War­riors, Cavs eye his­toric show­down

New Straits Times - - Sport -

WASH­ING­TON: De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Cleve­land Cava­liers and pow­er­house Golden State War­riors en­tered yes­ter­day’s start of the play­off semi-fi­nals push­ing to­ward an un­prece­dented third con­sec­u­tive NBA Fi­nals show­down, adding more sparks to an al­ready his­toric ri­valry.

Golden State en­ter­tained San An­to­nio in late ye­ter­day’s be­stof-seven Western Con­fer­ence fi­nal opener while the LeBron James-led Cava­liers await to­day’s game-seven win­ner be­tween Bos­ton and Wash­ing­ton in an Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nal that be­gins Wed­nes­day in Cleve­land.

No two teams have ever met for the ti­tle in three con­sec­u­tive sea­sons, as the Cavs and War­riors could, and only a hand­ful of play­ers have made the NBA Fi­nals seven years in a row, as James could do.

The War­riors beat Cleve­land for the 2015 crown and were one win shy of cap­ping a re­peat ti­tle run last year after a record 73win cam­paign only to have James spark the Cava­liers from a 3-1 deficit to the great­est come­back in NBA Fi­nals his­tory, tak­ing the tro­phy in seven games.

So it’s no won­der that War­riors guard Stephen Curry, the twotime reign­ing NBA Most Valu­able Player, can pon­der a matchup with the Cavs even as he ad­mits Golden State has plenty of work ahead to oust the Spurs.

“We’ll ham­mer it out when we get there but we’ve got four more wins to go,” Curry said. “We’ll be keep­ing an eye on them.”

Both the War­riors and Cava­liers have swept through the first two play­off rounds with­out drop­ping a game. Golden State for­ward Dray­mond Green said he had hoped to see more from Cleve­land’s East ri­vals. “I thought teams would com­pete a lit­tle harder,” Green said. “When you watch Cleve­land play, you only watch­ing one side of good bas­ket­ball. That’s kind of weak.”

James does not di­min­ish Cleve­land’s strong start in elim­i­nat­ing In­di­ana and Toronto, say­ing, “It’s re­ward­ing when you can ad­vance. It’s not just given to you. You have to go out and earn it.”

But even “King James” ad­mits: “We have another level and we be­lieve we can get there.”

In the play­offs, James is av­er­ag­ing 34.4 points, 9.1 re­bounds, 7.1 as­sists and 2.1 steals per game. And last year, he be­came the first player in NBA his­tory to lead the fi­nals in ev­ery ma­jor sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory.

“I’m go­ing to let you guys talk about that as far as if this is the most com­plete I’ve been in my ca­reer,” James told re­porters.

Cava­liers coach Ty­ronn Lue, who played on two cham­pi­onship teams with the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, sees no prob­lem with a “Three-peat” Cavs-War­riors fi­nal, com­par­ing fan in­ter­est to the 1980s fi­nals that of­ten pit­ted the Lak­ers against Larry Bird-led Bos­ton.

“I think nowa­days a lot of peo­ple want to see Golden StateCavs. It’s two of the teams play­ing some of the best bas­ket­ball right now,” Lue said.

“Why not want to see it again? I think last year had some of the best (TV) rat­ings in NBA his­tory. The way they are play­ing, we are play­ing, it can be even higher.”

The 30.8 mil­lion US view­ers for last year’s fi­nal game were the most for any NBA Fi­nals con­test since Michael Jor­dan’s 1998 farewell game for Chicago.

And it doesn’t hurt that the War­riors added for­mer NBA MVP Kevin Du­rant this sea­son.

“You have that third player (Du­rant) who is def­i­nitely one of the top three play­ers in this league, that can go get his own shot at any time,” Lue said. “And that’s what makes them more dan­ger­ous.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said his team’s ba­sic de­fen­sive ap­proach to the War­riors is “Pray” and Ar­gen­tine guard Manu Gi­no­bili played up Golden State’s fa­vored role.

“We are play­ing one of the best teams, like, al­most ever,” Gi­no­bili said. “They’re tough and they added to that in­cred­i­ble of­fen­sive ta­lent and good, solid de­fense. They have the whole pack­age. It makes com­plete sense for them to be the fa­vorites.”

The War­riors won an NBA-best 67 games this sea­son but the Spurs were next with 61.

“Any­thing can hap­pen in a play­off se­ries,” Gi­no­bili said. “But for any­thing to hap­pen, we’ve got to play our best.” AFP

I think nowa­days a lot of peo­ple want to see Golden State-Cavs. It’s two of the teams play­ing some of the best bas­ket­ball right now.


Cava­liers coach

Last year Cava­liers’ LeBron James be­came the first player in NBA his­tory to lead the fi­nals in ev­ery ma­jor sta­tis­ti­cal cat­e­gory.

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