Down 3-1 in last season’s NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving powered the Cleveland Cavaliers to a stunning victory in the series, winning three straight games to deliver their city’s first NBA title.
Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) reaches for the ball against the Golden State Warriors during the second half of Game 4 of basketball’s NBA Finals in Cleveland, Friday, June 9, 2017. Cleveland won 137-116. (Larry W. Smith/Pool Photo via AP)
Down 3-0 to the Warriors in this season’s NBA Finals, Cleveland claimed their first victory of the series in Game 4, and entered the weekend trying to refocus on another improbable turnaround. James, Irving and the rest of the Cavaliers mustered up their best performance of the season. Can they build on that win, and come back again from another Finals’ deficit? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate this pressing question.
Riley: Being down 3-1 last season was a doozy but being down 3-0 is a basketball death sentence. It might be different if the Warriors were coming off an injury or a suspension, like they were last summer, but their roster is still fully healthy. Golden State losing four games in a row is highly improbable, especially considering the Warriors have only lost one game so far this postseason. It’s not impossible, but the only team to solve the Warriors’ playoff code over the last few seasons has been Cleveland. That should give the Cavaliers some hope.
Green: Cleveland topped Golden State last season, but that was a miracle of sorts. Coming back from 3-1 deficit isn’t something that happens every year, but this is a new age of the NBA. It’s two super teams facing off and anything is possible. I say if you can win three in a row, what difference is one more win? Personally, I predicted Cleveland would win this series in six games. That won’t happen now, but there’s still a chance for them to get it done in seven. They have the best basketball player on the planet in LeBron James, and the best closer in the game in Kyrie Irving. I expect them to get it done.
Riley: Their win last season wasn’t a fluke. James took over the series and Irving sprinkled in some big shots. I agree that James is still the best player and Irving just dropped 40 points against the Warriors in Game 4. It’s a long shot, but Cleveland has been in this position before. For them, every game is Game 7 now, and I expect the same effort going forward. The Cavs will take it one game at a time, and if they steal Game 5, then the whole series looks completely different.
Green: I agree, Game 5 will be huge. Golden State is playing with house money, and every advantage is in their favor. They have a fully-loaded roster, an added boost with head coach Steve Kerr back on the bench and two of the next three games will be played in California, if the series even goes that far. But as we saw in Game 4, Cleveland’s roster is just as loaded with talent and can compete with anybody. The Cavs have another advantage over Golden State—a lack of pressure. No one, besides myself, expects Cleveland to pull this comeback off. That means they can go out there and play free. That can be scary for the Warriors, who face the pressure to close the series out. Can Golden State handle that stress? Stay tuned.