Ten reasons to love the 2015 NBA Finals:
1. Alvin Gentry. The new Pelicans coach will literally be Golden State coach Steve Kerr’s right-hand man, directing the Warriors top-ranked offense. Admit it. You’ll be paying closer attention to what Golden State is doing than normal.
2. LeBron. What would the Finals be these days without LBJ? This is five straight, making him the first to accomplish that feat with two different teams. We’ve watched him carrying an increasingly-thin, hurting, makeshift roster through the playoffs, averaging 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 8.3 assists. When James fell to the court after Game 3 against the Hawks, we all felt his exhaustion down to his toes. Dare we say that LeBron is in the argument with Michael Jordan for GOAT?
3. Stephen Curry. You could get your money’s worth just watching him in pregame warmups, especially checking out his final shot from the tunnel. The mouthpiece-chewing MVP is truly among the best shooters of all time and his popularity has skyrocketed this season to the point where his jersey sales trail only LBJ’s. And there’s his 2-year-old daughter, Riley, who seals every postgame interview session.
4. It’s the best vs. the best. And we’re not just talking about James vs. Curry. The Warriors won 67 regular-season games, one of the highest totals in league history, but after Jan. 23 when the Cavaliers got their act together their 30-9 record was second only to Golden State’s 33-9. The NBA playoffs do not produce fluke finalists. And this is proof.
5. They owe us. On the other hand, where’s the drama been? The Warriors are 12-3 in their three series and the Cavs are 12-2. Cleveland’s roll through the East might have been expected given the opposition. But frankly, after the high caliber of competition we saw all season, we thought Golden State would have had more trouble. Maybe they truly are 11 games better than anyone else in the conference.
6. Rookie coaches. It’s the first time both teams’ had first-year coaches since the NBA’s inaugural season of 1946-47, and we’re assured of having the first rookie winner since Pat Riley of the Lakers in 1982. Steve Kerr and Dave Blatt certainly took unconventional paths to get this far (Neither had ever been an NCAA assistant before) and Kerr even offered Blatt a spot on his staff before the Cavs came calling for the international league veteran. Both inherited title-ready teams. But who’s to say those teams are here without their coaches?
7. Cleveland and Oakland. Are there two more woebegone cities in America? OK, Detroit. But bear with us. The Mistake by the Lake hasn’t had a championship team since the 1964 Browns. Oakland has the misfortune of being across the bay from San Francisco. The team is even primed to move out of antiquated Oracle Arena back to The City when a new arena is constructed. A title will do wonders for both cities’ self-image – at least for a little while.
8. J.R. Smith — the one-time straight-out-of-high-school first-round pick of the then-Hornets in 2004 still hasn’t cleaned up his act entirely even though he’ll turn 30 in September. But since coming to Cleveland in a three-way midseason trade with the Knicks, Smith has found himself as a valuable scoring option off the bench whose also finally learned the necessity to play on the defensive end. Will he aggravate the Warriors at crucial times? Will he try to untie Andrew Bogut’s shoelace? You bet.
9. Klay Thompson. Cleared to play after the concussion he suffered in the Houston series, the other half of the Slash Brothers is even more dangerous than Curry on open-look 3s and his league-record 37 points in a single quarter earlier this season remains an eye-popper. Assuming he’s 100 percent, Thompson is why opponents who double-team to limit Curry usually do so to their regret.
10. Predictions. As much as King James would love to will his team to what would be his third title in four years, he just doesn’t have enough first-rate healthy players around him. If Kevin Love were able to play and Kyrie Irving were 100 percent, this could be a classic series. But they’re not, and the Warriors have proven throughout the playoffs that a bunch of jump shooters can win the title, especially when Golden State has a lot more than that in its favor. Warriors in five, maybe four.