BY: Florian Gheorghe
The wait is over.
After seven long days without any playoff basketball – the longest break in league history between the Conference Finals and championship round – the NBA Finals are finally set to start. Both the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are up and ready to compete for the ultimate prize: the Larry O’Brien trophy.
The Warriors have the home-court advantage and most bookies give them the edge over the Cavs. But are they ready? Or will LeBron James come in and spoil Oakland’s party?
Before answering those questions though and placing the bets on one side or the other, let’s look at three things anyone should know about the upcoming series.
Playing Through Injuries
First of all, the Warriors are as healthy as they can be coming into June. Klay Thompson has just been cleared for Game 1 after experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Trevor Ariza hit him in the head in Game 5 of the Western Finals and the seven-day break seemed to have been a blessing in disguise if we think at the strict concussion protocol the league has these days. Moreover, Marreese Speights who missed the previous eight games of the playoffs is ready to help his team win the championship rings.
The Cavs however still have their share of problems health-wise. We all know Kevin Love is out for the post-season but what you don’t know is how ready Kyrie Irving is. It seems he will play in Game 1 even though he won’t be near 100% because of his stained right foot and left knee tendinitis. Will he be a factor? LeBron certainly thinks so: “Whatever he can give us; it’s going to be great for our team. Kyrie at 50%, Kyrie at 60%, Kyrie at 70% is better than Kyrie at zero.”
Although players like Irving, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova are basically playoff rookies, the Cavs have plenty of championship experience: James has five NBA Finals appearance and two rings, his good friends from Miami, Mike Miller and James Jones also have two rings, while Shawn Marion, Brendan Haywood and Kendrick Perkins each touched the Larry O’Brien once.
The Warriors on the other hand have zero championship experience. Besides this post-season, only Leandro Barbosa played in a Conference Finals before, back when he was playing for the Suns. Basically, everyone in Oakland relies on the coaching staff and their stories: head coach Steve Kerr won the NBA Finals five times while assistant Luke Walton did it twice in L.A.
All About Akron
This series is all about a current MVP – Stephen Curry – and one former MVP – LeBron James. Coincidence or not, both were born in the small town of Akron, Ohio. Yes, Curry was born in Akron, back when his father, Dell Curry played for the Cavaliers. Now he wants what LeBron already has: a ring.
Both have been spectacular so far, in this playoffs: LeBron is averaging 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks per game; Steph is not that far behind – 29.2 points, 4.9 boards, 6.4 assists and 1.9 steals per game. Anyone who can stop either of those two will win the Finals.
Easier said than done or even impossible if we listen to James. Asked how to stop the Baby-Face Assassin, LeBron responded: “Well, the same way you slow me down…You can’t.”
How will the two fare on the floor with all the pressure on their shoulders?