Today is the last game of the 2015-2016 NBA Season, and a fitting end to a blowout filled NBA Playoffs should be a "do or die" game for both squads. The media darling Golden State Warriors raced to a 73 win regular season -- the best ever in league history. They also pulled in a lot of hardware from the MVP (Stephen Curry), Coach of the Year (Steve Kerr), and three players on the All-NBA 1st, 2nd, or 3rd team (Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson). They will be at home, a place where they have lost only four times all year -- twice in the regular season, once to the Oklahoma City Thunder, and their very last home game, a fall to the Cavs. Speaking of the Cleveland Cavaliers, they dominated the Eastern Conference while pacing themselves. They also had to fight to get in the NBA Finals, dispatching the Toronto Raptors in six games. But it's clear that they had the easier path this season. The added benefit of that was more rest for their best players during the regular season, and no injuries going into the NBA Finals. (And the "What if" game here is if last year's series would have turned out differently if the Cavs were healthy.) While the jury is still out on the Cavaliers bench in this Finals it's clear that LeBron James is still the best dagum player on the planet -- even if they give the MVP to someone else. Kyrie Irving has been instrumental in the three wins this series as well. If someone else can step up from their side it could balance the bedlam that their home crowd will produce.
Of course, I do believe that the Warriors did enough to ensure some very beneficial calls, they paid $50k for them in fines after Game 6. I expect that to be a deciding factor in this game. A Game 7 is a huge money maker for all the suits involved. But sadly, many people will look at this and pass judgement on both teams based upon 48 (or more) minutes of action. If LeBron's team wins it vindicates his career -- which is dumb because he already has a pair of Championship rings and is going to the Hall of Fame. If the Warriors win it proves that they are a revolutionary force in the game of basketball and a great collection of talent that plays the most evolved way possible -- despite the fact that they are already in the history books for winning the most games ever, or the fact that they won a title last season and are immortalized as champions.
Anyway, here are the player stats from just the six Finals Games:
No injuries for any of these guys (that will keep them out of action), though we do expect to continue not seeing Sasha Kaun. A healthy Cavs team is a dangerous one, but it still all starts with LeBron James. He is playing so well that we almost forget that Kyrie Irving is playing better than probably all but 3 or 4 players on the planet right now. That's how eclipsing is the power of James: a guy who is almost averaging 30 / 4 / 4 / 2 while making half of his threes is an after thought. One thing LeBron is doing well right now is that he's distributing the ball to guys who should be finishing. His assist numbers would look even more impressive if guys like Richard Jefferson and Matthew Dellavedova weren't shooting 16% from three. Also, this is a "my bad" but, my bad, I didn't know that Tristan Thompson was averaging a double double in this series. He's no Chris Bosh, but he has been one of the most effective bigs that LBJ has ever played with in the NBA Finals. On the other side of things, Kevin Love is not in a safe space. I guess in the off-season he and Enes Kanter can talk about it while they both take remedial pick and roll defensive classes and traffic school. (I figure that it's all in the same afternoon at the DMV.)
Stephen Curry. Klay Thompson. Draymond Green. These are great building blocks who fit well together. Draymond Green's shot has gone away, and the Dubs are going to be without Andrew Bogut, but they are modular enough to be able to shift parts and continue evolving. I guess the Warriors are like a very tough bacteria. Their bench is almost legendary, with guys who can step up and make huge impacts -- like Shaun Livingston. I haven't seen someone like him take control of an important game off the bench like what he did since we all saw Sam Cassell do it decades ago. If Golden State can get the boards (and Cleveland has been crashing like crazy) then they can get some good outlets and get out on the run. If the pace of play increases it's in the bag for Steph and company. And I think that's one thing Steve Kerr is probably telling his troops. They should win by going small, and need to get back to their exciting brand of 73 win basketball. Or, you know, double down on what Bogut brought by playing big minutes to Festus Ezeli and/or Anderson Varejao. Or just do their thing, and make Ty Lou have to make the adjustments.
I don't know who is going to start in this game for either team, so I'm not even going to bother with that.
Keep in mind, this does not account for population density
Gosh, there are a lot of Warriors life-long fans. Anyway, I hope both teams play well, and it is an exciting game. I know who I want to win this game. Personal preference aside, I think it's hard to win three straight NBA Finals games in a row. And it will be hard to beat Golden State three times in a row, twice in their gym. But if there is a guy who could do it, maybe it's Timofey Mozgov? Probably.
Anyway -- NBA: Make that Money!