The two best storylines of the National Basketball Association season will produce only one happy ending in Sunday’s all-or-nothing NBA Finals Game Seven between Stephen Curry and the Warriors and LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
James and Curry have won six league MVP Awards between them but that will not help them at Oracle Arena when Golden State strive to cap the NBA’s greatest single season and the Cavs set out to end Cleveland’s 52-year title drought.
The city of Cleveland has not had a professional team sports title since the NFL Browns in 1964, and James left the Miami Heat to return to his home state two years ago on a mission to deliver a championship.
“I’m going to give everything that I got,” four-time MVP James told reporters at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Saturday.
James has shown what he has to offer in the last two games, when facing elimination trailing 3-1 in the best-of-seven, twice scoring 41 points.
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said James simply has to be himself. “He’s very capable of being special every night.”
James, playing in the Finals for a sixth year in a row including four in Miami, did not view Game Seven as pressure-packed.
“It’s an opportunity for us to do something special,” said James.
Golden State has already done something special, producing the best regular season record (73-9) ever in the NBA.
But failing to crown that achievement with another title, after beating the Cavs in six games last year in the Finals, would suck the joy out of an otherwise wondrous campaign.
Curry agreed with team mate Klay Thompson that losing the NBA Finals would make the season a “failure”.
“That was our goal from the beginning. We had two other chances already and haven’t gotten it done,” Curry said on Saturday.
“We have 48 minutes to do it, so if we come up short we’ll all be very, very, very disappointed.”
It would also brand the Warriors as the first NBA Finals team to squander a 3-1 lead. All 32 other teams that led 3-1 won the title.
It has been a hot-cold series, with none of the games coming down to the final moments.
Yet the aggregate score of the six games could not be closer, 610 points apiece, and the prospect of a compelling finale has reportedly raised the price for premium courtside tickets to nearly $50,000.
Last year, the Cavs were decimated by injuries to guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love.
Now the Warriors are wounded, having to soldier on without Australian center Andrew Bogut, out with a knee injury. His loss has allowed the Cavs and James in particular to drive aggressively to the hoop.
Golden State forward Andre Iguodala, last year’s Finals MVP and the Warriors’ choice to defend James, has been hobbled by a back injury.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Iguodala should be ready to go. “It’s Game Seven, and he’s Andre Iguodala so we know he’ll be out there.”
Curry said he had to produce his best game of the season, if not his career.
“I need to take it up another notch for Game Seven,” he said. “That’s what the greats do.”
The prospect of a compelling finale has reportedly raised the price for premium courtside tickets to nearly $50,000.
(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Andrew Both)