The Block (basketball)

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LeBron James (top) blocked Andre Iguodala (bottom) in the final minutes of the 2016 NBA Finals.

In basketball, The Block refers to a defensive play in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. With less than two minutes remaining in the deciding game of the championship series, Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James chased down Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala and blocked Iguodala's layup attempt, ensuring the game remained tied. The name echoes a series of bitter moments during Cleveland's 52-year championship drought, including The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and James' own 2010 televised special The Decision.[1] Unlike these other events, however, "The Block" was in Cleveland's favor, and helped the Cavaliers win the city's first major sports title since 1964.[2]

The game[edit]

The first half featured back-and-forth play from the two teams. Neither team was able to build a large lead like the previous six games. The Warriors built a 7-point lead early, but Cleveland bounced back to take the lead late in the first quarter. After a second quarter where neither team built a lead larger than 3, Golden State ended the half on an 11–4 run to take a 49–42 lead into the break.

Five straight points by Klay Thompson early in the third quarter gave the Warriors an 8-point lead at 54–46. Back-to-back 3-pointers by shooting guard J.R. Smith and a layup by Kyrie Irving briefly tied the game at 54. Warriors' guard Stephen Curry made a layup in transition and a 3-pointer on the following possession to give Golden State a 59–54 lead. Cleveland responded with a 14–2 run – including 10 points from Irving – to take a 68–61 lead with 4 minutes left in the quarter. The Warriors then fired back with a 15–7 run to close out the quarter, taking a 76–75 lead into the final 12 minutes.

Scoring was slow early in the fourth quarter for both teams, but the Cavaliers built an 83–80 lead with 7 minutes left. The Warriors pushed back with a Curry 3, Thompson hitting a jump shot from the left corner, and Draymond Green converting a put-back layup on consecutive possessions to take an 87–83 lead with 5:39 left. LeBron James responded with six straight points, making 3/3 free throws after being fouled on a shot fake, and then connecting on his only 3-pointer of the night with 4:53 to play. After Klay Thompson put in a layup off the glass with 4:39 left to tie the game, Cleveland and Golden State began trading missed chances. At this point, the score in the period was just 14–13 in favor of Cleveland. Both teams were tied at 699 points scored apiece in the series.

The Block[edit]

With 1:56 to play, Irving released a floater that bounced off the glass and was eventually corralled by Iguodala with the game tied at 89.

Iguodala immediately streaked up the floor as Stephen Curry sprinted ahead on the left wing. The only Cavaliers player who appeared to be in position to defend the fast break was J.R. Smith, who quickly began back-pedaling towards his own basket. James, standing in the corner in front of the Warriors bench, took off after them. Iguodala passed half court, threw a chest pass to Curry who immediately gave it back with a bounce pass. Iguodala gathered the ball, took two steps as he powered past Smith and toward the hoop before going airborne. Good defense by Smith on the initial layup attempt forced Iguodala to delay the release of his shot by a few tenths-of-a-second, double-pumping before softly floating the ball up toward the glass. James, who had been trailing the play the entire length of the floor, sized up the shot and sprung at the ball from behind, knocking the potential layup off the glass with 1:50 left. The ball was grabbed by Smith and brought back up the floor. This is cited both as a key sequence in deciding the outcome of the 2016 championship and as one of the most clutch defensive plays in NBA history. [3]

Final game moments[edit]

James and Curry traded misses, keeping the score level at 89-89. Then Irving hit a three-pointer over Curry with 53 seconds left to give Cleveland the lead for good.[4] Immediately after Irving's three, Golden State brought the ball up-court, opting not to call a timeout, and although Golden State got a preferred switch and matchup of Curry on Kevin Love, Love made arguably "the biggest defensive stop of the entire NBA season", and forced Curry into a contested 3-pointer, which he missed. After LeBron hurt his right wrist being fouled on a dunk attempt, he nearly clinched the title for the Cavaliers by making one of two free throws, bringing the clock down to 10.6 seconds left. After the Cavaliers fouled Draymond Green with 6.5 seconds remaining, Stephen Curry received the inbounds pass, pump faked and shot a three pointer over Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert. The attempt missed, and was rebounded by Marreese Speights of the Warriors who attempted a three pointer as time expired and missed.

Reaction to the play[edit]

After the game ended, James remarked to ESPN "Iguodala is a bad motherfucker! I had to go chase it down." [5]

James later recalled to Cleveland.com, "I was like, just don't give up on the play. Just don't give up on the play. Kyrie made a move into the lane, missed it, it shot long, and Iguodala, one of the best guys we have in the open court, gets the rebound, pushes it to Steph, and I was just like, do not give up on the play. If you got an opportunity, just try to make this play. I was also thinking like, 'J.R., please don't foul him. I know I'm right there, I can get it, I can get it.' I was like, 'J.R., don't foul him, and Bron, get the ball before it hit the backboard.' And we did that."[6]

Mike Breen, who called the Finals for ESPN on ABC, added: "It's just another example of how he's just not going to let them lose. That was the thought as well after he blocked the shot: This guy is just not going to let this team lose tonight."[A]

Breen described the play thusly:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ It was the Cavs' 110th game since the start of training camp, adding up preseason, regular-season and postseason contests, and James was playing in the 45th minute of the 47 he would log in Game 7 when he made The Block.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Greenberg, Chris (June 20, 2016). "LeBron James gave Cleveland an iconic sports moment it wants to remember: 'The Block' ". Boston.com. Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved July 3, 2016. Cleveland, no matter how hard it may have tried, couldn’t forget 'The Drive' or 'The Fumble' or 'The Shot.' But now, thanks to LeBron James, it has a sports moment requiring the definite article that it will want to remember forever: The Block.
  2. ^ McCauley, Janie (June 20, 2016). "James and Cavaliers win thrilling NBA Finals Game 7, 93-89". National Basketball Association. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  3. ^ McMenamin, Dave (June 27, 2016). "When LeBron swooped in and changed the course of Cavs' history". ESPN. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  4. ^ McMenamin, Dave (June 27, 2016). "When LeBron swooped in and changed the course of Cavs' history". ESPN. Retrieved July 3, 2016.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Vardon, Joe (June 22, 2016). "LeBron James and the next part of the greatest American sports story ever told". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved July 3, 2016.

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