IN the lead up to the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meeting in the NBA Finals for the third straight season I’ve decided to do a daily feature piece leading up to the epic seven game series. Legacies will be defined, reputations are on the line and the winner will claim bragging rights as the better team in this bitter, historic rivalry.
Day 1 – Steph Curry’s ‘Off Year’
Day 3 – How The Benchwarmers Stack Up
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HERE we go. The one and only preview you need to wrap your head around before the upcoming NBA Finals. Why each team will and won’t win, the biggest stories/X-factors and the prediction that everyone wants!
Why The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Win
LEBRON f*cking James. As long as ‘The King’ is in uniform for the Cavaliers they have a chance at pulling off the seemingly impossible. Last playoffs we were once again reminded that no deficit or task is too hard for James to overcome, and this year it seems like his supporting cast is playing better. Their lethal three point shooting must continue if they are to win the series and a large part of that shooting hinges on their bench production. Despite sitting 11th in bench scoring in the 2017 playoffs they do rank 1st in three point percentage (46.2%). The likes of Kyle Korver, Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye are going to decide an NBA Finals. What a time to be alive.
Image from si.com
Why The Cleveland Cavaliers Will Lose
DEFENSIVE issues have plagued the Cavs all season. We have seen them give up huge leads multiple times in both the regular season and the playoffs, which is an alarming concern for this squad. With the exception of James and maybe Tristan Thompson this team doesn’t posses the elite defenders to lockdown the Warriors. The Jekyll and Hyde defensive showings can’t continue for Cleveland to be successful.
The Three Storylines That Matter For Cleveland
How will they Cavs stop the Dubs from scoring?
SLOW down the game, play physically and control the boards. Do those three things and Cleveland can disrupt the flow of Golden State to shift things in their favour. You can’t stop the Warriors ridiculous offense, but they can slow it. Take the small wins you can get.
Can they steal an early game at Oracle?
IF they can take the series back to Cleveland for Game 3 locked at 1-1 their confidence will be through the roof. It’s not impossible to consider either, with three of their six wins in the last two year’s NBA Finals coming at Oracle Arena, including the most important one of this rivalry to date.
If he gets another ring where does the LeBron vs Jordan debate sit?
ARGUABLY the biggest storyline of the entire series I will cover this deeper in tomorrow’s article. Cutting a long story short if James can top this Warriors team considering the players they have in uniform the argument shifts drastically in his favour.
Image from sportsmockery.com
The Cavs X Factor
AS I touched on in an entire article earlier this week Kevin Love has finally found his role/niche with the Cavaliers. It may have taken the better part of three years, but in the series against the Celtics, Love seemed to find the perfect balance between board beast, spot up shooter and low post scorer. He had a series to forget this time last year and his scoring/rebounding stats are going to be vital for the Cavs. A big factor that will dictate their title defense will be the rebounding war and entering the Finals he averages more boards this playoffs than any other player in the series. Double digit rebounds every night and he may be a two-time champ.
Why The Golden State Warriors Will Win
BALL movement has been a feature of their 12 game postseason streak and it has come from players one through twelve. The ‘team first’ philosophy was a large reason they have been able to reel off three series without loss, even though their head coach has been absent. If you have read any of my articles this week you will be sick of me talking about their ‘unselfishness’, however, it really is their key to success.
Image from hoopshype.com
Why The Golden State Warriors Won’t Win
IT’S tough to find a reason as to why the Warriors won’t claim their 2nd title in three years. They possess no glaring weaknesses, although their bench unit isn’t what it once was. No knock to guys like Iggy and Livingston, but if one of the big dogs goes down it’s tough to see their core surviving. Granted banking on an injury as the reason they won’t win the title is a testament to how well positioned they are at this time of year.
The Three Storylines That Matter For Golden State
How much of a factor will Kerr’s absence play?
I can’t give the organisation enough credit for how well their system is instilled into their players. There are very few teams where I believe the head coach could not show up and they would still play the same brand of basketball. However, Kerr’s coaching credentials speak for themselves and he is a key motivator for the Dubs. Even though they have been fine without him, if he misses the whole series it can swing the momentum in the Cavs favour though.
Can they have the best player in the series?
IF Golden State can have the best player in this series they can win in five games. Truely. Kevin Durant and Steph Curry (sorry Dray and Klay) can go toe to toe with LeBron, but don’t forget playoff LeBron is another beast entirely. He has been the best player in the world for the better part of six years so outshining him isn’t exactly a walk in the park. However, Durant and/or Curry has the perfect opportunity to catapult their reputation into legendary status with an epic series.
Do Kevin and LeBron go head to head?
WHAT I would give to see Durant and James go at it for seven games. It’s every hardcore NBA fans wet dream. It makes sense for the Warriors to send Draymond Green to LeBron defensively and wear him out though. Green has managed to get under LeBron’s skin in the past and if he can frustrate him and upset his mojo that’s as good as shutting him down defensively. Beware of poking the bear though.
The Dubs X Factor
SIMILAR to the Cavs X-factor, the form of an All-Star will play a huge factor. However, unlike Kevin Love, Klay Thompson hasn’t been lights out in this playoffs. It was always known that Thompson would find it tough to get shots once KD put pen to paper. What’s alarming though is that his percentages from the field and behind the arc are career playoff low’s. We have seen the importance of his deep shooting in playoffs past and if Klay can start stroking it from deep, the Cavs are doomed.
Prediction – Golden State In 7
IT’S funny as I find myself writing this prediction I’m still changing my mind. If you haven’t noticed even in the Golden State section of the preview, I couldn’t help but mention the importance of LeBron James. Call me a homer if you want, but after seeing what James has dished up in the past two Finals I literally wouldn’t be surprised by anything he did. That being said it is clear that Golden State is the better team and the better team usually finds a way to win the series. Pencil LeBron in for two ‘Herculean’ game winning performances. Cavs 2-0. Give the Warriors two W’s for the games where they just blow the Cavs out of the water offensively. 2-2. There will be a ‘Kyrie’ game and then there will be a ‘Klay’ game. 3-3. That’s right baby we’re going back to seven. I’m praying to God that injuries/suspensions don’t play a factor, unlike the last two years, and we get to witness a seven game bloodbath that we will tell our grandkids about. Anything is possible when we reach a Game 7, don’t miss a second.
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