Call it the dream match-up for every NBA junkie: LeBron James, arguably the best basketball player in the world, will pit his Cavs against the Warriors led by Steph Curry, who won his first MVP award this year and is now among the best scorers in NBA playoffs history.
Can it get any better than this?
It sure can: Kyrie Irving, the all-star point guard for the Cavs, is a human highlight reel and will have his mettle tested against the tenacious Warriors defense; J.R. Smith keeps sinking clutch buckets, not unlike Golden State’s Klay Thompson; Mozgov vs. Bogut in the centre position will be a wild and aggressive battle to watch; and two first-year coaches, David Blatt and Steve Kerr, will give one of these rookies their first championship ring.
Both Cleveland and Golden State have endured some serious NBA title droughts. Cleveland has never won a ring, and Golden State last won the title in 1975. The Warrios are returning to the Finals for the first time in 40 years.
The Cavs, quarterbacked by James before he left for Miami, made the NBA Finals in 2007 but lost quickly to the San Antonio Spurs 4-0.
An interesting stat to cite: The Cavs have only lost two games in the 2015 playoffs, while the Warriors have only been bested three times.
The NBA Finals, beginning June 4 at 9 p.m. ET, will give us the West’s top team (Golden State) versus the East’s second best team, as the Cavs made short work of the East-leading Atlanta Hawks in the last round. But they’ll have a tougher test against the healthy and quick-shooting Warriors.
Curry ranks second in this year’s playoffs in scoring, with 29.2 points per game. James is third at 27.6 ppg.
The entertainment quotient for this Finals is very high: Curry is a magical player, shooting impossible three pointers, and making slick assists reminiscent of the Magic Johnson era. And LeBron is a beast in the open court, finishing with ease over any defender, and making game-winning shots on the regular. This Finals is one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it showcases of athletic talent sports fans rarely witness.
That talent was on display last night when the Warriors ousted Golden State from the playoffs. Golden State outscored Houston 50-34 in the paint in Game 5, thanks to quick drives by Curry and some explosive dunks by Harrison Barnes. The small forward finished with 24 points on 10-of-20 shooting and seven rebounds, with 13 clutch points coming in the fourth quarter.
Last night, Curry wasn’t too shabby either. He’s the first player in NBA history to tally 25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a conference finals-clinching game.
What to expect in the NBA Finals
The Finals isn’t short of drama already: Thompson suffered a head and ear injury last night when Houston’s Trevor Ariza leapt to bite on a Thompson pump-fake, kneeing the Warriors player in the face:
ESPN writes Thompson “developed concussion-like symptom” and will continue to be re-evaluated. Under NBA’s concussion protocol, a player could miss games if they are not medically cleared to play due to concussion injuries.
Coach Kerr isn’t worried, though: “The break will be good for him. It’ll probably be good for all the guys with the run we’ve been on, but especially for Klay.”
Steph Curry’s father Dell knows what it will take for the Warriors to win the NBA title. “It’s going to take more, it’s going to take better,” Dell Curry said to ESPN. “I think they realize that. But coming out of the Western Conference, they’ve faced the best in the league. Clearly the best teams are in the Western Conference, but to be able to come out of here and not be too banged up, but again have time to regroup, get some rest, get [healthy] …
“They battled all year. To win the Western Conference, [with the NBA’s] best record, that’s no fluke.”
No matter who surfaces as the champ, this NBA Finals will be one fun tournament to watch. Even if you’re not a regular NBA watcher, realize on June 4 you’ll be seeing the best of the best in basketball go head-to-head in a match-up making at least one NBA fan salivate in anticipation.
NBA Finals schedule: Matchup: Game 1: Thursday, June 4 at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)
(1) Warriors vs. (2) Cavaliers
Game 2: Sunday, June 7 at Golden State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 3: Tuesday, June 9 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 4: Thursday, June 11 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 5: Sunday, June 14 at Golden State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)*
Game 6: Tuesday, June 16 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)*
Game 7: Thursday, June 18 at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)*
Game 1: Thursday, June 4 at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)