There’s no denying the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James, at the moment, appear to have a mental edge over the rival Golden State Warriors. Overcoming a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals to secure Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years and coming back from a 14-point deficit on Christmas Day certainly adds credence to that notion.
The Warriors have gone an NBA-record 126 regular-season games without losing a back-to-back, but the Cavaliers claimed a back-to-back-back against them on the grandest stage of all.
Indeed, Cleveland has defeated Golden State four consecutive times dating to June. In that span, two-time MVP Stephen Curry has averaged more turnovers (4.1) than assists (3.6). And most of his turnovers were of the flashy, high-degree-of-difficulty sort. Against most teams, he can get away with converting the razzle-dazzle highlight play. However, the Cavaliers have the defensive scheme and personnel to disrupt Curry, especially if he’s careless with the ball.
The highly creative decor that made headlines featuring Curry and Klay Thompson tombstone cookies and a skeleton prop with “3-1 lead” inscribed on the bass drum wasn’t James’ idea, sources close to the four-time MVP told ESPN. According to sources, James instructed his people to come up with something clever and artistic with a budget of approximately $150,000 for an invite-only gathering consisting of roughly 40 guests. He found out about the Warriors theme upon arrival.
Regardless of who came up with the Halloween concept, the Warriors didn’t find it funny. That’s why Monday’s game at Oracle Arena on Martin Luther King Jr. Day should mean more to the them from a mental standpoint.
A mid-January Warriors victory won’t completely rectify what has transpired in the teams’ previous four meetings, but it could be something to build upon if these teams are to meet again in June for the third straight year. No teams have ever met in the Finals three consecutive times.
Will Cleveland give Golden State an opportunity to clear its mental hurdle on Monday? It would be the ultimate mind game if the Cavs were to rest James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.