Archive for the ‘basketball’ Category

Making a Top 10 list of the 2017 NBA Finals could be done with just one player: Kevin Durant.

The move from Oklahoma City to the Bay Area has been a knockout success for Durant and he was the star of these NBA Finals as the Golden Warriors dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games.

Durant topped 30 points in each contest and was named MVP of the finals. He averaged 35.2 points and shot 55.6 percent from the field.

The good thing for Durant is he no longer has to listen to any nonsense about not having a ring. Now his only issue is trying to win another one.

The Warriors and Cavaliers have met in each of the past three NBA Finals with Golden State winning two of the crowns. It looks highly possible that the two teams could meet against next June.

The only possible problem might be Cleveland GM LeBron James — we know who runs the franchise — messing things up with his latest teammate demands.

Here are 10 takeaways from the 2017 NBA Finals:

 

10. Just how mad is Russell Westbrook tonight after seeing Durant celebrating his NBA title?

9. Television announcer Mike Breen yelled “BANG!” after a 3-point basket … which I’m sure families who have had somebody shot to death always appreciate while watching a SPORTING EVENT.

8. Did Golden State’s David West and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson kiss when they had that little love scuffle? Who proposed to whom in that scenario?

7. Kind of funny to me that some people are just discovering how good Kyrie Irving is — do they not watch basketball until the Finals?

6. My back gets sore just looking at Warriors coach Steve Kerr. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to battle spinal fluid issues.

5. LeBron James has been in the NBA Finals seven straight seasons. Was about to think how tough that is to do until I see Cleveland benchwarmer James Jones (eight minutes played in the series) has achieved the same thing.

4. No more Doris Burke questions for five months. Thank God.

3. Draymond Green’s annoyance level is now higher than his talent level, a sad development when you consider what a great story it was for a second-round selection to become a big star.

2. Games feel disappointing when Stephen Curry doesn’t make at least one 60-footer in a game.

1. Some buffoons at an Oklahoma City newspaper once called Durant “Mr. Unreliable” in a headline. Hopefully the entire staff was fired.

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A lot of people in the sports world predict which team will win a game.

Not too many try to predict the final score.

It’s not an easy thing to do, especially in a sport like basketball.

This is on my mind because one of those situations came up this week that truly impresses me.

Wait, are you allowed to say you were impressed over something that you yourself did? Is that what the modern folks mean by #humblebrag?

As if that word itself isn’t confusing.

So let me be humble and let me go brag — yeah, that makes sense — about my prediction of Tuesday’s NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Timberwolves.

I saw this score “Spurs 105, Timberwolves 91” and I thought ‘That sounds kind of familiar.’

I went online and found my preview … scrolled to the bottom and there was my pick:

PREDICTION: Spurs 105, Timberwolves 92 (here’s proof at the bottom of the stellar previewhttp://www.reuters.com/article/bkn-spurs-timberwolves-preview-idUSMTZECC6RIRQ1U

Soooooo close — if Andrew Wiggins could have gone 2-of-3 from the line instead of a porous 1-of-3, I nail that score right on the head.

Just know that close call is way closer than most of the predictions. Could make a good laugh to keep track of all of them and check the scores because most of the time you will be far away from the actual score.

So when you are close, toot your horn … like I’m about to do over last season’s NCAA championship game.

Remember how that powerful North Carolina team was supposed to roll through the Final Four?

Well, I picked Villanova to win the national championship game … and I just missed nailing the final score.

Yes, I almost predicted the correct score for the most important college basketball game of the season.

PREDICTION: Villanova 77, North Carolina 73

Final score of the game: Villanova 77, North Carolina 74

Again, here is the proof at the bottom of the stellar NCAA title game preview — http://www.reuters.com/article/bkc-villanova-northcarolina-preview-idUSMTZEC443VZQAB

OK, done humblebragging (is that a word?). The point has been made. It doesn’t happen often but it feels good to almost hit the score of a basketball game.

I know, I know — now you will be expecting me to tell you the correct score of the 2017 NCAA title game.

Now that you are paying attention, I’ll probably miss by 30.

 

Let’s consider the Spurs-Timberwolves preview as part of the ever-popular Weekly Links.

Here is another one — San Diego State vs. Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl.

I see a lot of whining that Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey wasn’t a Heisman Trophy finalist. And then the failure to win the Doak Walker Award is somehow a sign of DISRESPECT.

Really? Pumphrey plays at San Diego State. Just the fact he was getting some Heisman talk was impressive. That he was one of THREE finalists for the Doak Walker Award (top running back) is a true sign of RESPECT.

Texas standout D’Onta Freeman won the Doak Walker Award and I see nothing wrong with that. He played fewer games than Pumphrey and had more yards. And did it against a tougher schedule.

End of conversation.

While we’re talking about Pumphrey, he has 6,290 career rushing yards and is 108 yards away from passing Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne as the all-time leading rusher in college football history. But the real truth is that Pumphrey needs to rush for 836 yards against the Cougars if he wants to keep the record.

The NCAA is a silly entity to begin with but one of the more ridiculous things is that bowl game stats count for the current players but not for the all-time greats from last century.

At some point, this nonsense will be fixed — most Big Ten schools already have added the past bowl game stats to their own record books. When it happens, Dayne’s total will grow from 6,397 to 7,125 and the record will once again be his.

Not Pumphrey’s fault but how awkward will it feel for him two or three years from now when the NCAA catches up to modern times and learns that updating statistics from the past isn’t all that hard.

They will be like, “Mr. Pumphrey, your record just disappeared like all those vinyl ones from the past.”

Here is the stellar bowl preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/64201/preview/top25/

 

Here is an NFL preview to finish off this edition of Weekly Links.

The Washington Redskins are 6-5-1 and might need to win each of their last four games to reach the playoffs.

So you think a four-game winning streak to end the season sounds preposterous?

That’s exactly what the Redskins did last season to qualify for the playoffs.

It also let us know for sure that Kirk Cousins was a bona fide NFL starting quarterback as he was on fire down the stretch of the season. Cousins is having a solid campaign this season but now gets the chance to step it up again.

Funny how football works.

The Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday and how odd is it that Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson fancies a return to Philadelphia?

He was sent packing by former Eagles coach Chip Kelly three seasons ago. You may have noticed Kelly was booted from Philadelphia and now coaches in San Francisco.

It will be quite a statement if the Eagles take Jackson back … squarely putting the blame on the former control freak coach.

Here is the stellar Redskins-Eagles preview (not using New York Times this week for the link because I’m giving love to one of the entities that leaves my byline on — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/NFL/2016/12/08/Washington-Redskins-look-for-finishing-kick-similar-to-last-year-vs-Philadelphia-Eagles/1091481221332/

This week marked the second time this season that I handled the national preview for a ranked San Diego State football team.

Repeat — the Aztecs are ranked. Again.

The only thing that would be more surreal would be seeing a guy with no political experience become president.

Oh yeah … that Trump guy was considered to have more integrity than the slimy Hillary woman, huh?

Anyway, I was looking forward to writing the preview of the San Diego State-Wyoming game so I could write about Aztecs running back Donnel Pumphrey.

He now ranks fourth in NCAA history in career rushing yardage and he will soon become the all-time record-holder unless he suffers a major injury.

But I had to go in another direction because San Diego State still ranks poorly in understanding the media and how sportswriters do their jobs.

You would think it would be a no-brainer to have the running back who just went over 6,000 career rushing yards attend your weekly press conference. Especially since the school still carries this notion that he is a bona fide Heisman Trophy winner and there are only a few weeks left before that prestigious ceremony.

There are also quotes from last Saturday’s victory at Nevada on the school website. None from Pumphrey on the night that he became just the fifth player to go over the 6,000-yard mark. Beyond dumb if you want some national pub for your guy’s remarkable achievement.

With the Aztecs back in the national rankings, a savvy intelligent media relations department would make sure their main guy was in circulation. Just imagine the national preview angle pumping up Pumphrey on all the major sports websites in this country.

Repeat, Pumphrey featured on ALL the major sports websites.

Instead, San Diego State dropped the ball … so the replacement angle of the preview tells another fact:

The Aztecs got walloped the first time they were ranked this season.

Here is the stellar San Diego-Wyoming preview — http://www.foxsports.com/san-diego/story/wyoming-faces-tough-matchup-with-no-24-san-diego-state-111616

 

Alabama is on its way to winning another national championship. I personally don’t even think we need a playoff to determine this year’s winner.

Even with star safety Eddie Jackson gone for the season, this team is loaded. Heck, Nick Saban could direct his kicker to play quarterback instead of true freshman star Jalen Hurts and probably would still win the title.

But here we are in Game No. 11 and Alabama is once again playing a lower-level opponent that it could crush 150-0 if it so wanted.

No offense to Chattanooga, but perhaps the Mocs can see if Alabama will just send them the check and not insist on them showing up.

Now that we are in the College Football Playoff era, perhaps the SEC can add another conference game and stop this type of silliness.

There is no reason for this game to be played … well, except to add dollars to my paycheck.

Here is the stellar Chattanooga-Alabama preview — https://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaaf/event/2016/52858/preview/top25/

 

Carson Wentz has been an immediate hit as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and his strong play has prompted comparisons to a guy who care out of nowhere as a rookie in 2012.

A guy named Russell Wilson.

Wilson has guided the Seattle Seahawks to two Super Bowl appearances since bursting on the scene and he will be on the same field as Wentz this Sunday.

Wilson is impressed with Wentz … Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is impressed with Wentz … heck, nearly everybody is impressed with the guy who went No. 2 overall despite playing at FCS power North Dakota State (you know, the program that beats major-college programs every season).

It is one of the few times I will be glad to turn on the television and see the Seahawks play.

And here is something I learned while searching for this preview: My work runs on the NBC Sports website.

And something else I learned: NBC Sports has a website.

Here is the stellar Eagles-Seahawks preview — http://scores.nbcsports.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161120026&home=26&vis=21

 

Here is something truly remarkable — the Los Angeles Lakers have won seven games entering their Nov. 18 contest against the San Antonio Spurs.

Last season, the Lakers didn’t notch win No. 7 until their 34th game. That win came on Jan. 1.

But Los Angeles is a solid 7-5 under first-year coach Luke Walton and the players are thriving in Walton’s fast-paced system.

Young point guard D’Angelo Russell and young power forward Julius Randle are emerging stars after stagnating under former coach Byron Scott, who never connected with the younger players on the squad.

The Lakers have a couple pillars for their foundation and Walton looks to be a natural as coach. It is still hard to see Los Angeles contending for a playoff spot this season but the future is brighter and the franchise is no longer going to be a laughingstock.

Compiling the worst record in franchise history at 17-65 last season was embarrassing. Walton might double that win total in his first season.

Here is the stellar Spurs-Lakers preview — http://www.kion546.com/sports/preview-spurs-at-lakers/166837913

Melvin Gordon wasn’t very impressive as a rookie so naturally a lot of people wondered whether he was on his way to being a bust.

Pretty sure that topic has been squashed by the performance of the San Diego Chargers running back this season.

Gordon has already passed last season’s total for rushing yards (646) and ranks third in the NFL with 768 yards entering Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Even more eye-opening is that he leads the NFL in touchdowns with 11 (nine rushing, two receiving).

Do you remember all those touchdowns Gordon scored last season? Can you recall even one?

You certainly can’t because Gordon didn’t score a single one. It was like Donald Trump built a wall and nobody with the last name of Gordon was able to gain access to the end zone.

And he kept fumbling the ball to make matters worse.

But coach Mike McCoy has gone from being a doubter to a full-fledged supporter of Gordon, who announced his budding star status with 196 rushing yards against the Tennessee Titans last Sunday.

That output ranks ninth in Chargers’ history. The great LaDainian Tomlinson holds the single-game record of 243.

Speaking of 200-yard rushing performances, Miami has an emerging star as well in Jay Ajayi, also in his second season. Ajayi has a college-like 529 rushing yards over the past three games, including becoming just the fourth player in the NFL history to rush for 200 yards in back-to-back games.

Sure made an easy preview angle for me, I can say that. Here is the stellar Dolphins-Chargers preview (and let’s say that I had no idea my work was running in the New York Times. Wow.) — http://nytimes.stats.com/fb/preview.asp?g=20161113024

 

 Feels weird to type this but the Los Angeles Clippers have been the most impressive team in the NBA over the first two-plus weeks of the season.

The Clippers (7-1) were hard-pressed to win seven games in two-plus months during most of their San Diego tenure.

But coach Doc Rivers has them playing superb defense and that is translating to victories heading into Friday’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Clippers are allowing just 88.3 points per game and everybody is buying in. Chris Paul is healthy and playing solid defense. Blake Griffin is healthy and enjoying playing defense. And DeAndre Jordan, of course, is playing superb defense.

Way too early to predict whether or not the Clippers are finally going to hurdle their playoff hiccups but know this: They routed the San Antonio Spurs by 24 points in San Antonio last Saturday. You might recall the Spurs went 40-1 at home this season.

The Clippers try to avenge their lone loss of the season when they visit Oklahoma City. Here is the stellar Clippers-Thunder preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/nba/event/2016/944815/preview/

 

Michigan has a promising quarterback in sophomore Wilton Speight and it is time to share an interesting story that I have heard a few times this season.

In the spring of 2015, shortly after Jim Harbaugh took over as coach, HBO was filming a special and Harbaugh brutally ripped one of the quarterbacks.

Oh, they blocked out the kid’s face and number but that didn’t help too much in this case. You see, Speight is 6-foot-6.

Michigan only had one tall quarterback like that.

The worst line from Harbaugh was this: “If you want to look at me with that look, go (expletive) somewhere else.”

Speight thought really hard about doing that all summer long. He eventually decided against transferring.

Now fast forward to 2016 and Speight is playing tremendous football for a 9-0 squad ranked third in the nation.

Sometimes the best move a kid can make is to, well, not make a move. He stayed put and it worked out well.

You can find more detail in the stellar Michigan-Iowa preview — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/College-Football/2016/11/09/Michigan-vs-Iowa-College-football-game-preview/2041478697219/

  

Somehow it is already college basketball season and the campaign commences on Friday night.

One of the numerous tip-offs involves No. 13 Gonzaga, a program that lost stars Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis from a 28-8 team.

But no worries, the transfer wagon paid Spokane, Wash., a visit and dropped off three pretty good players. So instead of a transition season in which the Bulldogs would roll through their weak conference but stumble against more powerful foes, Gonzaga is in terrific shape.

Former Washington standout Nigel Williams-Goss is the new point guard, former California 3-pointer bomber Jordan Mathews will be the new shooting guard and former Missouri power forward Johnathan Williams will be a fierce inside threat.

I remember being surprised Williams-Goss was leaving Washington. He was one of the top players in Pac-12 as a sophomore. Point guards on overmatched opponents such as Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland are probably already worried about guarding him.

Then the Zags have 7-foot-2 center Przemek Karnowski back. His career was supposed to be over last season but a back injury that required surgery limited him to just five games and he received a medical redshirt season.

Those four players combine with sophomore guard Josh Perkins to give Gonzaga a pretty solid lineup. The Zags won’t be taking a step back this season. Mark Few will once again have a good team.

Here is the stellar Utah Valley-Gonzaga preview — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/ncaab/event/2016/946360/preview/top25/

It is not very often that I would watch an NBA regular season game without being paid. Thursday night is that rare exception.

Kevin Durant is going up against his former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates for the first time as a member of the Golden State Warriors and tension is everywhere.

These two teams met in the Western Conference finals last season and the Thunder held a 3-1 series lead before the Warriors roared back to win the series

Then Durant left Oklahoma City on July 4 … for the Warriors.

Westbrook has made it very clear that he was unhappy with Durant’s decision to leave as a free agent and his ultracompetitive juices will certainly be churning overtime.

Heck, he showed up to the arena wearing a photographer’s bib. One of Durant’s passionate hobbies is photography.

Yeah, it’s on. At least in Russell Westbrook’s eyes.

Here is the stellar preview of the Thunder-Warriors game — http://www.usatoday.com/sports/nba/event/2016/944758/preview/

 

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman let NFL commissioner Roger Goodell have it again on Thursday, saying the commissioner is at fault for the huge drop in television ratings this season.

Sherman said the commish has stripped the fun out of the NFL and doesn’t allow the players to be entertainers like other leagues.

“Because the league isn’t fun anymore,” Sherman told reporters. “Every other league, you see the players have a good time. It’s a game. This isn’t politics. This isn’t justice. This is entertainment. And they’re no longer allowing the players to entertain.

“They’re no longer allowing the players to show any kind of personality, any kind of uniqueness, any individuality. Because they want to control the product. They want to control the messaging, etc., etc.”

Entering Week 9, Monday Night Football ratings are down 20 percent from last season, according to Nielsen data. The Sunday Night Football package is down 18.5 percent and Thursday games are down 21.8 percent.

Another thing that is down is the performance of the Seattle offense. The Seahawks have scored one offensive touchdown in their last nine quarters and quarterback Russell Wilson hasn’t accounted for a single touchdown over the past three games.

Maybe Sherman needs to remind his offensive teammates that the game is supposed to be fun.

Here is the stellar preview of Monday’s Buffalo Bills-Seattle Seahawks game — http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/seahawks-look-to-get-offense-on-track-against-bills-110316

 

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi has a chance to make history this Sunday when his team plays the New York Jets.

Ajayi is one of only four players – O.J. Simpson (twice), Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams are the others – to rush for 200 or more yards in back-to-back games.

And nobody has ever done it in three straight games.

Ajayi is certainly an unlikely candidate to be the first. He was a healthy inactive for Miami’s opening game of the season. Now the second-year pro from Boise State is making it clear he plans to be carrying the load for the Dolphins for a while.

Another thing that will make Ajayi’s bid at history tougher is the fact the Jets lead the NFL in rushing defense (74.0 yards per game).

Here is the stellar preview of the Jets-Dolphins game — http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/jets-defense-out-to-slow-dolphins-ajayi-110216

 

Sometimes it seems that every college football coach has spent the time on the staff with early every other college football in the land. It is a profession where long hours are spent together, making it easy to form deep bonds (or sheer hatred).

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh will see one of his close pals this Saturday when the Wolverines host Maryland.

DJ Durkin is the first-year coach of the Terrapins and he is making the team better than forecasters predicted. That’s not a big surprise if you listen to people talk about his pedigree and coaching potential.

And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s part of the Harbaugh coaching tree.

Durkin spent three years on Harbaugh’s Stanford staff from 2007-09 and then he was Michigan’s defensive coordinator last season.

The intense Harbaugh doesn’t usually play nice on game day but the postgame embrace will be one that he enjoys.

Here is the Maryland-Michigan preview —http://www.detroitnews.net/index.php/sid/249048671

A question I get asked frequently is this: Where can I find your articles?

The short answer, of course, is everywhere.

The hard part is knowing exactly where they were published.

You can’t just search my name and find them because so many websites strip off the byline because having content – no matter where it comes from – is the name of the game in the online world.

Entities like USA Today, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports are masters of making the content look like it was staff-produced. Easy to do since 98 percent of sports fans could care less who actually wrote the article they are reading.

None of that bothers me here in 2016. It would have pained me when I first started in the business but I learned a long time ago that the amount of the paycheck is much more significant than seeing my name at the top of the story. And the size of the paycheck is also more important than all these fancy awards I have all over the house.

Heck, in 2013 a newspaper contacted me to see if I would be interested in interviewing for its most important sports beat. I cringed at the salary the managing editor told me and did the math.

I asked myself why would I ever take a pay cut of $15,000-18,000 to go back to newspaper life and I couldn’t come up with even one answer. Since I’ve grown my income another $10,000 since then, it would have been a financial disaster.

Turning down that interview opportunity was a no-brainer – and has turned out to be a genius move.

So yeah, where can you find these articles?

Well, here are a few from this week:

Article on the Basketball Hall of Fame class — http://www.upi.com/Sports_News/2016/09/08/Shaquille-ONeal-Allen-Iverson-head-NBA-Hall-of-Fame-inductees/7061473367728/

Bengals-Jets preview —  http://www.foxsports.com/nfl/story/week-1-preview-bengals-at-jets-090716?cmpid=feed:-sports-CQ-RSS-Feed

Buccaneers-Falcons preview  — http://www.espn.com/nfl/preview?gameId=400874522

Washington State-Boise State preview — http://newsok.sportsdirectinc.com/football/ncaaf-preview.aspx?page=/data/NCAAF/matchups/g8_preview_299.html

That will keep you from searching the Internet to find some of my stories. I will try to remember to do this every once in a while.

Thanks for your interest.

 

Last week I wrote a soccer preview and hinted that something even more stunning could be on the horizon.

And that more astonishing thing did indeed happen on Thursday evening.

While most people were tuned into the NBA Draft and wondering if any of those foreign players they’ve never heard of are any good, I was writing the first WNBA preview of my career.

Yeah, look closely, there was a W there in front of NBA.

Wow, the things I do for money.

There it is right there on FoxSports.com with my byline nowhere to be found — foxsports.com/sun-storm-preview.

Don’t have a lot of personal tidbits for you on this front but I have seen a WNBA game in person at a once-famous venue.

Yep, I made the drive to Los Angeles to write a story on Vanessa Nygaard – a former Carlsbad High star – when she played for Portland. Met her at the team hotel in Marina Del Rey and then cruised over to the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood for the game.

The preview I wrote is for Friday’s game between the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm.

Seattle guard Sue Bird – one of the all-time WNBA greats – was once in the same arena as me.

I was in Viejas Arena covering San Diego State men’s basketball practice and then the women’s team took the floor. Bird was there visiting a San Diego State women’s assistant coach who was a former WNBA teammate — and now I will leave that topic alone.

Also on the Seattle roster is Breanna Stewart, the No. 1 overall pick who just got done winning four consecutive national titles at Connecticut.

That pretty much empties my WNBA tidbits’ file.

First MLS, now WNBA.

What’s next?

Indoor lacrosse? Rowing? Fencing?

Yeah, I better be careful what I wish for.

Well, I guess we can never dog LeBron James any more.

Was fun while it lasted.

Can’t do nothing but praise the man known as “King James” after the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to recover from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals.

James and the Cavaliers won the city’s first major professional sports championship in 52 years with Sunday’s 93-89 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the rout-infested series.

James’ legacy had been questioned – particularly after Cleveland fell into the 3-1 hole – but a third world title in his career silences that debate.

If the Cavaliers had lost the series, James would’ve been 2-5 in seven NBA Finals appearances. And it would have been more than fair to question his ability to deliver a ring.

Remember, he won his first two titles with the Miami Heat when he had Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates. He was supposed to be part of a three-star circus in Cleveland too but Kevin Love has proven to be a terrible fit with James, leaving Kyrie Irving as the lone true other star on the squad.

James helped Cleveland stay alive with back-to-back 41-point performances and climaxed his strong series with the third Game 7 triple-double in NBA Finals’ history, joining Los Angeles Lakers icons’ Jerry West and James Worthy. James had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists on Sunday.

He was the unanimous MVP of the series and I’m pretty sure he would have been named MVP even if Golden State had won.

Oh yeah, Golden State. Let’s discuss that team for a minute.

If Cleveland is the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, guess what that makes the Warriors?

Yep, the first team to blow a 3-1 series lead.

That takes a good amount of luster off their remarkable regular season in which they set a record with a 73-9 mark. But they lost the same number of games in the postseason and no longer possessed that look of a hard-to-beat team.

Golden State came close to not reaching the finals as the Oklahoma City Thunder held a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals before failing to close the deal.

Then the Warriors suffered three double-digit defeats to Cleveland before going scoreless over the final 4:38 in Game 7 and watching Irving drain the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 53 seconds left.

Draymond Green’s absence in Game 5 due to picking up too many flagrant fouls was a crusher. Then two-time MVP Stephen Curry suffered a Game 6 meltdown, displaying signs that the pressure was getting to him.

Talk about legacy? How the Warriors rebound next season will help determine a lot about how history looks at them.

Instead of being a two-time defending champion, Golden State will enter the next campaign with a ton of wins and just one banner.

As tough as the Western Conference is, it could be hard to get back. What if this band of Warriors win just one title?

“We understand, I think, when you look at the history of the league, how few teams repeated,” Curry said in the postgame press conference. “That was our goal, and we didn’t do it. It’s going to be a long three months over the summer thinking about it.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t put this as another little unfortunate notch in the belt and move forward and come back stronger next year. That’s the mindset.”

Now that Cleveland has won a pro sports title — the 1964 Browns of the NFL were the most recent champions — guess what city has gone the current most seasons without winning a major pro sports championship?

San Diego!

Guessing a lot of you got that one right. San Diego has a streak of 109 straight seasons without a title – 52 by the Chargers, 47 by the Padres and 10 from two former NBA teams (Clippers six, Rockets four).

Cleveland got rid of that dubious distinction primarily because of James, the guy who returned to the franchise and made it a goal to end the city’s title woes.

And well, I guess he has been motivated by those of us who didn’t mind pointing out the truth in the past. There were tears everywhere as he relished Sunday’s accomplishment.

“Those emotions came out of me, just leading 14 guys and understanding, like I said, what our city’s been through over the last 50-plus years since Jim Brown,” said James, referring to the legendary running back. “Then also people just counting me out.

“Throughout my 13-year career, I’ve done nothing but be true to the game, give everything I’ve got to the game, put my heart, my blood, sweat, tears into the game, and people still want to doubt what I’m capable of doing.”

OK, OK — we get it. You’re now 3-4 in the NBA Finals.

Maybe you might want to win the next one you’re in as well to get the mark to .500.

But ridicule LeBron James for not coming through when the stage is at its biggest?

Pretty sure that is no longer an option.

You see, he won a title in Cleveland.

Kobe Bryant sure knows how to put a punctuation mark on a career.

His final game was so amazing and so dramatic that nobody was talking about the Golden State Warriors setting the NBA single-season record of 73 victories.

The Warriors were relegated to secondary status as Bryant put on one of the best farewell performances you will ever see as he closed out his 20-year NBA career by dropping 60 points against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday.

He was vintage Bryant in the final quarter as he scored 23 points and knocked in the go-ahead jumper with 31.6 seconds remaining as Los Angeles registered a 101-96 victory. It was easy the highlight of the season for the Lakers, who endured a franchise-worst 17-65 record.

The performance was so superb that you had to wonder if Bryant might unretire before he even begins his retirement.

“I’m sure, I’m sure, I’m absolutely sure,” Bryant said of his career being over during the on-court postgame festivities.

Regardless, it was one of those rare sporting events in which you will always remember where you were or what you were doing as it unfolded.

Bryant ended his night with a baseball-pass assist and couldn’t resist discussing the irony of what unfolded in his last game. You know, the fact that he hoisted a career-most 50 shots.

“What’s funny, the thing that had me cracking up all night long is the fact that I go through 20 years of everybody screaming to pass the ball and then the last night, they’re like ‘don’t pass it,’ ” Bryant said.

Bryant won five championships with the Lakers and finishes his career with 33,643 points, which ranks third in NBA history.

He will always be remembered as one of the top players ever – and that would have been true even if he had scored 5 points on 2-of-13 shooting against the Jazz.

But instead he went out the way most athletes don’t get to do. That was by putting on a memorable show.

And it certainly was a performance that will be remembered forever.

Sacramento might be the capital city of California but I’ve never spent any real time there.

I hung out in the airport between flights one time, which certainly doesn’t count as a visit. On another occasion, I flew in and out of Sacramento to cover something in Stockton of all places.

But I do have one visual of what was then called Arco Arena – now Sleep Train Arena – as I spotted it off to the right on the way to the airport.

It didn’t seem like much of a building that day but those Sacramento fans sure loved the barn-like place. And the facility hosts a basketball game for the last time on Saturday night when the Sacramento Kings play the Oklahoma City Thunder.

One of my Friday work assignments included writing about this arena that opened in 1988 — read it here: Kings bid farewell to Sleep Train Arena

The franchise will move into a new downtown arena next season and new memories will emerge. But one thing sports’ fans do well is hold on to those old memories.

So to most NBA fans, probably not that big a deal that Sleep Train Arena has just 48 minutes (barring overtime) of basketball remaining. But it is a major deal to the people of Sacramento.

That’s because it is the end of an era.