Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals Breakdown and Predictions
The NBA Finals are set to get going on Thursday night and once again it will be the Golden State Warriors taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the first time in NBA history, two teams will meet in the NBA Finals three consecutive seasons. The Warriors won the first meeting, albeit in the absence of both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. The Cavs returned the favour the following year in dramatic fashion, overcoming a 3-1 deficit to bring the franchise its first NBA championship.
Now, the grudge match is set to commence.
Both teams will enter the series well rested and healthy, making quick work of their conference competition. The Cavaliers went 12-1 on the Eastern side, while the Warriors one-upped their rivals making their way through the west with a clean 12-0 record. Something will have to give. Two dominant franchises will clash and since the beginning of the season, this was the rematch we were supposed to see come June.
The two teams split the season series. The Cavaliers overcame a 14-point forth quarter deficit on Christmas Day to take the first game by a score of 109-108. The Warriors stormed right back, blowing out the Cavs 126-91 on the last game of a six-game Cavaliers road trip. The common theme in both matchups was the same and it is what makes this year’s Finals far different from 2015 and 2016. Kevin Durant has been the best player in both games and will be a huge factor in this championship series. Finding a way to slow the former league Most Valuable Player down will be vital if the Cavs want to repeat as champs.
What this series will have is three of the best players in the entire world.
LeBron James, Durant, and Stephen Curry. Draymond Green is quite possibly the best defensive basketball player in the world and Kyrie Irving may have some of the best handles ever seen, handles rivalling only those of Curry’s. Both teams can shoot the three in bunches and both teams will feature nifty ball movement, fast-paced offense, and fierce competition – competition that has been sorely lacking in these NBA Playoffs.
One of the two big matchups in this series will be at the point guard spot between Curry and Irving. Both wizards on the offensive ends, the two superstars are not the most actively defensively, nor should they be as they get their money’s worth on the offensive side of the ball. It will be up to the Cavs to force Curry to work on defense, to force him to work off screens, to run through contact, and to really dig in physically. The same applies to the Warriors in terms of dealing with Kyrie. When you have superstar players like Irving and Curry, the best form of defense is to wear them out over the span of a seven game series on the other end of the court.
This will be a series in which the Cavs will miss someone of the calibre of a Matthew Dellavedova, a rugged, defensive-minded guard who wouldn’t shut down Curry defensively per say, but would play physically, and drain Curry’s energy as the series goes on with his aggressive style of play.
But above all the matchups and the numbers, the series will ultimately be in the hands of LeBron James. Will James be able to handle the fire power of the Warriors? The versatility? the length? the athleticism?
It’s incredible how many team flaws can be covered up simply by having LeBron James on your ball club, but against the Warriors, they are a talented team that will expose the weaknesses. In this series James will not only be covered by the likes of Green and Andre Iguodala, but he will have to run right back and defend Durant.
Some may thing James is superhuman, but at 33-years of age, this may turn into a task to difficult to handle for the veteran superstar. The Warriors are a really tough and overwhelming team and the Cavaliers are clearly the underdogs.
What the Warriors is not only superstar players in their starting line up, but incredible versatility on their bench. Every body has a role. From JaVale McGee who will be a very valuable rim protector against the likes of James and Irving to Ian Clark who can stretch the floor for the second unit.
While Steve Kerr does not yet seem ready to coach in the Finals, Mike Brown has filled in admirably for his bench boss and is using this opportunity to rebuild his value as a potential head coach of the future for teams looking for help on the sideline.
A lot of threes, a lot of fast break offense, and fierce competition between two of the best teams in the world. That is what we should see from the NBA Finals. Can James and Irving overcome the star power and depth of the Warriors? Only time will tell, but if the Cavs take down the far more talented Warriors, James status and legend as the greatest of all time will only continue to grow.
It’s the ‘Goat’ versus the well-oiled machine, and so far, it is hard to bet against the machine that is firing on all cylinders.
Prediction: Golden State in 6