Can Cavs stop the Warriors?

Lebron James 2

This series is a huge opportunity for Lebron James. Many are contemplating what will be said of him if he goes 2-5 in the NBA Finals, but he will truly enhance his legendary career if he can bring a championship to the City of Cleveland.

The oddsmakers have the Warriors as the favorites, but most experts expect a close series.

Frankly, if the Cavs play as well as they did in the Toronto series, dominating the paint and nailing three-pointers, then they should be able to topple the Warriors, who have not been playing their best basketball.

This could and should be an epic series . . .

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Game 3 mess for OKC

Oklahoma City completely blew the game last night. They had control of the game late in the 3rd quarter, but then a series of stupid fouls and bad decisions on offense let the Heat back in the game. Coupled with the predictably bad officiating, OKC completely collapsed in the fourth quarter.

Perhaps we’re seeing what we consistently see in the NBA Finals. Young teams need to learn how to win on the biggest stage, and this young Thunder team looks nothing like it did in the three series leading up to the Finals. It’s time to wake up.

Oklahoma City takes Game 1 vs Miami

It was a tough night for the Heat. Shawn Battier was on fire early and the Heat had a big lead, but they were only up by 7 at the half, and as the game went on it was just a matter of time. Oklahoma City was too fast and too talented, and the Heat players were too tired in the fourth quarter.

Kevin Durant is an assassin. He’s fearless and he has the best shooting stroke since Larry Bird. Meanwhile, Russell Westbrook is lightning fast and the Heat have nobody who can hang with him.

Meanwhile, Lebron James didn’t check out and had a solid game, but he didn’t put the team on his back. He didn’t have his outside shot, so he did a decent job of playing more in the paint. But once Battier and Chalmers got cold, the Heat just didn’t have the firepower to hang with the Thunder.

But, it’s just one game. I expect the Thunder to win the series, as they’re deeper than Miami and they’re the only team that’s more athletic than Miami. They also have Kevin Durant. Lebron is playing better, but Durant seems destined to be a winner. All of that said, you can’t count Miami out yet.

Finals reaction

Bill Plaschke, LA Times: Bryant, the Finals MVP, becomes possibly the most unburdened player in NBA history as he finally wins a title without former teammate and nemesis Shaquille O’Neal, who had earlier won one without Bryant. “I just don’t have to hear that criticism, that idiotic criticism, anymore,” said Bryant, who ended a week of growling intensity by literally gnawing at his fingernails in anticipation of Sunday’s final horn. Sitting with a Moet-soaked T-shirt in the interview room underneath Amway Arena, Bryant shook his head, grinning and chuckling, the taut and tough leader finally admitting that the Shaq rap ripped him. “It was like Chinese water torture . . . it was just annoying . . . I would cringe every time,” he said. “I was just like, it’s a challenge I’m just going to have to accept because there’s no way I’m going to argue it.”

George Diaz, Orlando Sentinel: A flurry of turnovers, missteps and mistakes. The Magic bumbled their way through the evening, turning the Am into a roadhouse version of the Staples Center. It was an embarrassing way to say goodbye to the season. You lose, you lose. But you always play hard. Always. The Magic only did that in spurts Sunday. And that’s how you get blown out by a superior team. The Lakers deserved to be champions. They found ways to close out games in the clutch, unlike the Magic, who lost two of these matchups in overtime.

Michael Ventre, NBC Sports
: Next season the Lakers have a team returning that, theoretically, should be favored to repeat. The club has two major free agents in Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza to try and lock up, but given the history of the Lakers and the fact that both players were vitally important to this championship run, it appears that will occur. It would not be a surprise if general manager Mitch Kupchak snagged another player through free agency or the draft, either. It’s almost impossible for any coach to turn his back on that. The allure of another championship? It’s one thing if a coach is foiled time after time by the agony of the pursuit, has a relationship with the Larry O’Brien Trophy similar to the one Captain Ahab had with Moby Dick, and just decides to pack it in. It’s quite another if someone says to the reigning virtuoso, “How would you like to play Carnegie Hall one more time?”

Chris Sheridan, ESPN: Want to know why Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson sat there on the Magic bench, blank expressions adorning their faces, after that final buzzer? Why Superman and one of his All-Star sidekicks stuck around as the championship trophy podium was hastily assembled and the Lakers stood victorious atop it? Because that was what Howard wanted, and he wanted Nelson to witness, feel and share every raw, painful emotion that was tearing him apart inside. “He wanted me to sit out there and let it soak in so we could get that feeling — that bad feeling, actually, of how it feels, and not let it happen again,” Nelson said. “We don’t want it to happen again, so we stay out there to let it soak in, get upset a little bit. “A motivational thing, that’s it,” Nelson said.

Ladies and gentlemen, your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers

Yep, the Lakers rolled, 99-86, to eliminate the Magic in Game 5 of the 2009 Finals. It is the franchise’s 15th title and Phil Jackson’s 10th as a head coach.

Kobe got his first ring without Shaq. His legacy as one of the NBA’s all-time greatest players is secure. Even though he is the league’s most polarizing personality, he deserves a ton of credit for the way he led the Lakers this season. He deferred to his teammates time and time again, and they came through when it mattered most. This is no big deal for a lot of players, but Kobe is a different beast.

Unfortunately for the Magic, the competitiveness of these Finals is going to fade as time goes on. The Lakers’ ability to clinch in five games seems dominant on paper and people are going to forget that if not for two plays — Courtney Lee’s missed alley-oop in Game 2 and Jameer Nelson’s failure to contest Derek Fisher’s game-tying three in Game 4 — this series easily could have gone into Game 5 with the Magic leading, 3-1. But by losing tonight the way they did, most people are going to forget how evenly matched these two teams were.

Heading into the offseason, it’s going to be interesting to see what’s ahead for each of these teams. Hedo Turkoglu, Lamar Odom, Trevor Ariza, Marcin Gortat and Shannon Brown are all entering free agency. If Jerry Buss is willing to go deep into luxury tax territory, the Lakers may elect to repeat this year’s success and sign both Ariza and Odom. My guess is that they re-sign Ariza and let Odom go. As for the Magic, they sound like they’re willing to go over the luxury tax threshold to re-sign Turkoglu. Gortat is a valuable player, but since he plays behind Howard, it will be hard to justify matching a significant offer.

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