This is it, folks!!! The game for all games, for the throne of all thrones! After 82 regular season games, plus 4 grueling playoff battles, this is the mother of all battles, this is the game that matters. After 8 months of dazzling NBA action, this is the game that really counts.
Forget the fact that Golden State has had a record-breaking, mind-boggling 73-win season. Forget too the fact that Steph Curry had made his second regular season MVP via an unprecedented unanimous (yawn-yawn) vote. Throw out the window the fact that the Warriors had ever-so-marvelously come back from a 1-3 deficit to bundle out the pesky, pug-nosed Oklahoma Thunder, to reach this prestigious Finals for the second straight year.
On the other end, stop dwelling on the 4 MVP trophies and the 2 championship rings in Lebron James’ display room. No need to herald the Cavs’ painful lost opportunity with the injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love that stalled their march to hoop heaven last year. And let’s not even talk about Cleveland’s agonizing hunger for that elusive sports title.
All these are swept under the rug now, as both teams prepare to lock horns one final time. Today is the day of reckoning. Who will display the will to fight, the grit to dig in, and the ability to adjust quickly? And who will have the luck of the Irish? Welcome, everyone, to the game for all the marbles, the game for pride and glory, for bragging rights and all. This, folks, is the game for cage immortality.
Indeed, the NBA will finally proclaim a champion team today. They will be bruised, they will be battered. They will be burned to the bone. But they will be crowned nonetheless. For they will have willed themselves, after 7 wild and action-packed encounters. To win in this game that mattered. To stay the course and execute the plan, no matter the hurts and hurdles. And to keep on punching, keep on fighting, until the final bell, until victory is certain.
There are 5 points that will spell the difference for the 2 warring camps: skill, stamina, speed, size, and savvy. Both teams are fairly even on the skill and stamina department. The Warriors are slightly ahead on speed, with the likes of Andre Igoudala, Shawn Livingstone and Leandro Barbosa providing depth. The Cavs are way ahead on the size or strength side, particularly with the absence of Andrew Bogut and Igoudala’s back problems. That said, the game will be decided on the savvy side, with the adjustments, the counter-actions coming from the bench. This game has been elevated into a chess match, with coaches Steve Kerr and Tyronn Lue taking the starring role.
From invincibility to ignominy. That is how the narrative will look like for the Golden State Warriors should they lose their 3rd straight game to the Cavs, and lose the crown in the process. They had a red-hot start where they collected 24 straight wins, easily eclipsing the previous record of 15-0. They proceeded to stamp an amazing 73-9 record, breaking the Chicago Bulls’ 72-win season in 1996. The team would also set an NBA record 54-straight regular season home game winning streak, erasing the previous high of 44 set by the same 1996 Chicago Bulls which proceeded to dominate the NBA playoffs. The Splash Brothers would scatter 3-point bombs from as far away as the moon, capturing the MVP crown, collecting the scoring crown, annexing the All-Star 3-point contest, taking no prisoners, and revolutionizing the game in the process. They would later show a bit of weakness, falling behind 1-3 to the Oklahoma Thunder, before they would come roaring back to win with aplomb 4-3. To lose the crown would be devastating as it would negate the impressive records set all season long. History will certainly not look kindly on a team that wins a whopping 73 games in the regular season and then lose it all in the playoffs.
The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are one win away from the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. No team has ever recovered from a 1-3 deficit in the NBA Finals. They are also just a game away from upending the greatest regular season team ever. A loss, however, would mean another year of agonizing wait. It would mean that the championship jinx remains, despite the return of that man-miracle Lebron James. It would also mean a 3rd straight NBA Finals loss for Lebron, a slight blemish – but a blemish nonetheless – to an otherwise immaculate basketball resume. There is simply so much at stake for both teams in this last 48 precious minutes of play.
The legendary coach Rudy Tomjanovich once said: “Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion.” The lovable Yogi Berra then famously declared: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” And there’s the gruff Mike Tyson who proclaimed: “Everyone’s got plans. Until he gets punched in the mouth.” Yeah, when the going gets tough, it is the tough that gets going.
Gentlemen, place your bets!!!