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After four decades of infamy and futility and three ownership changes, the Golden State Warriors finally sit atop the National Basketball Association landscape.
The high-energy Warriors whipped the short-handed and fatigued Cleveland Cavaliers, 105-97, yesterday in Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals for a 4-2 series victory and their first NBA championship since Rick Barry led Golden State to the Promised Land with a 4-0 sweep of the Washington Bullets in the 1975 Finals.
It was Golden State’s third victory in a row in the Finals after falling behind, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series.
For all the Warriors players on their playoff roster, it was also their first NBA title ring ever. Curry’s ring was much sweeter since it came against four other members of this year’s All-NBA First Team – Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Marc Gasol (Memphis), James Harden (Houston) and LeBron James (Cleveland).
Golden State’s Steve Kerr also became the first NBA rookie coach to win the NBA crown since Pat Riley accomplished the feat with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.
Golden State, probably the first jump-shooting team to snare the NBA title, produced a barrage of three-pointers from league Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, multi-dimensional Andre Iguodala and Curry’s Splash Brother Klay Thompson in the fourth quarter to take the fight out of a Cleveland team that probably even overachieved with its injury-depleted playoff cast that had been without two of its Big Three – Kevin Love after the first round (vs. Boston) and guard Kyrie Irving in the last five games of the NBA finals – and played with a short seven- or eight-man rotation utilized by rookie Cavs mentor David Blatt in the championship series despite the availability of championship veterans like Kendrick Perkins, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller that Blatt nonetheless opted to keep on the bench.
In the series-clinching Game Six, Curry chalked up 25 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals for the Warriors, who also were NBA titlists in 1947 and 1956 when it was located in Philadelphia.
Iguodala also tallied 25 points and had five rebounds and five assists and became the first non-starter to earn Finals Most MVP honors since the award was introduced in 1969. The 6-6 swingman, who was relegated to a reserve role nearly all season in favor of the young Harrison Barnes, got the starter’s nod only in the final three games of the Finals – all victories – as Kerr also switched 6-7 Draymond Green to center and benched 7-foot Australian center Andrew Bogut in the last two games to implement his “small ball” game plan starting Game Four.
Iguodala got the nod of the media panel that voted for the MVP for he performed consistently on both ends of the floor in the entire six-game series. Aside from giving James fits on defense, he averaged 16.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game.
Perhaps the media voters also wanted to avoid controversy or polarization on the issue whether a dominant player from a losing team such as James or an outstanding player from a winning team like Curry deserved the honor.
In the series closeout, Nigerian center Festus Ezeli came off the pines to punch in eight of his 10 points in the pace-changing third quarter that broke the game in favor of the Warriors. Another Golden State sub Shaun Livingston also scored 10 markers.
For the Cavs, who have yet to win their first NBA crown since joining the league in 1970-71, a visibly fatigued LeBron James logged 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists in 47 minutes. Inconsistent guard J.R. Smith came off the bench to tally 19 points but most of them came in the fourth period when Cleveland had to climb out of a big hole that the Wine City subsequently was unable to overcome. Russian center Timofey Mozgov came up with 17 points and 12 boards and power forward Tristan Thompson also posted his third straight double-double with 15 points and 13 reebies.
Cleveland outrebounded Golden State, 56-39, but for a third straight contest, the Warriors had more assists, 28-14. The Dubs also had more steals, 11-3, and committed fewer turnovers, 16-9.
Fatigue finally took its toll on James in Game Six and generally appeared disinterested and lethargic as his supporting cast, with the exception of power forward Tristan Thompson and Russian center Timofey Mozgov, were unable to provide adequate help.
Golden State got off to a strong start, taking the first quarter, 28-15, with some crisp passing and impeccable field shooting. The Warriors shot 11-for-22 from the field, including 4-for-9 from three-point range, coming up with the extra pass that resulted in assist for each made basket.
However, Cleveland, which again employed a slowball offensive scheme, came within two points,
One more victory is all it takes for the Golden State Warriors to end four decades of infamy and futility in the National Basketball Association and hoist the Larry O’Brien championship trophy.
With a 104-91 decision over the Cleveland Cavaliers in yesterday’s Game Five at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California that gave them a 3-2 lead, the Warriors go for the jugular on Wednesday, June 17 (Manila time, 9:00 p.m.), in Game Six of the best-of-seven NBA Finals at the Quicken Loans Arena.
Should the series to stretch a maximum seventh game, it would go back to Oakland, California on Saturday, June 20 (Manila time, 9:00 a.m.).
Only eight teams in NBA Finals history have secured a best-of-seven titular showdown after being down, 3-2. These are the 1955 Syracuse Nationals (vs. the Fort Wayne Pistons), 1962 Boston Celtics (vs. the Los Angeles Lakers), 1969 Boston Celtics (vs. the LA Lakers), 1978 Washington Bullets (vs. the Seattle SuperSonics, now the Oklahoma City Thunder), 1988 Los Angeles Lakers (vs. Detroit Pistons), 1994 Houston Rockets (vs. the New York Knicks), 2010 LA Lakers (vs. the Boston Celtics) and 2013 Miami Heat (vs. the San Antonio Spurs).
The 1955 Nats (the predecessors of the Philadelphia 76ers), 1988 Lakers, 1994 Rockets, 2010 Lakers and 2013 Heat all emerged victorious in the final two contests to snare the NBA crown.
The 1962 Celtics took Game Seven at the old Boston Garden while the 1969 Celtics and 1978 Bullets (now known as the Wizards) won on the road in the series-deciding seventh game.
In Game Five, the reigning NBA Most Valuable Player and the Warriors’ meal ticket Stephen Curry exploded for seven triples (out of 13 attempts) and 37 points (on a 13-of-23 field clip), seven rebounds and four assists and the multi-dimensional Andre Iguodala added 14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a second straight start.
A former All-Star (2012) with the Philadelphia 7ers, the 6-6 Iguodala has performed consistently in the Finals, playing excellent defense on Cavaliers cornerstone LeBron James all series in and averaging 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists after five games that he could be challenging Curry for Finals MVP honors.
Golden State extended a slim 85-84 edge midway at the 4:52 mark of the fourth quarter to 10, 96-86, on five straight points each by Iguodala (including his second of two triples) with 2:44 left.
Cleveland subsequently went to a Hack-a-Iguodala strategy and Iguodala missed 9-of-10 from the charity stripes (including the first nine – he wound up 2-of-11 overall) but another triple by Curry – his third for the quarter – pushed the Warriors’ lead to double digits, 100-89, for the first time with 1:22 remaining.
Golden State took its largest lead, 104-89, on a pair of free throws by Curry with 36 seconds left. Curry had 17 points in the payoff canto and the Warriors outscored the Cavs, 19-7, in the final 4:52 of the hard-fought contest.
Golden State, which last won the NBA title in its Bay Area history in 1975, is 57-0 this season when it takes a 15-point lead during a game.
Cleveland matched Golden State’s “small ball” matchup and opted to keep its starting center Timofey Mozgov for all but nine minutes as the Russian, after notching a playoff career-high 28 points, finished with no points (on 0-for-1 field shooting) and rebounds. His GS counterpart, 7-foot Australian Andrew Bogut, was entirely benched by Kerr.
LeBron James produced his second triple-double performance in the Finals with 40 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists in a game-high 45 minutes and went 15-for-34 from the field, including 3-of-8 from the three-ball territory.
It was LeBron’s third Finals game with 40 points or more, having also collected 44 in the series opener (loss) and 40 in Game Three (a win).
Power forward Tristan Thompson registered his third consecutive double-double in the Finals with 19 scores and 10 boards for the Wine City squad and reserve guard J.R. Smith struggled offensively for a second straight time, going 5-for-15 from the field (including 4-for-14 from the three-point area), although he managed to tally 14 points.
Game Three hero Matthew Dellavedova was a non-factor as he scored only five points in 42 minutes and was could not keep up with Curry on the defensive end (as if anyone could have really stopped Steph).
Golden State outrebounded Cleveland, 43-37, and had more assists, 25-17.
The Dubs had trailed, 2-1, in the series but equalized with an emphatic 103-82 triumph in Game Four at the QLA to regain homecourt advantage. Warriors bench boss Steve Kerr made several adjustments to speed up the game and not allow Cleveland to dictate the flow and pace with
Whoa whoa whoa!
A “cardiac” opening game in the 2015 National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals between Golden State and Cleveland that was won in overtime by the Warriors, 108-100, on their home floor has metamorphosed into a “cardiac “ Finals series when the Cavaliers, playing without two members of their Big Three (power forward Kevin Love out since the start of the second-round playoffs and All-Star playmaker Kyrie Irving sidelined for the remainder of the Finals after sustaining a fractured left kneecap in Game One that required surgery two days later), wrested homecourt advantage away from the Warriors in Game Two in another never-wracking overtime thriller, a 95-93 victory at the Oracle Arena that evened the best-of-seven titular showdown at 1-1.
Two five-minute extensions in the first two games of the 2015 National Basketball Association Finals are unprecedented in league history.
At no time since the NBA opened shop in 1946-47 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) have the first two games of a Finals gone into overtime.
This marks the first time in 45 years that consecutive Finals games were decided after regulation time.
In the 1970 Finals between the eventual champion New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers, the third and fourth games at the old Fabulous Forum in Inglewood, California went into OT (Knicks won Game Three despite an overtime-sending “Hail Mary” shot by “The Logo” Jerry West of the Lakers from past halfcourt that counted only a two since the three-point rule was only introduced in 1979-80 but the Lakers came back to deadlock the series at 2-2 with a Game Four triumph).
New York eventually grabbed their first of two NBA titles in franchise history with a Game Seven win at the Madison Square Garden where the Knicks’ hobbling captain Willis Reed showed up to play in the first few minutes to inspire Walt (Clyde) Frazier and the Knicks to victory.
Game Three of the 2015 NBA Finals will be held at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Wednesday, June 10 (Manila time, 9:00 a.m.). The fourth game, to be hosted once more by the Cavaliers under the 2-2-1-1-1 Finals format), will be played on Friday, June 12 (MT, 9:00 a.m.).
Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry chalked up 26 points and eight assists and and his backcourt partner Klay Thompson, who had been cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the West finals series-clinching Game Five against Houston, had 21 points though he struggled with a 5-for-14 field shooting.
It was the bench players that sparked the Warriors’ win in Game One – Andre Iguodala (15 pints on a 6-of-8 field clip and playing tough defense against Cavaliers meal ticket LeBron James), Marreese Speights (eight points) and Nigerian center Festus Ezeli (five points) – along with the combined 23 markers and 12 rebounds of starting forwards Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.
James led Cleveland with a Finals career-high 44 points, eight boards and six assists in 46 minutes. Irving logged 23 scores, seven reebies, six dimes, four steals and two blocks but suffered a knee injury midway through the bonus session.
In Game Two, Cleveland took control with 2.5 left in regulation, enjoying an 83-72 lead before Golden State gambled with a Hack-a-Tristan Thompson offensive strategy twice (TT went 2-for-4 from the foul line) and eventually tied the score, 87-all, to send the game into overtime.
The Cavaliers scored the five points in OT and hang on to victory on a pair of free throws by Irving’s substitute Matthew Dellavedova (who finished with nine points) and a charity shot by James after the Warriors grabbed the lead, 93-92, for the first time since the first quarter).
LeBron James wound up with 39 points – giving him 83 after two games for a share of second place with the Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal (2000) on the all-time Finals charts behind West’s 94 in 1969 – 16 rebounds and 11 assists in a game-high 50 minutes for the fifth triple-double in his Finals career stint and 12th overall in the playoffs. He shot just 11-for-35 from the field after going 18-for-38 in the series opener.
The Cavs’ win was James’ first in six Finals games in his career. In his first tour of duty in Wine City, he powered the Cavs to the 2007 Finals where they were whitewashed, 4-0, by San Antonio.
Curry, who shot 10-for-20 from the field (including 2-for-6 from beyond the arc) in Game One, struggled mightily in the second game, going 5-for-23 from the field, including 2-for-15 from the three-ball territory for 19 points, and committed a team-high six turnovers.
Thompson offset Curry’s off night with a career playoff-high 34 points on a 14-for-28 field clip, including 4-for-12 from the three-point
The 2015 National Basketball Association Finals between Golden State and Cleveland marks the first time that the two teams have a rookie for a head coach – Stephen Douglas (Steve) Kerr (Warriors) and David Blatt (Cavaliers) – since the league opened shop in 1946-47 as the Basketball Association of America.
The Boston-born Blatt, who attended Princeton University but never played collegiate or pro ball, is the grand guru of European ball, having mentored clubs in Israel (Galil Elyon/Maccabi Tel Aviv), Russia (Dynamo Saint Petersburg/Dynamo Russia), Italy (Benetton Treviso), Turkey (Efes Pilsen) and Greece (Aris Thessaloniki) from 1993-94 through 2013-14) when Cleveland came-a-calling last summer (weeks ahead before LeBron James opted to return to his home state and renew ties with the Cavaliers following a four-year stay in Miami with the Heat).
Blatt won 16 championships during his Euro tour. In the final year of his second tour of duty (2010-14) with Maccabi Electra, the 56-year-old Blatt steered his underdog Tel Aviv squad past Spain’s Real Madrid, 98-86, in overtime during the 2014 EuroLeague finals held in Italy for its sixth European championship overall.
Blatt, whose family still lives in Israel, steered the Russian Olympic team to the bronze medal during the 2012 London Games.
The 49-year-old Kerr owns five NBA title rings as a player – three with Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman and the Chicago Bulls (1996-1997-199 and a pair with Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs (1999 and 2003).
A 6-3 guard, Kerr is one of only 11 men in NBA annals to snare four straight championships and one of only two to win in consecutive seasons with different clubs (Chicago/San Antonio), the other being Frank (Pep) Saul (1951 Rochester Royals/1952-53-54 Minneapolis Lakers).
Kerr, a product of the University of Arizona, retired in 2003. He subsequently spent time as a color commentator for NBA on Turner Network Television (TNT) that same year, left his broadcasting position to join the Phoenix Suns organization in June 2007 as their president of basketball operations and then general manager before returning to his NBA TV analyst job in June 2010 till the summer of 2014 when Golden State came-a-calling.
Kerr, an American, was born in war-torn Beirut in Lebanon (his dad was an academician who was serving as president of the American University of Beirut when he was assassinated in January 1984.
Blatt and Kerr coincidentally share the same agent, Mark Bartelstein.
The 2015 National Basketball Association Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will get underway on June 4 (June 5, Manila time, 9:00 a.m.) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Owing homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven championship series by virtue of their all-time franchise mark and league-best 67-15 ledger during the regulars wars, the Warriors will also host Game Two on June 8 (Manila time, 8:00 a.m.) of the Finals with the old 2-2-1-1-1 format for a second consecutive year after having utilized a 2-3-2 scheme from 1985 to 2013.
The rest of the Finals schedule (all Manila times) – Game Three at Cleveland, June 10, 9:00 a.m.; Game Four at Cleveland, June 12, 9:00 a.m.; Game Five at Golden State (if necessary), June 15, 8:00 a.m.; Game Six at Cleveland (if necessary), June 17, 9:00 a.m.); and Game Seven at Golden State, June 20, 9:00 a.m.
Las Vegas oddsmakers have installed the Warriors as the favorites to romp away with the Larry O’Brien championship trophy – perhaps because Golden State has the homecourt advantage.
In NBA Finals history, the team with the homecourt edge has won the series 49 times and lost 19 for a 721 victory clip. In 24 of the last 32 years, the team with that incentive has emerged triumphant for a .750 success rate although off-chart results were recorded in 2011 and 2012.
Game One is just as important in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. The team that secured the opening game has gone on to win 48 of the 68 previous series, including 21 in the last 30 years, for a .706 success clip.
Just about everybody believes the Warriors will beat the Cavaliers in the Finals. But this battle-scarred Hoopster loves to root for the underdogs and will go against the grain to pick Cleveland over Golden State in six games and secure its first-ever NBA title in only its second Finals stint since joining the league in 1970-71.
For the Cavaliers, who tote a 12-2 mark in the current playoffs following a 53-29 regular finish, that’s 45 years of an NBA championship drought. The Cavs first earned a Finals berth in 2007 – in LeBron James’ first tour of duty in Wine City – but were whitewashed in four games by the San Antonio Spurs.
There’s so much frustration in the city of Cleveland, which has not tasted a championship parade from any of the four U.S. major pro team sports leagues since 1964 when athlete-turned-actor Jim Brown powered the Cleveland Browns to the National Football League (Super Bowl) diadem.
The “Dubs” themselves are hungry with 40 years of NBA title futility. Golden State, which owns a 12-3 mark in the current postseason, snared its lone crown in the Bay Area in 1975 although the Warriors also won NBA titles in 1947 and 1956 when they were located in Philadelphia.
(Title droughts by both protagonists in the NBA Finals remind me of National University, whose men’s basketball team also annexed the University Athletic Association of the Philippines crown for the first time in exactly six decades a year ago.)
During the regulars, Golden State and Cleveland split their two-game series with each winning at home. The Warriors won, 112-94, on January 9 with James sidelined by an injury. The Cavaliers equalized on February 26 with a 110-99 triumph behind Bron’s’ 42 points and 11 boards.
The meal tickets of both teams in the 2015 NBA Finals have something in common.
James, the first non-Boston player to be invited to the Finals party for five consecutive seasons since several stars from the Celtics’ dynastic eight-year championship reign from 1959-66, has won the regular league Most Valuable Player award on four occasions – 2009 and 2010 with Cleveland and 2012 and 2013 with Miami, a team that the gifted physical specimen deserted after four seasons to return to his home state last summer.
Cat-quick, can’t-catch-him Stephen Curry, the Warriors’ three-point hotshot, is the NBA’s reigning MVP, of course.
What a coincidence: Both James and Curry were born in Akron, Ohio – and in the same hospital – just more than three years apart.
The 2015 Finals also marks the first time that the two teams have a rookie for a head coach – Stephen Douglas (Steve) Kerr (Golden State) and David Blatt (Cleveland) – since the league opened shop in 1946-47 as the Basketball Association of America.
Both Kerr and Blatt are bidding to become the first rookie bench boss to win the NBA title since pat Riley accomplished the feat with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1982.
Cleveland has six players with NBA title rings on its 14-man playoff roster – James (two with the Heat in 2012 and 2013), Kendrick Perkins (Boston in 200, Shawn Marion (Dallas in 2011), Brendan Haywood (Dallas in 2011), Mike Miller