Conference finals showcase MVP rivals and James

Mon May 18, 2015 2:02pm EDT
 
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By Jahmal Corner

(Reuters) - Stephen Curry and James Harden will rehash their MVP race rivalry, while Cleveland’s one-man band of LeBron James will test Atlanta’s team harmony as the conference finals tip off in the National Basketball Association.

Curry's top-seeded Golden State Warriors are set to meet the Harden-led Houston Rockets in a Western Conference shootout, and across the coast the Cavaliers and Hawks face off in the East with each team trying to make a rare appearance in the NBA Finals.

Cleveland’s chances have rested on the broad shoulders of James since he announced last off-season he would be returning home to the Cavaliers following a four-year run with the Miami Heat.

James has played in the last four NBA Finals, winning two, and a trip to a fifth consecutive might be his greatest feat considering the youth and fading health of the Cavs.

James is averaging nearly a triple-double in the playoffs (26.5 points, 10. 2 rebounds, 7.9 assists) as Cleveland swept Boston in the first round and overcame Chicago in the second round despite the absence of injured forward Kevin Love.

All Star guard Kyrie Irving is also now ailing, after he aggravated tendinitis in his left knee against Chicago and could be limited against the Hawks.

His status will be one of many uncertainties for the Cavaliers, whose playoff inexperience extends to their embattled coach David Blatt.

Blatt was a European coaching giant but his rookie season in the NBA is proving to a challenge, and coaching miscues has his job status rumored to be in jeopardy.   Continued...

 
May 14, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) celebrates after scoring a basket against the Chicago Bulls during the second half  in game six of the second round of the NBA Playoffs at  the United Center. The Cavaliers won 94-73. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports - RTX1D1BU