Game 5 of the NBA Finals is tonight and the Cleveland Cavaliers face an extremely uphill battle in the series as they are down 3-1 and have to play at the Oracle, where the Warriors have been almost neigh unbeatable (other than against our own Minnesota Timberwolves of course) and face a tremendous crowd. However, the Warriors will be without their star forward Draymond Green tonight as he has been assessed a Flagrant One for his, let's say anatomically specific, swing at LeBron James.
There is a healthy amount of controversy over this decision, as Green clearly had more easily identifiable and intentional incidents during the previous series against the Oklahoma City Thunder and he was not assessed a flagrant after those games, which also would have led to his suspension at the time. Critics of the decision claim that there is a conspiracy afoot and the NBA is attempting to prolong the series to boost TV ratings.
Now, while these claims are likely baseless and unfounded, the NBA has had a checkered past in regards to officiating in the NBA Playoffs. This skepticism is likely a residual from the NBA's history, but it really doesn't hold much water, as it has already been pointed out that the money the NBA receives is already locked in and the league does not have enough to gain just by potentially prolonging the series by a game or two.
The actual game itself has monumental importance. The Warriors will truly be able to silence their critics that have said that their previous NBA Championship was a fluke, born of poor competition rather than greatness. If they are able to close out the series tonight, especially without Draymond Green, they will have defeated two extremely talented teams in OKC and the Cavs on their route to a championship victory this year, not to mention doing so while breaking the record for the most wins in the regular season. With a win tonight the Warriors, and specifically Stephen Curry, will cement themselves in NBA history with perhaps the greatest season of all time.
For the Cavaliers, the stakes are a little different, but high nonetheless. LeBron James is facing his 3rd consecutive finals defeat, which must weigh on his mind immensely. If the Cavaliers lose, there will likely be significant roster turnover with Kevin Love being potentially moved to another team as LeBron permanently moves to the power forward position. Kyrie Irving somewhat silenced his critics during the Cavaliers' victory in Game 3, but he will need another stellar performance to truly be confident in his position with the team moving forward.
As is somewhat obvious during a closeout game of the NBA Finals, there are multiple narratives that will be tied off following the close the NBA season. Although we will almost directly transition to the NBA draft, as sports leagues across America has become extremely smart with their scheduling to ensure near to year-round coverage. But tonight we are potentially witnessing the culmination of one of the objectively best seasons of all time with the Golden State Warriors, while concurrently watching one of the last haymaker swings from likely a top five NBA player of all time. It's certainly a wonderful time to be an NBA fan.
As a side note, I have no idea who would win the Finals MVP at this point if the Warriors won. Klay Thompson and Curry have both had several games where the Cavaliers' strategy neutralized their effectiveness, although often at the expense of giving up easy baskets to the other role players. Draymond hasn't done enough to be a true "MVP" and it would be very strange to hand over the MVP award to a player who is not allowed in the building. It might be Andre Iguodala again, as he still is leading the Warriors in overall plus minus and has played tremendous defense against LeBron, but it has not been as noticeable throughout the series as last year and the Warriors have been running significantly different defensive strategies. However, it would be a funny asterisk in the NBA's history of the Warriors' consecutive finals championships to explain how a role player was the MVP over all the Warriors' stars every year.