CLEVELAND – Cleveland sports fans know what it means to suffer given that the city’s major sports teams haven’t won a championship in 52 years.
On Sunday morning, Cleveland Cavaliers fans exuded a quiet confidence that with star forward LeBron James leading the way the city’s unmatched streak of sports futility might finally end.
The Cavaliers play the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night in a decisive Game 7 to determine the NBA title. It’s a rematch of last year’s NBA finals that saw the Warriors beat the injury riddled Cavs in six games. You can bet the Cavs would love to return the favor and celebrate a title on the Warriors’ home court.
Seventy-five-year-old Billy Bass, of Cleveland, sat outside a Starbucks in downtown Cleveland Sunday feeling certain that the Cavs would beat the Warriors.
He says the “curse” that has plagued Cleveland sports teams “can’t go on forever.”
It’s safe to say that Game 7 was not expected in this year’s NBA Finals between Golden State and the Cavs. After all, the Warriors had a commanding 3-1 series lead after Game 4.
But, surprisingly, this NBA Finals rematch has come down to the wire, in a winner-take-all scenario at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, at 8 p.m. ET.
Will the Warriors, who won an NBA-record 73 games during the regular season, cap the playoff season with a second consecutive championship?
Or will it be the Cavaliers, who could end more than half a century of heartache in Cleveland? The city hasn’t experienced a championship celebration in any major sport since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964 — before Super Bowls existed.
“We want to get the city of Cleveland a championship,” Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue said after winning Game 6. “We want to get the state of Ohio a championship. We want to get the Cleveland organization a championship, so that’s what we’re all about. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Climbing out of a 3-1 hole
No team has ever rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals. In fact, only three teams out of 33 have forced an NBA Finals Game 7 after trailing 3-1. The other two teams are the 1951 New York Knicks (against the Rochester Royals) and the 1966 Los Angeles Lakers (against the Boston Celtics).
But the Cavaliers fought back, tying the series 3-3 after a 115-101 win at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland on Thursday night. LeBron James, the Akron, Ohio, native who returned to the Cavaliers with the goal of leading Cleveland to a championship, scored 41 points in each of the last two games. He is the first player with consecutive 40-point performances in the NBA Finals since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 2000.
Meanwhile, the Warriors looked rattled Thursday night. Stephen Curry, who has won the last two NBA regular-season MVP awards, fouled out in the fourth quarter Thursday night. Upset with the call, Curry threw his mouthpiece into the stands and was ejected. It was the first ejection of his career. On Friday, the NBA announced Curry was fined $25,000 for throwing the mouthpiece.
“It’s obviously frustrating fouling out in the fourth quarter of a clinching game and not being out there with my teammates,” Curry said following Game 6. “It got the best of me, but I’ll be all right for the next game.”
Curry knows that the record-setting 73 wins, awards and memorable moments that highlighted Golden State’s special season will only be footnotes if the Warriors can’t quickly find their missing game. The 3-pointers have stopped falling, the swagger has gone missing and the defense has had no answers for LeBron James.