I had the honor of catching NBA TV’S Steve Smith just before the start of tonight’s game 6. With everything on the line for the Cavs and a chance at a NBA Championship for the Golden State Warriors the stakes are as high as ever. Here’s Steve’s inside take on what needs to happen for both teams:
Jay: This year we’ve got a rematch between the Cavs and the Warriors and it’s anything but boring. What do you see this year different than last years finals?
Steve: The finals are always exciting but I think the fact that both teams added veterans has really taken both teams up a notch. Players like Tristan Thompson and Channing Frye for the Cavs and Anderson Varejao for the Warriors have definitely helped both teams fine tune their game. Tonight is going to be a real test, on the one hand the Cavs are playing on their own court after taking down the Warriors in Golden State, and on the other hand you’ve got Draymond Green coming back who’s going to be all fired up for sure. I think all the drama is done and now we’re going to see who’s going to execute and get it done.
Jay: What do you think each team’s going to need to do to get the win?
Steve: Look Jay, you’ve got all stars on both teams, but what I think is going to matter here the most is the team that will get that third guy to add to the puzzle. We saw in game two how the GSW bench was the star of the game and that’s how they got the victory. I think tonight we’re going to see someone get the chance to step in and make a tremendous impact.
Jay: Who’s got your vote?
Steve: Being that Cleveland is playing at home and they’ve “stolen” one in Golden State I think they’re going to get the win and stretch the series to seven. But they’ve got to be careful on both ends of the floor. With the three point ball being so effective for the Warriors they can put you in a hole that’s really tough to climb out of. In my day an 8-0 run was a big deal, but today you see 20-2 runs or 17-3 runs, so if you’re not super sharp they can run away with it. At the same time Cleveland is going to have to keep the pedal to the metal for an entire 48 minutes, because almost no lead is big enough. Golden State is so talented and consistent with the three ball, within a couple of minutes they can turn it around.
Jay: It’s unbelievable how they’ve been able to keep up their win streak and they come out energized every single game. What do you see that makes them so tough to beat.
Steve: It’s really incredible you’re a hundred percent right. There’s no question as a team they’ve done a great job, but I think a lot of credit goes to Steve Kerr. Most teams don’t play anywhere close to a 12 man rotation, especially in the playoffs where things tighten up and you want to to stick to your core group. But to Steve’s credit he’s been able to get so many different guys involved. When I played against the Bulls, you knew it was Jordan and Pippen that were the MVP’s of the game, and when you played against the Lakers it was usually Shaq and Kobe. But when you play against the Warriors it can almost by anybody. We saw in game 2 how Shaun Livingston stepped in and literally took over the game. Then you’ve got Draymond Green and I’ve got to tell you he is absolutely the emotional leader of the team. His ability to defend on the ball as well as off the ball, his rebounding, assists and scoring together with his toughness and passion, in my opinion he’s the most important player on their team. There aren’t many players that are so multidimensional like he is. You can literally put him in at any position at any time.
Jay: With social media the way it is today how is it different from when you were a player, and what do you tell players to do to simply cut out the noise?
Steve: You’re absolutely right Jay. When I played you just turned off the TV, or threw out the paper and didn’t even look at it. When I grew up the two guys that I always admired were George Gervin and Magic Johnson and while I had the privilege of actually speaking with them in person, it was only on occasion. Today with social media the spotlight is on these players 24 hours a day. There’s almost no way to avoid it. I always tell guys, you’re never as good as people say you are and you’re never as bad as people say you are. Just stay locked in, play your best and let your game to the talking!
Steve Smith played in the NBA for 14 seasons and was well known as a three-point specialist. During his career he played for the Miami Heat, the Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs, and won a championship with the Spurs in 2003. Steve is now a sport analyst for Turner Sports.