Just when you think you have seen it all, sports delivers a first – and lately, several firsts. NHL expansion team Las Vegas reaches the Stanley Cup Finals in year one; the NHL has been playing for 125 years. And, the Supreme Court delivers a landmark 6-3 vote allowing states to legalize betting on college and professional sports.
Home teams usually win game seven right? Not so fast. In two days we saw two road teams, Cleveland and Golden State, win game seven against heavy odds at Boston, where the Celtics were 10-0 in the playoffs, and in Houston, the team with the NBA’s best record.
Injuries can handicap the best of odds also. All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward were missed by Boston, and the Rockets could not overcome the loss of All-Star Chris Paul to a hamstring injury in games six and seven.
Starting Thursday, May 31 in Oakland, for the first time in NBA history and in sports history, the same two teams, Cleveland and Golden State, will play for the NBA Championship for the fourth straight year. It’s never ever happened before in NFL, NHL or MLB history either, that two teams played for their leagues’ championships four years in a row.
Cleveland, with LeBron James leading the way, has reached the NBA Finals again. For Cleveland, it’s their fourth-straight trip for James; he has led his team to eight straight trips to the NBA Finals.
Boston reached 10 straight NBA Finals with Bill Russell. James is the first player in 50 years to play in eight straight.
Boston, Golden State, Miami and Los Angeles are the only NBA franchises to reach four straight. Houston, the NBA’s best regular-season team (65-17), made more three-point shots than any team in NBA history during the regular season. In the Western Conference Finals game seven, they were cold as ice.
Leading 54-43 at halftime, the Rockets missed 27 straight three-point shots. That’s called dying with your boots on, as they finished just seven of 44 for the game and one of 21 down the stretch. Golden State made 16 of 39 from three-point range. The two teams set a record with 83 attempts combined.
The Warriors are the biggest favorite to repeat as NBA Champions since 2002. They have the home court advantage in the best-of-seven Finals. They played Cleveland twice during the regular season and Cleveland lost both games, 99-92 and 118-108.
The Warriors truly have the heart of a champion. They are the first team in NBA history to trail by double digits twice in playoff games six and seven and come back to win.
Cleveland made a big trade in February, and James still carried the load with different teammates to reach the Finals again. The Warriors are going for their third title in four years and trying to join Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Houston and Miami as back-to-back NBA Champions.
All the NBA Finals games can be seen on ABC-TV starting Thursday at 8 pm Central. Again. I’ll be covering the NBA Finals for MSR and NPN, and I pick the Warriors to repeat in five games.