Beating Golden State Warriors by two points crowned a perfect year for Cleveland Cavaliers. A perfect ending to what had been a historic year in the history of the franchise because for the first time, the city was able to lay hands on the Larry O’Brien trophy.
For the first time in over 50 years, Cleveland won its first trophy in any of America’s four major leagues; Pity Cavs next door neighbors, the Cleveland Indians couldn’t make it a double win for the city as it missed out on the World Series (Baseball) Championship to Chicago Cubs-another long suffering franchise.
The Cubs did to the Indians what the Cavs did to the Warriors by coming back from 1-3 down to triumph in the seven game series. In the Christmas game, Kyrie Irving repeated his heroic feat in the final game by draining a buzzer beating shot to sink Golden State. The result surprised some sections given Cleveland’s myriad of physical ailments that has the likes of Chris Andersen and J.R. Smith out for a lengthy period including that game.
For Andersen, a torn ACL injury has ruled him out of the remainder of the season and Smith is expected back to the rotation in the playoffs. Coupled with Kevin Durant’s embedding process continuing to take shape, it was quite difficult to see Cleveland win the matchup.
However, things didn’t go as planned, Stephen Curry was below par and the Warriors lost. That loss was at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland but in a few hours, both teams will go up against each other in the second and final go around of the regular season.
Aside a shocking 119-128 loss to Memphis Grizzlies, the Warriors go into the fixture on a good run winning four of its last five games.
Losing to Memphis in overtime after blowing a 19 point lead was secondary to the big revelation Golden State was winless against teams considered contenders. For the season, the Warriors have lost to Houston Rockets (twice), San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland.
Memphis isn’t one of the contenders but did beat 2016’s beaten finalist in a game that will be hard to miss on the regular season calendar. Curry, Durant and Co. played their last game against Detroit Pistons on January 13 which they won 127-107 on the same night Cleveland beat Sacramento Kings 120-108.
On the other hand, Cleveland heads into the game with two losses in five games all away from home and its long road trip ends at the Oracle Arena. But the game seems all but over considering reports filtering in, suggest Cleveland’s top performers LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love might sit out of the game. However, that is unlikely to happen as another chance to heap more pressure on Golden State’s newly built super team with a win would be just too hard to resist. Whilst for the Cavs there is the added benefit of staying out of sight with all the light focused on the Warriors failing campaign and impending player transaction in the upcoming offseason should they make it a pair of wins later tonight.
LeBron might not see tonight’s game as a must win and definitely not one against a “rival” because the Warriors are not but admitted they are a “dangerous” team. One main talking point in the game would be how Kyle Korver helps Cleveland get over a staunch likely finals opponent. Aside the need for a Point Guard to backup Irving other than first year play Kay Felder, getting Korver’s signature is generally viewed as the missing piece in sealing Cleveland’s third straight finals appearance since LeBron James’ move from Miami.
The former Atlanta Hawks sharpshooter’s marksmanship beyond the three point line gives Coach Tyronne Lue a host of options to explore. Much shine is thrown on his offensive skills far more than what he brings on the less glamorous end of the court as his 6 foot 7 inch frame and relentless hustle gives opposing Guards and Small Forwards fits. Play him alongside James, Irving, Love and Tristan Thompson/ Channing Frye stretches the defense for Irving and James to attack the rim fairly comfortably. Double down on him (Korver), and nifty pass out of a double team puts the opposing team in a handicap situation against three of the best players in the league.
On Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day, I have a dream and that dream has Cleveland deliver a knockout blow and force the Golden State Warriors rethink its setup ahead of the postseason.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah