Cavaliers, Warriors set for grand finale
The Cleveland Cavaliers go for a third win in a row while the Golden State Warriors get one last chance to repeat in Sunday night's seventh and deciding game of the 2016 NBA Finals.
Cleveland fans are hoping a Cavaliers championship can finally bring relief to a city, ending 52 years of sporting misery.
Up 3-1 in the NBA Finals, the Warriors were on the brink of another championship. Now they could become the first team to squander a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals.
Put another way, the Cavs could become the first team to ever win an NBA title after being down 3-1.
Game 7 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., is another classic matchup between Stephen Curry's Warriors versus LeBron James' Cavaliers in a winner-take-all night.
"Anybody that's ever played the game of basketball or done anything at any level -- to be able to have an opportunity to have one game for it all?" James said at Saturday's press conference. "I mean, you take it."
Shots have not been falling for the defending champion Warriors in the playoffs at the same rate they were in the regular season when they set the NBA's record with 73 victories.
Curry, the two-time MVP, is aware that has to change because he feels it will be a lost season if the Warriors don't repeat as champs.
"Yeah, pretty much because that was our goal from the beginning," Curry said Saturday. "We're here on Game 7 with a chance to do it. We've had two chances already and haven't gotten it done, 48 minutes to do it. So if we come up short, we'll all be very, very disappointed. No two ways around that."
Curry scored 30 points in Game 6 while James poured in 41 on Thursday night for the second straight game to save the Cavaliers' season.
James joined Jerry West, Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Barry and Michael Jordan as the only players in Finals history to score 40 or more points in consecutive games.
"He's playing great," Curry said when asked about James' scoring in games 5 and 6. "He's doing things that are game-changing and helping his team win. He's been more aggressive, I think, shooting the ball. We've had some breakdowns, but he's played well. There's no two ways about it. So, tip your hat to him and come out Sunday with aggression."
James has returned the compliments when asked about Curry but does not see it as competition between the league's two biggest stars.
"I don't really get involved in that," James said. "I try to be the best player I can be for this team every night. But at the end of the day, my whole mindset is how I can put myself in position to help these guys be successful and I could be successful, as well. I don't really get caught up in what everybody else talks about. I think you should know me by now. I see what you're trying to do, though."
Curry and Warriors coach Steve Kerr were each fined $25,000 for their outbursts Thursday night in the 115-101 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 6.
Curry was fined for throwing his mouthpiece into the stands after picking up his sixth foul going for a steal against James in the backcourt. The incident, which resulted in a technical foul and subsequent ejection for Curry, occurred with 4:22 remaining in the fourth quarter at Quicken Loans Arena.
Kerr was fined for his criticism of the officiating when asked by reporters during his postgame press conference about the calls against Curry.
Two days later, Kerr was more calm in his assessment of things. He said his team has to just focus on playing basketball.
"Well, we're human, so when you go from up 3-1 to 3-3, it's disappointing," Kerr said at Saturday's press conference. "But you get a couple of days, you kind of take stock. You think about where we are. We like our positioning. We like our chances. And we're at home with a chance to win the championship. You can't ask for much more than that."
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue downplayed that there's any extra pressure on his team due to the long Cleveland sports' championship drought. The city's last major sports title was won the NFL's Cleveland Browns in 1964.
"Just my short time being in Cleveland, just understanding and getting the history of being in Cleveland these last two years means a lot," Lue said Saturday. "They're really into their sports. They're really into their teams. This will be very important and very big for the city of Cleveland and for the state of Ohio to bring this home.
"I know it's going to be going crazy in Cleveland, so hopefully we can stay the course and bring them a championship home."
A Cleveland win would mean a highly disappointing conclusion to Golden State's record season.
Klay Thompson, the Warriors' other Splash Brother, left no doubt when asked whether the season will be a failure without a title.
"One hundred percent," Thompson said. "I thought it was a trick question at first. We expected to win the NBA championship coming into the season. It's either win the whole thing or bust for us. I mean, it's no fun getting second place.
"We all realize if you told us at the beginning of the season it would be one game to win the championship in Oakland, we'll take that any day of the week. We've just got to come Sunday with the mindset of leave it all out there, every man on this team. No hero ball, just do it as a team like we've been doing it all year."