To have survived the 82-game regular season, then to navigate through the playoffs to reach the Conference Finals is truly a special achievement. However, the biggest payoff lies ahead, not to mention the glory that comes with reaching the NBA Finals.
Golden State, Atlanta, Houston and Cleveland are the NBA’s Final Four. For Golden State it’s been a dream year, 67-15, the NBA’s best regular-season record and the number-one scoring and defensive team. First-year Coach Steve Kerr has pushed all the right buttons on a team that has had a magical season.
The Warriors were 4-0 vs. Houston. Guard Stephen Curry was honored as the NBA’s Most Valuable Player. That usually is the formula of a championship team. To have the league’s best record, home court advantage, and the MVP is a tough combination to beat. Not to mention that they won by an average of 10.1 points per game.
It’s been a long time coming for the Warriors; 1976 was the last time they were this good. For Atlanta, it’s been even longer; 1970 was the last time the Hawks were this good. They were 60-22 in the regular season and were 3-1 vs. Cleveland head-to-head.
The Houston Rockets were 56-26, the second-best record in the Western Conference after the Warriors, and are coached by Kevin McHale, former Timberwolves vice president and coach. The Rockets are led by James Harden, the NBA’s MVP runner-up and the league’s second-leading scorer. They have a healthy Dwight Howard at center whose rebounding and shot-blocking toughness inside could pay dividends for the Rockets.
Cleveland at 53-29 has the great LeBron James and Kyrie Irving but could miss teammate Kevin Love, who broke his collar bone in the playoffs. James is no stranger to this stage; he has been in the Eastern Finals five years straight. His return to Cleveland after four years in Miami has swung the balance of power in the East.
Miami did not even qualify for the 2015 playoffs. So the stage is set — let’s see how it plays out.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.