The 2015 NBA Finals start on Thursday on Oakland. Here are five reasons why the clash between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers is unmissable.
1. THE UNKNOWN - Twelve months ago, who’d have bet on these two contesting the NBA championship? LeBron James was still scorching with the Miami Heat. We still believed the San Antonio Spurs had life left in those old legs. Then LeBron came home, the Warriors started marching, and we end up here. Golden State hasn’t brought back a title since 1975. And at 1.42 to do so now, they’ll never get a better chance.
2. JAMES GOES SOLO - They say defence (or defense, if you prefer) wins championships. They hadn’t factored in LeBron. James, notching 27.6 points per night in these Playoffs, has carried his team back to their first Finals since they lost to the Spurs in 2007 with an almost superhuman effort. Losing Andy Varejao was a mid-season blow but dropping Kevin Love after the first round was a sucker punch. Despite his two titles in Miami, the four-time MVP might rate this his finest work. If the Cavs lift their first-ever Larry O’Brien, his MVP price at 3.00 will be a steal.
3. COACHING IS EASY – This time last year, David Blatt was basking in the after-glow of a championship. Except, that was the Euroleague. Now he gets the chance to cut a small slice of history by doing an unprecedented double, all while the doubters are still lining up to question his credentials. Yet at the same time, no-one has been over-scrutinising the work of Steve Kerr in his rookie season as a coach on Golden State. Make no mistake, both have helped their sides get here – even if a lot of talent is their greatest play.
4. WARRIOR BALL RULES – Trends come and go in the NBA. Golden State’s success is illustrative of the new mantra: flood the floor with three-point shooters, throw a quality big or two inside and job done. Stephen Curry – 1.43 favourite for the Finals MVP - is averaging 29.2 points in the post-season but it’s the grind work done by the likes of Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green which allows him to flourish. Expect one of those two to have a deserved night in the spotlight with Bogut available at 14.00 for the opening basket of the series.
5. EXPECT HIGH SCORING – Cleveland have emerged with a number one offensive efficiency rating of 108.6 in these Playoffs, with Golden State one spot behind at 107.3. They’re also third and fourth defensively but this will likely be a scorefest. The Warriors only dipped under 100 once in their 4-1 West Finals victory over Houston. The Cavs put up 114 and 118 in their clinching Games 3 and 4 over Atlanta. Look for total points lines over 205 and counting.
Best bet: Take LeBron James over Stephen Curry to score most points in the Playoffs at 12.00