NBA fans, specifically those in the greater Cleveland and Bay Areas, will have to wait a full week before they get to see the Cavaliers and Warriors clash in the 2015 NBA Finals. Even before LeBron James and the Cavs swept the Atlanta Hawks, and MVP Stephen Curry and the Warriors dispatched the Houston Rockets in five games, the NBA reportedly decided not to push the start of the Finals up.
In one week, Game 1 will tip off from Oracle Arena, with some of the league’s brightest stars feeding the frenzy of some of the more championship-starved fans. The June 4 date gives both teams plenty of rest. In the 2014 NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs had four full days of rest, while the Miami Heat had five.
Cleveland makes its second trip to the Finals and first since 2007. During James’ first stint with his home-state squad, when he was only 22 years old and in his fourth season in the league, the Cavs would eventually fall to the Spurs in four games, but the matchup served as Cleveland’s last championship hope since its NFL franchise Browns claimed a title in 1964.
The Bay Area hasn’t seen the Warriors go this deep into the postseason since 1975, when they won their third NBA title.
With James and Curry handling most of the star power, this matchup was one odds makers and fans around the world have wanted the most. They have arguably been the two most visible basketball players in the 2014-2015 season.
Firing off three-pointers at will, Curry and the Warriors overpowered the rest of the league for a franchise record 67 wins, the highest-scoring offense at 110 points per game, and the top seed in the Western Conference. The regular season run was highlighted by Golden State’s remarkable 39-2 home court record, and in the playoffs it’s kept up that pace with only one loss at Oracle.
Curry also ran away with the league MVP with 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, and 2.0 steals per game, while nailing 44.3 percent of his three-point attempts, and setting a new record of 286 made in the regular season. The 27-year-old’s improved his scoring effort to 29.2 points over 15 games in the postseason, topping the 30-plus point mark eight times.
Curry’s joined by shooting guard and fellow "Splash Brother" Klay Thompson, who has netted 19.7 points and connected on 42.5 percent of his threes. Small forward Draymond Green has averaged a double-double of 14 points and 10.8 rebounds with 5.3 assists per game throughout the playoffs as well, and he figures to lead the defensive charge against James.
The four-time MVP has thus far made good on his promise to make Cleveland title contenders once again, a vow he set when he announced the return to the Cavs last summer. James and the Cavs struggled with a record of 19-20 to start the year, but eventually found a rhythm between point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love.
The additions of guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, via a trade with the New York Knicks, wound up paying huge dividends for the Cavs and James, especially after Love was lost for the postseason after suffering a dislocated shoulder in the first round against Boston and Irving missing Games 2 and 3 versus Atlanta with ankle and knee injuries.
The week-long layover will certainly help both sides in terms of injuries. Irving’s suffered from tendonitis in his left knee, and endured foot injuries throughout the regular season. As James’ sidekick, Irving’s put up 19.7 points and 3.7 assists a game in the first postseason run of his career.
The Warriors’ Thompson can also rest up after he suffered a concussion in Wednesday’s Game 5 clincher against the Houston Rockets. He was kneed in the side of the head by Houston’s Trevor Ariza in the fourth quarter, and went to the locker room to get stitches and reportedly passed a concussion test. However, after the game Thompson was showing signs of a concussion and he’s currently being monitored by the Warriors medical staff.
Game 1: Cavs at Warriors, Thursday, June 4 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Game 2: Cavs at Warriors, Sunday, June 7 at 8 p.m. on ABC
Game 3: Warriors at Cavs, Tuesday, June 9 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Game 4: Warriors at Cavs, Thursday, June 11 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Game 5*: Cavs at Warriors, Sunday, June 14 at 8 p.m. on ABC
Game 6*: Warriors at Cavs, Tuesday, June 16 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Game 7*: Cavs at Warriors, Friday, June 19 at 9 p.m. on ABC
(*) If necessary