NBA Final Four: Warriors, Thunder, Cavaliers and Raptors
It is actually harder to the miss the playoffs in the NBA than it is to reach them. With 30 teams, 16 teams make the post season and 14 qualify for the NBA Lottery. Twelve years in a row now the Timberwolves have been on the outside counting lottery balls and hoping to win the lottery, which they did last year.
Karl Anthony Towns, the NBA’s number-one pick, was the unanimous KIA NBA Rookie of the Year. He played in all 82 games for the Timberwolves and averaged 18 points with 10.7 rebounds and blocked 1.7 shots per game. He helped the Timberwolves win four of their last five games, including an overtime win over the greatest team in NBA history, the 73-win defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.
The Warriors are in the Western Conference Finals again, back-to-back years for the first time since 1974-75 and 1975-76. Golden State will play Oklahoma City in a best-of-seven and holds the home-court advantage.
The Warriors are led by unanimous NBA League MVP Stephen Curry, the NBA’s first player to achieve the feat. He averaged 30 points a game and led the league in steals while making an NBA-record 402 three-point shots.
Oklahoma City won a controversial 4-2 Western Conference Semi-Final series over the favored 67-win San Antonio Spurs. It was probably the worst-officiated playoff series in league history. Two games were directly determined by obvious missed calls by game officials late in one-point games, and the NBA admitted it. The Warriors swept the regular season series from the Thunder, winning all three games.
In the East, the undefeated 8-0 Cleveland Cavaliers are led by four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and former Timberwolves star Kevin Love. The Toronto Raptors are coached by Dwane Casey, the ex-Timberwolves head coach who was fired by owner Glen Taylor when the Timberwolves were last, a .500 team — they were 20-20 in 2004-05 when he was fired.
The Raptors have an All-Star back court with Kyle Lowry and DeMarr DeRozen. They were number two in the East; the Cavaliers were number one.
Cleveland appears to be on a mission. Last year they lost the NBA Finals to Golden State four games to two. That team did not have Love — he was hurt — or point guard Kyrie Irving. The Raptors have survived injuries and won two tough seven-game series over Indiana and Miami, while the Cavaliers swept both opponents Detroit and Atlanta 4-0.
The Warriors, with back-to-back MVP Curry back from a knee injury, are 8-2 in the playoffs after 4-1 series wins over Houston and Portland. Cleveland is peaking at 8-0. The Thunder are 8-3 and Toronto is 8-6. This is it, as they say — four really good teams in pursuit of NBA Glory.
James has two titles, both while with Miami, but he left South Beach to try and bring the title back home to Cleveland. The Cavaliers have never won it. Neither has Toronto or Oklahoma City.
When the Thunder franchise was in Seattle, they won as the Super Sonics. This is the fourth trip by the Thunder to the Western Conference Finals. Whoever survives, I will cover the NBA Finals again and look forward to it. It looks like a rematch to me — Warriors vs. Cavaliers again. We’ll see.