CBS Sports Basketball analyst Wally Szczerbiak knows a thing or two about the city of Cleveland and their fan base, since he finished his NBA career there, and the 6-foot-7 former forward expects tonight’s NBA Finals Game 6 atmosphere at Quicken Loans Arena to be absolutely crazy as the hometown Cavs face elimination against the reigning world champion Golden State Warriors.
“It’s such a great home court, it really is. It’s a raised floor, it’s a stage atmosphere, the fans are just rapid and tremendous,” Szczerbiak told The Jim Rome Show on Thursday. “I really miss those days and that was a very good basketball team at home. I remember my last year at home, ’08-’09, I think we went 39-2. I think this year they were dominate at home with a record similar to that and they are going to be very good tonight.
“Having said that, Golden State is tough and they stole and won last time in that building. So if the Cavs want to win this game tonight, they’re going to have to bring their best effort, and Kyrie and LeBron are going to have to set the stage like they did last game.”
James’ epic Game 5 performance, where he filled the box score with 41 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists and connecting on four 3’s is the superstar Szczerbiak played with rather than the player who wasn’t trusting his outside shot earlier in these Finals.
“That’s more the LeBron I remember, it really was. He would put our team on his back. I remember Mike Brown, the coach when I was there, he would say just keep the game close with six minutes in the fourth quarter, LeBron will win it,’” Szczerbiak said. “And he trusted his jumper back when I played with him. I thought at times this year, at times in these playoffs, he’s gone away from his jump shot, and he’s looked to be too much of a facilitator and setup the other guys where sometimes you need to make sure you have to get yourself into a rhythm, get yourself confident, and I think he did that last game.
“He came out aggressive, he came out looking for his shot, and if he starts making that mid-range shot and that 3-point shot, good luck trying to stop him, because he’ll get by you with his first step and his strength and get to the basket anytime he wants.”
The former All-Star believes James has two more of those performances left in him, if they were to force a game seven, and he also credited the James’ sidekick and his Finals performance.
“The play of Kyrie Irving was just unbelievable, and we forget he’s doing it against one of the best perimeter defenders in a long, taller defender in Klay Thompson,” Szczerbiak said. “I really believe, in the series, Kyrie has a lot to prove. He wants to prove that despite Steph Curry being the two-time MVP, Kyrie Irving has Steph Curry type talent, and I think he’s going out there to prove it, I think he’s showing it. Good old Uncle Drew is putting on a show to go along with LeBron, so let’s see if they can keep it up tonight.”