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Henry Liao

  1. 2015 NBA Finals: Sideplots Galore

    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 (Miami in 2012 and 2013) and James Jones ...
  2. 2015 NBA Finals: Cavaliers over warriors in Six Games

    Move over, Houston and Atlanta.

    The march to the 2015 National Basketball Association Finals by Golden State (West) and Cleveland (East) is inevitable.

    Both the Warriors and Cavaliers own a commanding 3-0 lead over the Rockets and Hawks, respectively, in their best-of-seven conference semifinal series and barring an unprecedented comeback by their opponents, they are headed to the title round to take a crack at the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

    Golden State goes for the jugular today (Manila time) in Game Four of Western finals at the Toyota Center in Houston. Cleveland seeks to sweep the Eastern finals against an equally injury-depleted Atlanta team on Wednesday (Manila time) before another friendly crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena.

    The Warriors protected homecourt advantage with close 110-106 and 99-98 victories at the boisterous Oracle Arena in the first two games of their Western series to stretch their home record to 45-3 this season, including 6-1 in the playoffs (the only loss having come against Memphis in Game Two of the conference semifinals).

    Houston center Dwight Howard suffered a Grade 1 sprain of the ligament in his left knee but he managed to play in Game two with a heavy brace and produced 19 points and 17 rebounds in 40 minutes.

    The Warriors, behind NBA Most Valuable Player Wardell Stephen Curry Jr.’s seven triples (on nine attempts) and 40 points (on 12-for-19 from the field), then pulverized the Rockets, 115-80, in Game Three in Houston for the Texas squad’s first three-game losing streak all season.

    The Rockets’ own meal ticket James Harden, the runner-up to Curry in this year’s MVP derby, struggled with 17 points on 3-for-16 field goal shooting (he was 10-for-11 from the foul line) following near triple-double performances in the first two contests (28 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists in Game One and 38 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in Game Two).

    It marked the first time in the 2015 playoffs that the bearded Harden has tallied less than 20 points. Nonetheless, he and all-time Rockets center great Hakeem Olajuwon (league title-finishing 1994 playoffs) are the only men in franchise annals to score at least 20 in his first 14 games of a postseason.

    Through three games, the baby-faced 6-3 Curry is averaging 35.7 points per game (34-33-40) against Houston.

    One of the two NBA-playing sons (the other is Seth, who played one NBA game each with Memphis and Cleveland in 2013-14 and two games with Phoenix in 2014-15 while splitting time with the NBA Development League’s Erie Bayhawks) of 16-year NBA vet Wardell Stephen Curry Sr. (1986-2002, 1245-for-3098 from the three-point area for a .402 career percentage), Steph has totaled 64 threes in 13 appearances in the current playoffs to establish a new NBA record for most triples in one playoff season, far outdistancing Reggie Miller’s 58 three-pointers in 22 games with Indiana in 2000 when the Pacers were beaten, 4-2, by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

    The phenomenal Steph, who wears the same jersey number (30) as his father did during his heyday, has taken 11.2 threes a game in the ongoing postseason and hit .425 of them. In the Warriors’ Game Three win over the Rockets, he became the first NBA player ever to produce at least five three-pointers in five straight playoff games and joined Michael Jordan as the only players to make five or more threes, score 40 or more and shoot at least 55 percent from the field in a conference finals game.

    Golden State has been 6-0 against Houston this season, including 4-0 during the regulars, and is 55-0 when leading by at least 15 points at any point in a game this campaign.

    Cleveland quickly wrested homecourt advantage from Atlanta in the best-of-seven Eastern finals by taking the first two games at the Hawks’ Philips Arena – 97-89 in the series opener behind LeBron James’ 31 points and J.R. Smith’s eight triples (out of 12 attempts) and 28 scores and 94-82 behind Bron’s 30 markers, 11 assists and nine rebounds.

    All-Star playmaker Kyrie Irving sat out the second game as well as the third with persistent tendinitis in his left knee but James asserted his leadership with the absence of Kevin Love (since the conference semifinals due to shoulder surgery) and Irving among the club’s Big Three in powering the Cavaliers to a 114-111 overtime success at home in Game Three with a triple-double feat – 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists in 47 minutes – the first player ever to post a 30-18-13 in a playoff game – despite favoring his right leg for most of the four quarter and five-minute extension.

    It was The King’s 12th playoff T-D in his NBA career, leaping him past Jason Kidd to second place on the all-time NBA playoff list behind Earvin (Magic) Johnson’s 30 T-Ds with the Los Angeles ...

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