By Sope Eweje, For The African-American Athlete
Well I guess no one saw this coming, huh?
Here we are again: for the third season in a row, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will contend for an NBA championship. In the preseason, especially with the Warriors’ addition of Kevin Durant, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that we would see these two teams again. However, there were times during the regular season when there was some speculation regarding teams that could challenge the Warriors’ dominance of the West, and the Cavs’ dominance of the East.
But five sweeps, numerous blowouts, and endless complaints about lack of playoff competition later, questioning the inevitable now seems foolish.
The Warriors have reached a level of dominance I’m not even sure they saw themselves reaching after adjusting to having a superstar like KD in the fold. Since March 14th, the Warriors have gone 27-1, and they have beaten opponents by an average of 16.3 points per game during the playoffs, one of the largest average margins of victory in NBA playoff history.
Durant and Steph Curry have become the first pair of teammates heading to the NBA finals to average 25-plus points per game, while shooting over 50 percent during the playoffs. Then there is Draymond Green, the ever-present glue guy for the Warriors. He leads the team in every major statistical category except points (rebounds, assists, steals, blocks).
The only eyesore might be the performance of Klay Thompson, who has the worst field-goal percentage (38.3 percent) and three-point field-goal percentage (36.4 percent) of the Warriors’ four stars this playoffs, and is only averaging only 14.4 points per game, versus 22.3 points per game in the regular season and 24.3 points in the playoffs last season.
However, as team-oriented as Thompson and the rest of the Warriors are, those numbers likely don’t bother the team, and they definitely aren’t going to stop the Cavs from taking their opponent any less seriously in the Finals. Seeing as this will be LeBron’s seventh consecutive NBA Finals appearance, it’s clear that a LeBron-led team will never be ill-prepared come June.
The King passed Michael Jordan for most points in postseason history in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics, and has looked every bit of a snub for MVP finalist. It’s hard to believe someone averaging 32 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists while shooting over 55 percent from the field in the playoffs is no longer in MVP consideration, but so goes the story of LeBron James: When you’ve been consistently dominant for so many years, people tend to forget until you reach the biggest stage.
Another ring, and maybe even another Finals MVP, and I don’t think anyone will ever forget again.
But this year, unlike last postseason when LeBron led the Cavs in every statistical category, he’s had a lot of support from his teammates. Kevin Love, who was questioned by many after his lack of contribution during last year’s Finals, has really come into his own, shooting 48 percent from behind the three-point line, and leading the team in rebounding this postseason. Kyrie Irving scored a playoff career-high 42 points in the Cavs’ game four win over the Celtics. JR Smith and Tristan Thompson round out a Cleveland starting 5 that looks ready to take on the star-studded lineup of the Warriors.
I think I speak for most NBA fans when I say we’ve been waiting to get this show on the road since its second act ended last June. Will the Cavs make it two straight, or will the Warriors come back to make it two out of three?
Tune in and find out.