Many didn’t think it would get this far, but after all it is a finals that should represent the best of the West and East, and so a somewhat surprising development, that the NBA Finals will return to the city that has never won one, is not that far off script.
As of today, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still alive, where most had them biting the dust. They are striving to quiet the ghosts of a championship-starved city that just can’t seem to win the main event: they have no Super Bowl victories, no World Series celebrations since 1948, and absolutely nothing from the Cavaliers in their 46 year uneventful history.
The Cavaliers have caaused a ripple in their continuum by forcing Thursday night’s Game 6, which means for the meantime they have kept the cork in the champagne bottles from popping at Golden State’s arena, at least for a few days more.
The facts are though, Game Sixes are notorious hard to win. Just ask the Warriors compatriots, the San Jose Sharks who just lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their Game 6 of the NHL Stanley Cup Final. They are still down to the Warriors 3-2. And no matter how hopeful they are they, the daunting task of becoming the first team to successfully overcome a 3-1 deficit in the Finals still stands before them like a brick wall.
If they want to make history, they’ll have to keep a lid on the NBA’s most valuable player Stephen Curry, who has been able to have an impact in one memorable game this series and he knows he can have another one if he wants to end this soon.
Curry was on a fast and furious roll coming into the Finals, he set an NBA record for any playoff series with 32 three-pointers against Oklahoma City. He single-handedley changed the destiny of his team and overcame the Thunder.
Right now though his stats are the proof that he has room to improve. He has an average of 22.2 points while shooting 42.4% in the Finals, well off his regular-season numbers of 30.1 points and 50.4%. So the Cavs could sink fast if he decides to turn on the juice.
“I want to honestly play better and more consistent, but the situation is right now we’re one game away from winning a second championship,” Curry said Wednesday. “If I’m sitting here tomorrow night with another trophy and celebrating with my teammates, we can talk all day.”
He knows that there wasn’t much for the Warriors to celebrate leading up to Game 6 since they know a lot more has to click if they want to win this series.
Their center Andrew Bogut, is done for the rest of the series due to injury after he sustained bone bruises in his left leg that will require six to eight weeks of recovery. Festus Ezeli is the probable choice to replace him since he has logged 13 games with the starting lineup in the regular season.
The good news is Draymond Green is coming back from a one-game suspension because of flagrant-foul accumulation. He wasn’t able to play in Game 5 or even watch it live, due to league rules, so he watched it in a suite at the baseball stadium next door to the Oracle Arena.
He called himself a “terrible teammate” Wednesday, which was his first public statement since the suspension. “I have strong belief that if I play Game 5, we win,” he said. He was probably right even though on a night LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each scored 41 points, it would have been a tough battle even if they had them.
The Cavaliers for Game 6 won’t rely on a two-man game again, so expect them to be shooting on all cylinders, includig the field. Struggling players like Kevin Love who took some public grilling from James after scoring only two points in 33 minutes of Game 5 should be on his game too. For the series, he’s averaging 8.8 points and shooting 37% so if he wants to be a champion he’ll have to put up.
“Go out and make an impact on the game, no matter if he’s not scoring, no matter if at times he feels like he’s not getting touches,” James said. “We definitely need him. He’s too big of a piece to our puzzle….We definitely need Kev to play better.”
A bad omen, is that tonight will be exactly one year ago that the Warriors eliminated the worn down Cavaliers in Game 6 in Cleveland. Love didn’t play in that series because of a dislocated shoulder, and Irving sat out the final five games due to a fractured kneecap.
James, though won’t let that negative anniversary deter him.
“It’s always one year to the date of something,” he said. “I mean, yesterday was one year to date that my son turned 8, and yesterday he turned 9. So it happens every year, it’s one year to the date to something. We don’t think about that stuff.”
The head games are almost over. For at least one more game Cleveland will try to prolong its run at history and her records. Otherwise Golden State will win a second consecutive title to the day.
“Kyrie and LeBron had an amazing game, Game 5, and they did what they were supposed to do to help their team stay alive,” Curry said. “The story should hopefully be different in Game 6.”
We expect it to be the same as last year’s.
Our Pick: Warriors over Cavs, 109-101