Finally, it's time for the NBA Finals. My teams – the Lakers and, to a lesser extent, the Clippers -- are not in it. The Lakers had one of the worst teams in their storied history, but the Clippers really had a shot at the championship this year. But it was not to be. Instead, we have the best team, the Golden State Warriors, playing the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team with the best player: LeBron James. It should be quite a match-up, one I've been expecting all season.
The big story, of course, is the return of LeBron James to the Cavaliers, his first team and the team closest to his hometown of Akron, before his "took his talents to South Beach" where he helped win two championships for the Miami Heat. If LeBron James can win the Cavaliers their first-ever NBA title -- and bring to Cleveland its first major-sport championship since Jim Brown's Cleveland Browns won the NFL title in 1964, before there was a Super Bowl – it will be a major accomplishment. Because this time, LeBron is the underdog.
When he won his championships with the Heat, he had major stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to help him. With the Cavaliers this year, he has had to struggle with a new coach (David Blatt), new teammates, and critical injuries to key Cavs. Kevin Love is out for the remainder of the playoffs, and Kyrie Irving is banged up. The Cavs have other players who have been contributing – Tristan Thompson has been rebounding, Timofey Mozgov has been active, Matthew Dellavedova has been pesting, J.R. Smith can get red-hot – but if they are going to win, LeBron James is going to have to put the team on his shoulders and personally win four games. The thing is – he could do it.
The Golden State Warriors have been the best team in the NBA all season, with the best overall record and the Most Valuable Player, Stephen Curry. While Curry had an amazing season and is one of the best pure shooters I've ever seen, he is surrounded by superior teammates, including his fellow 'Splash Brother' Klay Thompson who is almost as good a shooter as Curry. (After all, it was Klay who scored a record 37 points in a quarter this year – and he didn't even play the whole twelve minutes!)
The Warriors won the very tough Pacific division by an easy eleven games. First in points per game, first in team assists, sixth in rebounding, they play a very smart, balanced kind of ball. Their team is so deep that they have two former All-Stars (and still seriously good players) Andre Iguodala and David Lee sitting on the bench.
They've been the best team all year and have every right to be the favorite to win the Finals. And yet .... this is LeBron's fifth consecutive year playing in the NBA finals, a feat that hasn't been matched since the legendary Boston Celtics of the 1960s (Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, and Satch Sanders.) That makes six Finals that LeBron has played in for a total of 30 games.
The number of games of Finals' experience for the Warriors' entire team: zero. (OK, coach Steve Kerr has five rings for his time as a Chicago Bull and San Antonio Spur, but none of his players has any Finals experience.)
I like the Warriors. They play smart, skilled basketball. The TG used to work for one of the Warriors' owners Peter Guber, who used to give us his courtside seats. (And his seats on the glass for LA Kings' games, for that matter.) So I have no animus against them as a team.
I don't want to repeat myself too much here. Go back to my blog of February 16th – SHE LIKES BASKETBALL –
http://peterseth.com/blog/107-she-likes-basketball.html -- for the full history of my family's love for the NBA.
After the dozens of NBA games we've watched all year, this is a fitting match-up: the Best Team versus the Best Player.
The Warriors have the better team, but it's too good a story: LeBron's coming back to his home territory, in the depressed Rust Belt, and winning them a long-overdue championship.
I think he will do it. Cavs in seven.
LATE BULLETIN: The Warriors won the first game – in overtime! But the bad news is that Kyrie Irving hurt his leg again. Not good.
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