By MIKE HERNDON and MICHAEL DAY
After the grueling regular season and three rounds of playoffs, the NBA Finals are finally here with a rematch of last year’s finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers. The SportsChasers staff offers their predictions.
The case for the defending champions
By MICHAEL DAY
Cleveland’s offense has really shined this playoff season; especially, their three-point shooting. They’ve basically left opposing teams smoldering from the results of their marksmanship behind the three-point arc. Some playoff games were decided in one-quarter of play. The difference in this series is that Golden State can shoot back. By the way, the Warriors set a record for three-point shooting this year.
Cleveland will hold their own offensively. The defensive end is nothing but trouble, though. So far, Cleveland’s defensive liabilities, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, haven’t caused much pain as the previous teams the Cavs played were not much of a threat to score points. Irving can’t guard Stephen Curry. Love can’t guard Draymond Green. No matter how Cleveland adjusts their defense, Golden State will get open shots. Plus, switching pick-and-rolls will likely cause LeBron to cover someone who can actually score; as a result, he’ll have to spend more energy on defense than the previous playoff series. Golden State will find out that scoring against this Cavs team is much easier than the Oklahoma City Thunder.
For Cleveland to win, they will have to outscore a team that shot three’s better than any team this year, which means they are counting on Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to continue shooting three’s at a high percentage. Sure, it’s possible, but counting on both Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to consistently shoot high percentages from three-point range doesn’t seem logical. LeBron will get his share of points barreling into the lane, but Golden State will answer with three’s. Add in that Golden State will score on Cleveland much easier than Cleveland on Golden State.
Golden State in 6.
An underdog Cleveland is a dangerous Cleveland
By MIKE HERNDON
People conveniently forget, in trumpeting the Gospel of Golden State, how many injuries Cleveland had during last year’s NBA finals.
Kyrie Irving only played in the opener, missing the rest of the series with a fractured kneecap. Kevin Love didn’t play at all after dislocating a shoulder in the first round of the playoffs. The Cavs had to go two-deep into their bench just to put a starting five on the court for five of the six games in the series.
And they were still up 2-1 before the Warriors wore them out.
This year, it’s Golden State that enters the finals with bruises. The Warriors aren’t missing anyone, but they took their lumps in a tough, physical seven-game series against Oklahoma City. League MVP Stephen Curry did not look himself at times, prompting speculation that he was affected by nagging knee and/or elbow ailments.
Klay Thompson rescued the Warriors in Game 6, however, and Curry was back to his old, spectacular self in Game 7. But for a while there, the Thunder exposed Golden State’s flaws. If you can make the Warriors miss from outside and force them to take the ball into the paint, they’re human.
Of course, that’s easier said than done.
While the Warriors were fighting for their playoff lives, Cleveland was kicking back, resting and watching, barely challenged in rampaging through a weak Eastern Conference.
The Warriors should win this series. They won 73 games in the regular season. They’ve got the Splash Brothers. And that may mean we finally get to see what LeBron James could look like when the pressure isn’t solely on him.
He’s playing second-fiddle to Curry in the storyline of this series. He and the Cavs are supposed to lose. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s exactly why they may win it.
Golden State has the heart of a champion, but forget the naysayers – LeBron does, too. And this year, he’s got help.
Cavs in 7.