The “greatest of all-time” debates will end abruptly if LeBron James can pull this one off.
Hours after his team was left for dead in the 2015 NBA Finals upon hearing the news that second-fiddle Kyrie Irving was done for the rest of the playoffs, James put together a masterful stat line of 39 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists in a stunning Game 2 overtime victory over the Warriors in Oakland.
The series now shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 Tuesday (9 p.m., ABC) with the Cavs surprisingly holding home court advantage.
Golden State, widely considered one of the top regular season teams in NBA history given its 67-15 record, saw its odds of winning the championship series triple when it was learned that Irving would need surgery on his broken left kneecap. But James and the Cavaliers, as they have been doing ever since Kevin Love dislocated his shoulder against Boston way back in late April, have defied the odds.
Undrafted point guard Matthew Dellavedova had the Warriors in Dellave-denial after Game 2 as Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston brushed off the defensive impact that the Australian sensation had. When asked if Dellavedova did anything special Sunday night, Curry said, “Nothing really just besides playing their game plan and playing defense like every pro is supposed to. Not giving up on any possession … I doubt this will happen again.”
Livingston was even more blunt when asked what kind of impact Dellavedova had defensively.
“Not much,” Livingston told CBS. “I’m not saying he’s a bad defensive player. But Steph can pretty much get any shot he wants on you and he’s made some huge shots in these playoffs. So we’re not as worried about that as we are the team offense.”
It’s difficult to say that the Cavaliers weren’t getting respect in the days leading up to Game 1 of the Finals right up to today. Disrespect just doesn’t happen when James is on your roster.
But there were more than a few pundits predicting that the series was “over” in the immediate aftermath of the Irving news.
One not-so-surprising trend in the series thus far is that there is no such “battle of the big men” narrative. Warriors starting center Andrew Bogut scored four points in Game 1 and two points in Game 2. Cavaliers starting center Tristan Thompson scored two points in Game 1 and two points in Game 2.
In the end, it will likely come down to James and Curry. If the Warriors can keep James under 35 points, something they weren’t able to do in Games 1 or 2, they will likely emerge victorious. If the Cavs can once again do the impossible and keep Curry in check from the floor, they will likely emerge victorious.