Do or Die. As we approach Game 7 of the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are in a do or die scenario. Win on Sunday, take home the Larry O’Brien trophy. Come up short on Sunday and legacies will be redefined and the losing team will go home with an empty feeling for the ages. These are the only options. Win the hardware or go home empty handed.
Throw away all of the ridiculous talk about rigged games and outrageous conspiracy theories. But the NBA couldn’t have dreamed up a more ideal scenario for a conclusion to the 2015-16 season.
The story lines here are abundant and plentiful.
Reigning two-time league MVP Stephen Curry versus four-time MVP LeBron James going head to head at or near their respective primes in a decisive Game 7. Whether Curry and James admits it or not, we are witnessing their rivalry develop right before our eyes.
Then there’s the fact that the air is thick filled with talk on Game 6 officiating, where Warriors head coach Steve Kerr lit up the referees in his post-game interview for what he perceived as bad calls against Curry, which led to the MVP fouling out for the first time since 2013 and his first ejection as a professional. But Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue incorporated the same strategy earlier in the season and the league left his wallet feeling a little lighter.
Kerr will undoubtedly be fined by the league office once the smoke clears, but will his statements have any impact on the officials in Game 7?
With all of the talk of the officiating, conspiracy theories, Curry’s ejection and James’ back-to-back 41-point eruptions, the Warriors are facing a variety of other problems.
Starting center Andrew Bogut is out for the remainder of the series after suffering a leg injury. But the Warriors problems could get even worse if forward Andre Iguodala can’t shake off his back ailment before Game 7. The absence of Bogut already helps James because of his penchant for getting to the rim. Bogut was providing a measure of rim protection in the minutes he was on the floor before the injury. While Iguodala hasn’t fully stopped James, he has at least served as a strong perimeter defensive option for the Warriors against the forward. If Iguodala isn’t at full strength, then the Warriors will have to rely on Harrison Barnes to pick up a little bit more of the workload. But Barnes has struggled throughout the Finals, so that could be asking a lot from the soon-to-be free agent.
The Cavaliers aren’t without their own issues as well.
Veteran forward Kevin Love has been riddled with foul trouble, but even when he has been in the game Golden State has constantly looked to take advantage of his defensive shortcomings. The Cavaliers have also shortened their bench. Guys like Matthew Dellavedova, Channing Frye and Timofey Mozgov who were getting minutes early in the series have now been relegated to the pine and have barely had the opportunity to take off their warm-ups. In a Game 7 on the road, Lue will have to find ways to get his top guys some breathers without unfavorably impacting the team. This will be a delicate dance Lue will tangle with throughout the game.
All throughout the series, both teams have at times displayed flashes of dominance. But the teams have not displayed these characteristics at the same time during the finals. But with Game 7 looming for all of the chips, for all of the bragging rights, for all of the respect and admiration, both teams will undoubtedly bring their A-game to Oracle Arena.
There’s no better time to be an NBA fan than right now. So sit back enjoy a Game 7 on Sunday and live in the moment.
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