|Here is a screencap of the Playoff Bracket, from nba.com|
28 teams have been eliminated, leaving two standing, one from the Eastern Conference, and one from the Western Conference. For the east, the Cleveland Cavaliers have advanced to the finals for the second consecutive year, and third in franchise history, all three of them in the LeBron James era, who will be playing in his 6th consecutive NBA Finals- becoming only the 8th player in the NBA's 70th year to accomplish that feat. All the others are part of the Celtics' Bill Russell-led dominant years of the 1960s, with the feat having been accomplished last in 1966. The Cavaliers are also in the finals with a rookie coach for the second consecutive year, which is unheard of. Former NBA point guard Tyronn Lue became coach of the team in January 2016.
The Cavaliers got here by having the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, than sweeping the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, before facing more of a challenge from the Toronto Raptors, who advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, before falling in 6 games. The Cavs had to wait for the Golden State Warriors-Oklahoma City Thunder series to end, which went to 7 games (and why the Cavs are getting written up first- the Cavs section of the post is being written before game 7 of the Western Conference Finals!)
Wearing #0, Kevin Love is in his second year with Cleveland, although he missed most of the playoffs last season after having his shoulder pulled out of it's socket by the Celtics' Kelly Olynyk. 2015-16 is his 8th season in the NBA. Love is a second-generation player and nephew of founding Beach Boy Mike Love.
|2015-16 Prestige #10|
|2014-15 Panini Threads Signage #10|
|2015-16 Hoops #222|
|2014-15 Panini Threads #74|
|2015-16 Hoops #221|
|2015-16 Complete #77|
|2015-16 Hoops #117|
|2014-15 Prestige #198|
|2015-16 Panini Prizm #145|
Wearing #14 is one of the least-used Cavs, and also the second and final rookie on the team, Russian center Sasha Kaun. Drafted back in 2008, he played in Europe before coming to the NBA this season, where he appeared in only 15 games during the regular season. He has yet to play in the playoffs.
|2015-16 Limited #190|
|2015-16 Hoops #70|
|2015-16 Complete #53|
|2013-14 Totally Certified #157|
|2003-04 Topps #240|
|2015-16 Complete #101|
The Warriors are one of only three remaining original franchises that have been in the League since 1946, they will try to win their 5th Championship in the 2015-16 season. The Cleveland Cavaliers, founded in 1970, have never won the NBA Title.
The Warriors got here by beating the Houston Rockets in 5 games (which would have been a sweep if the refs had not missed a charge by James Harden) and then beat the surprising Portland Trail Blazers, also in 5. The Western Conference Finals proved to be the Warriors' biggest challenge so far, falling down 1-3 before coming back, as noted above.
Wearing #4 is Brandon Rush, younger brother of former NBA player Kareem Rush. Brandon Rush is a backup on the Warriors team who doesn't play all that often, because he is behind Steph Curry. He has not gotten any cards since 2013-14. This is his 8th NBA season.
|2012-13 Hoops #184|
|2015-16 Complete Silver #200|
Wearing #9 is Andre Iguodala, who was named Finals MVP in 2014-15. He famously gave up his career-long starting role to lead the Warriors' second unit, and it payed off with his the title. 2015-16 is his 12th NBA season. When he won Finals MVP last year, partially for offense and partially for his defense of LeBron James, he became the first Finals MVP in history to not start a single regular season game, and also the first to not start every Finals game, as he moved from the bench back the starting lineup in game 4 of the 6 game series.
|2015-16 Prestige #192|
|2012-13 Prestige Prestigious Picks #10|
|2014-15 Hoops Authentics #2|
|2015-16 Hoops #105|
Barbosa can play either guard position but does not really play all that often due to how many excellent guards are on the Warriors roster.
|2015-16 Complete #176|
|2014-15 Panini Prizm #296|
|2013-14 Panini Signatures Rookie Signatures #12|
|2012-13 Panini Contenders #233- a card I pulled from a pack myself!|
|2012-13 Prestige Prestigious Pros #6|
|2012-13 Panini Preferred #379|
|2015-16 Complete #224|
|2015-16 Hoops #270|
|2012-13 Timeless Treasures Time To Shine #20|
This is a rematch of the 2014-15 Finals, and it should be a great series. The Cavaliers are at full health this year, while Steph Curry is not, after suffering a sprained knee in the first round of the playoffs against the Rockets. It noticeably hampered him in the first few games of the Western Conference Finals, but they won the last three games (and game #2) with him on the court most of the game, so I doubt it will make much impact, or at least as much as the media will talk about it.
I predict that the Warriors will win it all in 7 games, with each team winning their home games. I believe it will go down as one of the best Finals in NBA history, and I am looking forward to seeing it play out over the next several weeks. The Finals begin on Thursday, June 2nd, at 9PM Eastern Standard Time on ABC.