thing that seems certain, however, is the James-Irving duo is one that should be kept together for a long time.
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