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Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert (4) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Pool via AP) ORG XMIT: OAS132
Cleveland Cavaliers guard Iman Shumpert (4) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green during the first half of Game 2 of basketball's NBA Finals in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, June 7, 2015. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Pool via AP) ORG XMIT: OAS132

A GRIP ON SPORTS • So who you got? Read on.

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• Though I am not the biggest NBA fan, I’ll give the league this: Rematches in the finals are fun. Heck, all rivalries are good, so a rivalry that culminates in a seven-game championship series is even better. And make no mistake about it, the Cavaliers and the Warriors have a rivalry now. Officially. This is the second consecutive year they have met with the title on the line. These are the two best teams. And the series pits the two best players on the planet right now, two players with games that are as different as can be. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart, if you will. Except this isn’t a comedy. It’s drama. Last year, said drama – but not the tension – was drained from the finals by injuries. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, two-thirds of the Cavs’ Big Three, were sidelined, though Irving played in the first game before fracturing his left kneecap. The Cavaliers lost that game in overtime, but, even without Irving, won the next game in Oakland and the first game in Cleveland. The reason? LeBron James was a beast. He scored 44, 39 and 40 points in the first three games. Of course, the Warriors won the next three games, as Steph Curry seemed unstoppable, and Golden State earned the championship. This year the Warriors were almost unbeatable in the regular season, setting a wins record that may never be broken. But they have struggled some in the interminably long playoffs. They trailed Oklahoma City 3-1 in the Western Conference finals until the Thunder realized how close they were to success and reverted to form. That probably won’t happen with the Cavaliers. Not the trailing 3-1 part. That may. The choking part. James won’t allow it. And this year King James has his Musketeers, Irving and Love, to help.

• If Golden State can’t get it done in the finals, does that make the season a failure? To answer that, let me ask you a question. Was the Mariners’ 2001 season a failure? If you answer no, that winning more regular season games than anyone in the history of baseball made it a success, then I’m guessing you also think the Warriors’ season has been pretty darn successful already. If you answer yes, because the M’s didn’t win the World Series, then I know where you stand on Golden State. There is one difference, though. Expectations. The M’s didn’t have any right to expect a World Series title before the 2001 season began. They had never won one. But after winning the NBA title last season, everyone expected the Warriors to be darn near unstoppable this year, and they have been. They had the best regular season ever. Yet, because they have last season’s championship in their pocket, they have to win the title again to avoid the stink of failure. Which puts a lot of pressure on Curry and Klay Thompson’s shoulders. If the Cavaliers didn’t have nearly as much – carrying the hopes and dreams of an entire city, basically James’ hometown, on their backs can be a Sisyphus-like burden – then it would seem overpowering – and a huge advantage for Cleveland. Still, I don’t believe James is going to let this opportunity to prove he’s the best ever slip away. It did last year. The stakes are even higher now. Dominate the Warriors, the most successful regular-season team ever, and win the title, his place atop the NBA’s Mt. Rushmore is assured. It’s too big a reward to bungle again. Cavaliers in six.

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• WSU: Let’s see. The Apple Cup is a rivalry game in which the two combatants are separated by a mountain range and almost 300 miles of snow-covered road. The rest of the Pac-12 rivalry games are either in warm-weather climates or closer together. (And before you start yelling about Colorado and Utah, check yourself. That is not a rivalry.) So what’s the best day to play the Apple Cup? Why, the Friday after Thanksgiving, of course. At least it must seem that way to the conference. For the fourth time in five years, the game will be less than 24 hours after most fans’ Thanksgiving feast. OK then. We know where the Cougars and the Huskies fans stand in the pecking order. Jacob Thorpe has that and more early season game times in this story. ... There will be some changes this summer with Comcast and the Pac-12 Networks. ... At least the Pac-12 is still really good at golf. The Oregon Ducks won the men’s title yesterday (pictured), joining the Washington women in national championship history. ... Kicker Jason Hanson, the Mead High and WSU graduate, is a nominee for the college football hall of fame this year.

• Whitworth: Hanson isn’t the only local college athlete on the hall of fame nominee list. Dave Pomante, who played at Whitworth and coached at Rogers High, is one of the smaller school nominees.

• Empire: The Empire’s two starting linebackers are close on and off the field. Jim Meehan has that and more in this feature.

• Chiefs: Spokane has signed another of its draft picks. Tom Clouse has the story.

• Preps: MVP Lexie Hull led the Metro to a 81-72 win over the Region squad in last night’s Jack Blair Memorial basketball game. Greg Lee has the story.

• Mariners: The Padres owner went on the radio yesterday and ripped his team for its recent play. It must have worked. Well, that and the fact James Paxton isn’t what you would call a gold glove fielder. The lefty’s error led to a handful of first-inning unearned runs and San Diego went on to win, 14-6. ... The reason Paxton was starting was Felix Hernandez hurt his calf, either stretching before Tuesday’s game or celebrating one of the M’s home runs. Either way, he’s on the disabled list.

• Seahawks: The Hawk defense is still something special. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to Richard Sherman. ... The offensive line is undergoing another transition, including another move for Justin Britt (pictured). ... OTAs aren’t just to get in shape. There are roster battles going on as well. ... Thomas Rawls is healing, but there is still a ways to go.

• Sounders: Seattle needed a road win badly. The Sounders earned one last night in Washington, D.C., defeating United 2-0 behind goals from youngsters Jordan Jones and Joevin Jones. Now the team can go into a two-week break with some momentum. ... Portland held off San Jose and won, 1-0.

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• Before you spend your night rooting for either Golden State or Cleveland, you can listen to me talk about it. Yes, I’m on the radio again, joining Dennis Patchin and Keith Osso on 700ESPN. You can listen here from 3 to 5 if that’s your pleasure – or punishment. Until then ...



Vince Grippi
Vince Grippi is a freelance local sports blogger for spokesman.com. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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