If you believe, like Draymond Green does, that if Green were on the floor in Game 5 and not suspended because he punched LeBron James in the nuts in Game 4 of the NBA Finals (giving Green enough flagrant fouls in the postseason to earn a suspension) that the Golden State Warriors would have won Game 5 and, in turn, the NBA title, then the butterfly effect of that one bad decision was profound.
And after last night in Cleveland, it's getting more and more profound with every passing 48 minutes of basketball.
A series that appeared to be headed for a Game 5 Warrior thumping of the Cleveland Cavaliers turned on a dime with Green's poor choice in the waning moments of that Warriors win. And after the Cavs rode the LeBron James/Kyrie Irving two-man wrecking crew to a win in Game 5, Game 6 back in Cleveland was all about James. The King was sublime on Thursday night, putting up another 41 points, dishing out 11 assists and slowly squeezing the will to live from Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors.
Those 73 regular season wins, in which Curry looked like he was playing a six-month video game, mean nothing, in that they don't count anymore, yet they mean everything in that they're the reason the Warriors will have Game 7 at home on Sunday night.
All six games in this series have been decided by double digits, and yet the whole saga has been remarkably compelling. Sunday should be tremendous. Let's examine some winners and losers from tonight...
4. J.R. Smith's daughter
Smith had a nice night for the Cavs, scoring 14 points and hitting four three-pointers, but his daughter probably summed up everyone's feelings best in this interview with ESPN's Lindsay Czarniak....
"I'm just proud of him because he made the championship without getting kicked off the team" — J.R. Smith's daughter pic.twitter.com/Kgm5512m3x— Kenny Ducey (@KennyDucey) June 16, 2016
Amen, baby girl.
3. Craig Sager
Thirty years in the NBA sideline reporting business, and TNT's Craig Sager had never worked an NBA Finals game. And why would he? Turner, sager's employer, has never had the rights to the NBA Finals. But with Sager battling cancer (and courageously so, I might add), ESPN and TNT collaborated to allow Sager to work Game 6 along with ESPN's sideline reporter Doris Burke, a classy move by both networks for a guy whose clearly well liked by his peers and the players he covers. To wit:
LeBron tells Sager how happy he is that Craig finally gets a Finals game, gets videobombed by Richard Jefferson pic.twitter.com/QkiBd3ISVk— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) June 17, 2016
2. Sunday DVR owners
So now on Sunday night, if you're keeping track (and if you like TV, you need to be keeping track), you have WWE Money In The Bank, NBA Finals Game 7, and Game of Thrones "Battle of the Bastards," all at the same time. That DVR is going to get a workout. (NOTE: My CBS Radio national radio show runs from 5-9 p.m. Sunday night. I mean.... if you're having a hard time choosing among these TV shows, then just choose me. CHOOSE ME, I SAY!)
1. LeBron James
41 points, 8 rebounds, 11 assists, 15 souls crushed, one series saved....
4. LeBron, the movie goer
Far be it from me to criticize LeBron James, as he's been spectacular these last two games. There's not much else to say about his play on the court. Now, off the court, The King claims that he's been getting his mind right by marathon watching Godfather II. So if you're going to ostensibly incorporate a gangster movie into your game prep persona (sending the message, presumably, that "Hey...I'm a gangster!"), then you have to be able to recite at least ONE line from the movie. LeBron, this effort was Kevin Love-level weak, man.....
3. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes went 2-14 in Game 5, so in game 6, he had to bounce back, right? Wrong. Barnes transformation into the Tony Allen Clank-meister of this series is virtually complete, as on Thursday night he went for a donut... 0-8 from the field, ZERO points. Whichever team signs Barnes to a max-level deal this offseason has a harder and harder sell job to their fan base with each passing moment and = subsequent brick from Barnes. He looks completely meek in this series. He stinks.
2. Courtside Cavs fan
I don't know exactly what the warning language says on the back of a court side ticket to a Cavs game, but I would imagine it doesn't specifically warn you that you might get pelted with a gnarled piece of plastic soaked in Steph Curry's saliva...
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1. Ayesha Curry
Steph Curry's wife probably needs to back away from social media.....
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