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Henry Liao

2015 NBA Finals: Cavaliers over warriors in Six Games

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
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 Lakers.

The 6-8, 30-year-old do-everything “point” forward, who is in the first season of his second tour of duty with the Cavaliers after spending the past four seasons with Miami that produced two NBA title rings in four Finals appearances, missed his first 10 field attempts but scored the game’s last five points (after the Hawks went up, 111-109, on a Jeff Teague triple) in the final 36.4 seconds on a corner trifecta and a driving runner.

Overall, James shot 14-for-37 from the field, including 1-6 from beyond the arc, and 8-for-10 from the charity stripes. Australian Matthew Dellavedova, who took the place of Irving in the starting lineup, was a major factor in Game Three, equaling substitute guard J.R. Smith’s 17 points on 5-for-15 field shooting, including 4-for-9 from the bonus-point territory.

Atlanta had had the same starting cast since the start of the regular campaign until injuries took their toll. Small forward DeMarre Carroll, the Hawks’ top scorer through the first two playoff rounds with 17.1 points a game, suffered a left knee sprain late in the series opener against Cleveland. A hobbling Carroll started in Game Two only to see co-starter and shooting guard Kyle Korver sustain a high right ankle sprain in the third period after Dellavedova rolled into his leg in the chase for a loose ball. Korver will be out for the remainder of the playoffs and sidelined from four to six months following surgery.

The same pesky Dellavedova was the same reason why Al Horford was ejected late in the final minute of the first half of Game Three. The Hawks’ 6-10 starting center from the Dominican Republic was whistled a Flagrant 2 foul after elbowing Dellavedova in the head while both dived for the loose leather.

An undrafted second-year NBA vet with the Cavs and a member of the Australian national team, the 6-4, 24-year-old Dellavedova played rugby during in his younger days in the Down Under and is known to clip his legs hard around a fallen defender while himself down during loose-ball situations. He did that to Taj Gibson in the earlier Chicago series (second round), to Korver and now, Horford, who may be suspended by the NBA for Game Four for his altercation with Dellavedova.

Meanwhile, the Rockets may have some pride left in them to snatch Game Four but they are doomed as far as the series is concerned. No team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 0-3 deficit to capture a best-of-seven. The 0-3 clubs are 0-116 overall.

Houston and Atlanta are the 117th and 118th teams to fall behind 3-0 and are most likely to join the infamous group.

The presumptive best-of-seven 2015 NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland will start on June 4 (June 5, Manila time) at the Warriors’ Oracle Arena. The Warriors will also host Game Two.

The Warriors, with an all-time franchise mark and league-best 67-15 ledger during the regulars, own the homecourt advantage in the best-of-seven finals that will utilize a 2-2-1-1-1 format for a second consecutive year after having a 2-3-2 scheme from 1985 to 2013.

Golden State is headed to its first NBA Finals stint since 1975 when the Warriors annexed their lone their championship in the Bay Area. The Warriors won the NBA title in 1947 and 1956 when they were located in Philadelphia.

Cleveland will soon be making its second Finals appearance in franchise history. The Cavaliers also reached the Finals in 2007 – during LeBron James’ first tour of duty in Wine City – when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in four games.

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 and the Cavaliers equalized on February 26 with a 110-99 triumph behind LeBron James’ 42 points and 11 boards.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have picked Golden State to beat Cleveland for the NBA crown. I will go against the grain and root for the Cavaliers to snare their first-ever NBA championship with a 4-2 decision over the Warriors.

The city of Cleveland, after all, has not won a U.S. major pro team sports league title since 1964 when athlete-turned-actor Jim Brown powered the Cleveland Browns to the National Football League (Super Bowl) championship.

LeBron, born in Akron, Ohio, spent his first seven NBA seasons (2003-10) in Cleveland without a ring. Now, The King seeks redemption in a second Finals trip in the return to his home state. He won’t be denied.


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