Basketball: Cleveland Cavs want to be 1st team to return from 1-3 deficit to win NBA Finals

Cavs carry weight of Cleveland's hopes; Warriors need to live up to 73-9 record

The National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals may have left Cleveland after Thursday's Game 6, but some 40,000 tickets for a Game 7 "watch party" at the Quicken Loans Arena were sold out within seconds of going on sale on Friday.

Even though Cleveland Cavaliers fans will be watching the decisive game on the arena's giant Jumbotrons about 4,000km away from the game played at Oakland, California, the US$5 (S$6.75) tickets are already up for sale on online auction sites for hundreds of dollars.

The Cavs have opened up the square outside the arena for an outdoor watch party to accommodate thousands more fans. Few Cleveland residents would want to miss seeing their team battle the Golden State Warriors one last time this Finals for the city's first-ever NBA title.

There will be at least a couple of frustrated souls, though. The Republican political party, for one, has announced that it would hold off on plans to start transforming the arena into the venue for its presidential convention next month.

Meanwhile, fans in Akron - about 30km south of Cleveland - are demanding an explanation as to why no watch party is scheduled in their city, where Cavs superstar LeBron James was born.

Fans standing outside the Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who will be playing Game 7 of the NBA Finals about 4,000km away in Oakland, California as they attempt to bring home the city's first major sports championship since 1964. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

No one in Cleveland wants to miss the conclusion of this captivating Finals. In less than a week, the Cavs have gone from down and out to up-and-almost-in, as they won two games in which they could have been eliminated.

Win the next, and they would become the first team to ever come back from a 1-3 deficit to take the NBA title.

Bragging rights are also at stake. As Sports Illustrated's NBA writer Ben Golliver put it after Game 6: "Who's going to be the face of the league? Is it Stephen Curry? Is it LeBron James? Everything gets settled in Game 7."

For Curry, he has to deal with a US$25,000 (S$33,700) fine by the NBA for throwing his mouthpiece at a fan and cursing at officials after fouling out of Game 6.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr will also have to cough up the same amount after a post-Game 6 interview in which he criticised some of the fouls called by the officials against his Most Valuable Player.

Such is the pressure that is facing the Warriors, who could face the prospect of squandering the trophy after three chances to win it. And that is after a campaign in which they had set the best regular-season record in NBA history at 73-9 and Curry set a season record for three-pointers with 402.

"We have to show some fire for Game 7. We're going to need some emotion, some grit and toughness," the Warriors point guard said. "We're more mentally tough than letting two games not go our way put any doubt in our heads."

Yet, the momentum is now with the Cavaliers, even though the Cleveland City Hall is not daring to jinx their chances of bringing home the city's first major sports title since 1964 - a year before Singapore declared independence.

It has not made any plans for a victory parade. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson explained: "We don't want to jinx it. We have seriously not talked about it. We'll talk about it, at the right time."

ESPN's Brian Windhorst, who has reported on James since the player was first drafted by Cleveland in 2003, summed up the mood here.

"There's an extraordinary amount of excitement," he said. "It's been a roller-coaster ride for this city over the last week."

Now Cleveland is back on top of the hill - and hoping to stay there come Monday.

"It's on everybody's shoulders. We want to win it for the city of Cleveland," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "Just walking around the city, the love and appreciation we get, we want to give the city of Cleveland a championship."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 19, 2016, with the headline 'It's all about a legacy'. Print Edition | Subscribe