Cavaliers in 6
Nobody could have seen this NBA Finals matchup on March 20, 2012. The Cleveland Cavaliers in their second year after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach found a new star in Kyrie Irving, but appeared years from making it back to the playoffs. That night as the Golden State Warriors retired the number of Chris Mullin, fans frustrated with years of losing booed owner Joe Lacob off the court. However, Lacob and the Warriors ownership knew what they were doing and the trade that brought the ire of Warriors fans sending away Monta Ellis helped begin to shift the team to Stephen Curry and began the Golden State turnaround. Meanwhile LeBron James after four years with two titles and four NBA Finals appearances decided it was time to go home in 2014 and now looks to take the championship starved city of Cleveland to the Promised Land.
Stephen Curry at the age 27 is hardly an overnight success as he was often overlooked in his development. Curry the son of Dell Curry who spent 16 seasons in the NBA, including two years with the Cleveland Cavaliers was not recruited by the elite NCAA Programs and played at Davidson a mid major that was at the time in the Southern Conference. Curry helped lead Davidson to an a Elite Eight in 2008 and was the NCAA’s leading scoring scorer in 2009, but was only selected seventh overall in the NBA Draft, behind players like Hasheem Thabeet and Johnny Flynn who currently are struggling just to make it back to the NBA. Curry has improved every season and has become the most deadly three point shooter in NBA Playoff history. His accuracy from behind the arch is remarkable and a big reason for the Warriors success. He is not the only son of a NBA star in Golden State’s backcourt as Klay Thompson is also deadly from downtown shooting .425 from behind the arch in the playoffs, with 19.7 points per game. The two splash brothers will be the key for Golden State as the higher their point totals go the harder it will be to beat them.
Throw out the stats, throw out the numbers, and throw out everything you have seen. This is the best postseason LeBron James has ever had. When LeBron James first was with the Cavaliers all the pressure was on his back and despite taking them to an early NBA Finals appearance in 2007 his time was largely unsuccessful with two playoff letdowns in which the Cavs failed to make an anticipated matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers after having the best record in the NBA during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In Miami, LeBron James with the big three had his first taste of success with four NBA Finals appearance, winning twice. His first finals appearance had some of the same criticism as his time in Cleveland as LeBron seemed to duck and look to pass when the game was on the line. After finally winning in 2012 James has begun to demand the ball at crunch time taking him back to Cleveland, where he has carried the Cavs on his back all season. The Cavaliers are a talented laden team but have had injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving that have put all the pressure on LeBron. Knowing the team needed rest James played to nearly collapsing in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals as the Cavs would go on to sweep the Atlanta Hawks. If James keeps that fire burning, there may be no denying the Cavaliers a NBA Championship.
Each team is coming to the NBA Finals after a long layoff, with the Conference Finals being over in four and five games respectively. As infuriating and frustrating as a week off for the NBA may be for the fans, it may result in a better series. Both of these teams were beat up at the end of their Conference Finals. The Cavs certainly are glad that Kyrie Irving has had time to rest his sore knee. He missed two games against the Hawks and has not been himself most of the postseason. A stronger Irving will be necessary if the Cavaliers are to win their first title. J.R. Smith has been solid off the bench from three and will need to maintain focus, which at times has been a major issue for him, though with LeBron James leadership being a major factor it’s hard to imagine Smith suffering a Finals letdown. The Warriors are also recovering from some bumps and bruises as both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson took hard hits to the head in the Western Conference Finals. Curry quickly recovered and missed no time, while Klay Thompson suffered bleeding from the ear and was forced to underdog the NBA concussion protocol after taking a knee to the head in Golden State’s clinching win in Game 5.
After the 2015 NBA Finals were set, LeBron James proclaimed that neither team could stop him or Warriors MVP Stephen Curry. This will be the marquee matchup of the Finals as everyone will have their eyes on the two stars that were both born in the same Akron Hospital four years apart. In the regular season the Warriors and Cavaliers split two games with each winning on their own home floor. This is LeBron James sixth NBA Finals appearance, and his fifth straight. He understands the spotlight that comes with the NBA Finals and how to win a championship. LeBron James also has a look in his eye, a look that he has never had before and that is a man on a mission. The one thing that LeBron has lacked in his career was that killer instinct that Michael Jordan had; he was often unselfish to a fault. That is gone, now he wants this title more than the titles in Miami. This is his mission brining Cleveland a championship, and when the best player in the planet wants something this bad he will get it as the Cavaliers win the series in six games.