Some fans’ wait is about to end

NBA Fi­nals match two teams from cities ea­gerly await­ing a cham­pi­onship.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Brod­er­ick Turner brod­er­ick.turner@la­times.com Twit­ter: @BA_Turner

NBA ti­tle has long eluded Golden State and Cleve­land, who’ll meet in Fi­nals.

It is the tale of two sports­mad cities starv­ing for a cham­pi­onship that has long eluded them.

But at some point this month, the cham­pi­onship ap­petite for ei­ther Oak­land and the Stephen Curry-led Golden State War­riors or Cleve­land and the LeBron James-led Cava­liers will be sat­is­fied by win­ning the NBA ti­tle.

The War­riors made it to the NBA Fi­nals by dom­i­nat­ing the West­ern Con­fer­ence, fin­ish­ing off the Hous­ton Rock­ets in the con­fer­ence fi­nals in five games to put them­selves in po­si­tion to win the fran­chise’s first NBA cham­pi­onship in 40 years.

The Cava­liers reached the Fi­nals by run­ning roughshod over the Eastern Con­fer­ence with a 12-2 post­sea­son record that in­cluded a 4-0 sweep of the At­lanta Hawks, putting Cleve­land in po­si­tion to give the city its first ma­jor pro­fes­sional cham­pi­onship since 1964.

Game 1 is Thurs­day night in Oak­land at Or­a­cle Arena, known to many in the Bay Area as “Roar­a­cle” be­cause of the rau­cous fans.

“I think our fans think be­cause we had the best regular-sea­son record and we got to the Fi­nals that of course we’re go­ing to win,” War­riors as­so­ciate head coach Alvin Gen­try said.

“But you’re play­ing for sure the great­est player in the game right now and ar­guably maybe the great­est player that has ever played the game.… He has such an im­pact on the game that any time LeBron is on the f loor, he’s go­ing to have a chance to win.”

Cleve­land fans have suf­fered a cham­pi­onship drought since the Browns won the NFC Cham­pi­onship (pre-Su­per Bowl) in 1964.

But then last sum­mer, James re­turned home to Cleve­land af­ter four years in Miami, bring­ing with him new hope for a cham­pi­onship.

James led the Cava­liers to the 2007 NBA Fi­nals, where they were swept 4-0 by the San An­to­nio Spurs. Then he led the Heat to the last four NBA Fi­nals, win­ning two.

“We’re happy that we got to this point, be­cause any time you get to the Fi­nals, you al­ways have the op­por­tu­nity to win a cham­pi­onship,” Cleve­land as­so­ciate head coach Ty­ronn Lue said. “But we’re not sat­is­fied, be­cause the city has been here be­fore LeBron left. LeBron made it to the Fi­nals against San An­to­nio. Now it’s time to take that next step.”

The lengthy break be­fore the first game will give both teams time to pre­pare and heal.

Golden State es­pe­cially needed the break af­ter the team con­firmed Fri­day that All-Star shoot­ing guard Klay Thomp­son suf­fered a con­cus­sion from be­ing accidentally kneed in the head by Hous­ton for­ward Trevor Ariza in Game 5 of the con­fer­ence fi­nals.

The War­riors said Thomp­son won’t re­turn to prac­tice un­til he is cleared by doc­tors as part of the NBA’s con­cus­sion pro­to­col.

Cleve­land is also happy to get time off be­cause Al­lS­tar point guard Kyrie Irv­ing is still re­cov­er­ing from left knee ten­dini­tis that forced him to miss Games 2 and 3 against At­lanta in the con­fer­ence fi­nals. Irv­ing did start in Game 4 against the Hawks and scored 16 points, with five as­sists in 22 min­utes.

But it’s the oth­er­worldly skills of Curry and James that make this se­ries so fas­ci­nat­ing.

Curry, win­ner of the league’s most valu­able player award, is con­sid­ered the best shooter in the NBA, with his 29.2 points per game av­er­age in the play­offs in­dica­tive of his scor­ing abil­i­ties.

James, a four-time league MVP, is con­sid­ered by many around the game as the best player on the planet. And he has car­ried the Cava­liers in the play­offs, av­er­ag­ing 27.6 points, 8.3 as­sists and 10.4 re­bounds a game.

“To me, this year, watch­ing Curry play, he was prob­a­bly the most ex­cit­ing and the most fun player to watch,” said Lak­ers Coach By­ron Scott, who also coached in Cleve­land. “And then you’ve got the King [James] down in Cleve­land, who was about as dom­i­nat­ing as any player in this league at this present time. But I think, de­fen­sively, Golden State is a lit­tle bit bet­ter, and that’s why I think they are go­ing to win it.”

Rick Bowmer As­so­ci­ated Press

OAK­LAND’S OR­A­CLE ARENA, also known as “Roar­a­cle” be­cause of the rau­cous fans, is filled with cheer­ing for the Golden State War­riors’ Stephen Curry.

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