NBA finals up for grabs?

FitzbeatsquareOAKLAND, CA — Cleveland superstar LeBron James said before the NBA Finals began that he had nothing to lose. He sure is not playing like it.

LeBron James
LeBron James

He has personally put his stamp on these Finals. This is the first time ever the first two games have gone to overtime, with a 108-100 loss in game one when James scored a game-high 44 points and lost All-Star guard Kyrie Irving with a broken left kneecap.

James is now playing without teammates Kevin Love and Irving, two All-Stars, and is leading by example. In game two, also decided in overtime, James was spectacular again, this time in victory with 39 points, 16 rebounds, and 11 assists, his fifth career Finals triple double.

He led Cleveland to their first-ever NBA Finals win despite the fact that the Cavs shot just 32 percent. That’s the lowest percentage by an NBA Finals game-winning team since 1954.

Golden State squandered the valuable home-court advantage, losing 95-93 in game two. The Warriors are now 47-4 at Oracle Arena in Oakland. The series, which now shifts to Cleveland, is even at 1-1.

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry

Stephen Curry, the league’s MVP, was awful, making just five of 23 shots and two of 15 from three-point range. He threw up an air ball from 15 feet that could have tied the game in overtime.

The Cavaliers have done a good job of dictating the tempo of both games and have controlled possessions. The Warriors were the NBA’s highest scoring team and surprisingly trailed by double digits in both games, having to rally to force overtime in both games.

Cleveland out-rebounded the Warriors in game two 55-45. Cleveland’s bench even out-scored the Warriors’ bench 21-17 after getting smashed 34-9 in game one. Cleveland is no slouch at home either, winning 26 of their last 28 home games.

Cleveland has been more physical and defensively seems to be getting into the Warriors’ heads. The team that has out-rebounded the other and has the edge in bench scoring has won both games.

David Blatt, the Cavs’ head coach, won 16 European championships before coming to Cleveland. He and Steve Kerr of Golden State are the first NBA rookie head coaches to face each other in the NBA Finals since 1947 — that was the NBA’s first season.

The Warriors are the first team to reach the NBA Finals since the 1996-97 Utah Jazz without having a single player on the roster with previous NBA Finals experience.

Curry set an NBA post-season record with 73 made three-pointers in a single playoff. He is the 31st regular-season MVP to appear in the Finals the same year. Of the first 30, 22 won the championship.

This is the sixth time that James has led his team in scoring average and led them to the Finals, tying Michael Jordan for second all-time behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar with seven. The Cavaliers and Warriors combined to score 29.3 percent of their points on three-pointers. That’s the highest percentage in NBA Finals history.

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 info@larry-fitzgerald.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.