NBA Finals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors ready for historic winner-take-all game

Cleveland will complete the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, becoming the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to claim the crown, or the Warriors will crown the most successful season in league history with a championship repeat.

AFP| Last Updated: Jun 17, 2016, 21:09 PM IST
NBA Finals Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors ready for historic winner-take-all game

California: Whether it`s a first one for the `land or two straight for the Bay, the 70th NBA Finals will crown a champion Sunday in a dramatic winner-take-all showdown between Cleveland and Golden State.

The host Cavaliers ripped the defending champion Warriors 115-101 Thursday to level the best-of-seven series at 3-3 and force a seventh-game spectacle back in California to determine a historic trophy winner.

Cleveland will complete the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, becoming the first team to rally from a 3-1 deficit to claim the crown, or the Warriors will crown the most successful season in league history with a championship repeat.

"The beauty of competition at the highest level is that it brings out the best in you," Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. "There`s tears, there`s celebration, you want to be the one celebrating, but you never know, and that`s why we`re competing."

It would be the fifth title for the Warriors, who won in 1947 and 1956 while based in Philadelphia as well as 1975 and last year after moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1962.

The Cavaliers, founded in 1970, would become the first sports champion for Cleveland since the 1964 NFL Browns by capturing their first NBA crown.

An tension-packed atmosphere of excitement will fill the NBA`s oldest venue for the epic contest, the 19,600-seat Oracle Arena having been built half a century ago.

"They are two of the greatest words in the world -- game seven," Cavaliers star LeBron James said. "So I will play it anywhere."

Nine months of work for both clubs from the first days of training camp will come down to 48 minutes of effort, or over-time.

Only twice before in NBA Finals history has a team that fell behind 3-1 like the Cavaliers even forced a seventh game, the New York Knicks in 1951 and Los Angeles Lakers in 1966.

Road teams have won only three times in 18 NBA Finals` seventh games, all within a 10-year span from 1969 to 1978. Boston won seventh games at Los Angeles in 1969 and Milwaukee in 1974 and the most recent came when Washington won at Seattle 38 years ago.

The Warriors, who won a record 73 regular-season games, want to avoid the shame of walking away without a title to show for winning a one-campaign combined record of 88 season and playoff games.

NBA scoring champion Stephen Curry, the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, and fellow 3-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson have powered the deep Warriors lineup against two-time NBA champion James, who alongside Kyrie Irving has ignited the Cavaliers attack.

The Warriors, who won a record 73 regular-season games, want to avoid the shame of walking away without a title to show for winning a one-campaign combined record of 88 season and playoff games.

"It`s either win the whole thing or bust for us," Thompson said. "It`s no fun getting second place. So it would be a great season, but at the same time to us, the players, we`re so competitive, we would feel like we failed.

"A lot at stake, but that`s when we`re going to rise up and be at our best."

James, in his sixth consecutive NBA Finals and seventh overall, led his home-region Cavaliers to the 2007 finals, where they were swept by San Antonio, and in 2010 left for Miami. He sparked the Heat into four NBA Finals in a row, going 2-2, before returning to the Cavs in 2014 and leading them into last year`s finals, where they fell to Golden State in six games.

Until last month, there had not been an NBA game seven in Oakland in 40 years, but the Warriors had to rally from a 3-1 deficit to defeat Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals, taking game seven at home to reach the league finals once again.NBA history shows some epic playoffs efforts have come in winner-take-all situations.

In 2013, James poured in 37 points to match Tom Heinsohn`s 1957 scoring record in an NBA Finals game seven and power Miami over San Antonio 95-88.

Kobe Bryant scored 23 points and grabbed 15 points to spark the Lakers over Boston 83-79 in a 2010 game seven while James Worthy had his only career "triple double" with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists as the Lakers beat Detroit 108-105 in 1988.

Hakeem Olajuwon had 25 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in a game-seven win over New York in 1994.

Willis Reed made a dramatic return from a leg injury to spark New York over the Lakers 113-99 in the 1970 decider.