In a somewhat surprising development, the NBA Finals return to the city that never won one.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still alive, hoping to quiet the ghosts of a sports-starved city that just can’t seem to win the main event — no Super Bowl victories, no World Series jubilation since 1948 and nothing at all from the Cavaliers in 46 mostly mundane years of existence.
The Cavaliers did well by forcing Thursday’s Game 6, simultaneously keeping plenty of champagne from flowing at Golden State’s arena a few days earlier.
They still, however, trail the Warriors, 3-2, while trying to become the first team to successfully overturn a 3-1 deficit in the Finals.
They’ll want to keep a lid on NBA most valuable player Stephen Curry, who has had one memorable game this series. He knows it too.
Curry was on a serious roll coming into the Finals, setting an NBA record for any playoff series with 32 three-pointers against Oklahoma City.
He is averaging 22.2 points while shooting 42.4% in the Finals, well off his regular-season numbers of 30.1 points and 50.4%.
“I want to honestly play better and more consistent, but the situation is right now we’re one game away from winning a second championship,” Curry said Wednesday. “If I’m sitting here tomorrow night with another trophy and celebrating with my teammates, we can talk all day.”
There wasn’t much for the Warriors to celebrate leading up to Game 6.
Center Andrew Bogut was declared done for the rest of the series after sustaining bone bruises in his left leg that require six to eight weeks of recovery. Festus Ezeli is the logical choice to replace him after logging 13 games with the starters in the regular season.
At least Draymond Green is coming back from a one-game suspension because of flagrant-foul accumulation. Unable to attend Game 5 in person (league rules), Green watched it in a suite at the baseball stadium next to Oracle Arena.
He called himself a “terrible teammate” Wednesday, his first public words since the suspension.
“I have strong belief that if I play Game 5, we win,” he said.
It was perhaps wishful thinking on a night LeBron James and Kyrie Irving each scored 41 points.
The Cavaliers probably won’t want to rely on a two-man game again.
“Go out and make an impact on the game, no matter if he’s not scoring, no matter if at times he feels like he’s not getting touches,” James said. “We definitely need him. He’s too big of a piece to our puzzle….We definitely need Kev to play better.”
Exactly one year ago Thursday, the Warriors eliminated the threadbare Cavaliers in Game 6 in Cleveland. Love didn’t play in the series because of a dislocated shoulder and Irving sat out the final five games because of a fractured kneecap.
James, not one for negative anniversaries, batted away a question about the night he shot 39% while failing to lift his beleaguered team.
“It’s always one year to the date of something,” he said. “I mean, yesterday was one year to date that my son turned 8, and yesterday he turned 9. So it happens every year, it’s one year to the date to something. We don’t think about that stuff.”
The posturing is almost over, at least for one more game. Cleveland will continue its run at history. Or Golden State will win a second consecutive title.
“Kyrie and LeBron had an amazing game, Game 5, and they did what they were supposed to do to help their team stay alive,” Curry said. “The story should hopefully be different in Game 6.”
MORE SPORTS NEWS