NBA Finals take center stage
Documenting history is a wonderful thing if you keep an open mind and you have a passion for it. We are almost six months into this 2017 year, and so far it’s been amazing.
January saw the NCAA National Championship rematch between unbeaten defending champion Alabama vs. Clemson. In February’s Super Bowl 51, Atlanta vs. New England, the Falcons led 28-3, remember, and yet did not win.
In college basketball in April, Gonzaga met North Carolina with great expectations in the title game and outstanding results that were not predictable. Now it’s June and the NBA Finals are here, having gone where they never have gone been before — a trifecta rematch between defending champion Cleveland and Golden State.
For years the NBA was built on East vs. West rivalry, Boston vs. Los Angeles, 17 NBA titles for the Celtics and 16 for the Lakers. Many times this rivalry delivered for the NBA and its fans. The Warriors kind of remind us of the old Lakers with the gold uniforms and spectacular, explosive scoring.
This is the first time two teams have met in the NBA Finals three years in a row. Cleveland snatched the title from the grasp of the Warriors 93-89 last year in Oakland in an epic game seven. The Warriors had already been ordained as the greatest single-season team in NBA history with 73 wins and defending champs.
However, to finish first you must first finish. As LeBron James reminded us, Cleveland, this one is for you — the first title of any kind for Cleveland in 54 years.
Both teams are back, and both teams believe they will win the title. The Warriors have achieved the best three-year win total in the regular season in NBA history (67-73-67) with 207 wins. History can be kind to you; it also can beat you up.
In the playoffs this year they have been perfect: 12-0, winning by a 17.5 point margin, only the second team ever to reach the Finals undefeated after the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers. They’re also the first ever to sweep three teams 4-0.
Cleveland finished second in the Eastern Conference, yet dominated 12-1 in the playoffs to return to the Finals as Champions.
It does not get better than this. Cleveland has won 15 of their last 16 playoff games. The Warriors have won 27 of their last 28 games. The Finals have never had a 12-1 team vs. a 12-0 team on this stage. It’s the last two NBA champions in the rubber match, you might say.
James has just passed NBA icon Michael Jordan as the playoffs’ all-time leading scorer with 6,000 career playoff points in 213 games. Jordan with 5,987 is number two in 179 games. This is the seventh straight trip to the NBA Finals for James. He is the only player to lead two teams, Miami and Cleveland, to four NBA Finals. He’s won three titles.
James is a four-time MVP. Stephen Curry has been MVP the last two years, and new Warriors addition Kevin Durant is a four-time scoring champion and once an MVP.
Pardon me if you can sense I’m excited after all these years to cover another championship. Warrior’s Head Coach Steve Kerr again has battled back issues and has not been court side. Mike Brown has masterfully guided this team. Remember, he was fired by Cleveland twice.
Tyrone Lue has not missed a beat with Cleveland. For the third straight year the Warriors have the home court advantage. It’s their final season in Oakland before going across the bay bridge to San Francisco and their new arena in 2018.
The fun starts Thursday, June 1, Cavaliers vs. Warriors III. I can’t wait.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.