NBA Finals Preview

After preseason projections (many that failed), a long 82 game season, a sometimes boring but fun playoffs, we’ve made it here.  To the NBA Finals.

We got the favorites again.  Nobody is really shocked that these two teams are here.

Side note:  Both coaches are in their first season.  How incredible is that?  Two rookie coaches in the Finals!

For the Cleveland Cavaliers, the road through the East was a breeze.  They swept a 40 win Boston team, who was pesky at times.  Then got through a Bulls series, which plagued them injury wise, but were able to pull out due to the drowsiness of Chicago.  In the Eastern Conference Finals, they swept the 60 win Hawks, who were the biggest surprise yet also the biggest letdown this postseason.  The trip for the Cavs wasn’t all that hard, but that’s about to change.

The Warriors won 67 games this year, the best season they’ve ever had as a franchise.  In the bloodbath Western Conference, they blew everyone away, finishing the regular season 11 games ahead of the No.2 seed Rockets.  That Rockets team would meet their fate against Golden State in the West Finals.  Golden State pummeled New Orleans, escaped the grinding Grizzlies, then got by Houston last round.  They’ve been more tested than Cleveland, and look at where they are.

This Finals matchup is what everyone expected.  It’s the NBA wants.  They got it.  We got it.  Turns out, it’s not gonna be as fun as we all think.

NBA Finals: Golden State Warriors (No.1 West seed) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (No.2 East seed)

This long break we’ve had is hopefully enough for guys like Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, and even Stephen Curry to get 100% healthy.  Curry seems fine, but Irving has dealing with injuries all postseason, and Thompson now has a concussion.  I’m gonna write this as if everyone, on both sides, will be healthy for Game 1.

Golden State, as a team, is just a pain to deal with.  They pose so many matchup nightmares, and no one has been able to cover them all.  However, on defense, the Warriors are going to have to make some adjustments.  Lebron James is on the court, playing for the other team.  That’s a little bit of an issue if he’s not being guarded.  He’s the one guy who Golden State is gonna have trouble covering, and that’s really scary.

With their starting lineup, it’d be correct to start Harrison Barnes on James.  However, Barnes is 225 pounds, and much skinnier than Lebron.  He’s not as physical, and with Lebron’s insane dimensions and athleticism, Barnes won’t be able to stay with him.  Going big, something that the Dubs don’t do often, looks likely.

Golden State could run a lineup with their regular starting backcourt, featuring Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, then have Andrew Bogut at center.  Barnes, if he can’t stay with Lebron, is gonna be the odd man out, and while he’s an offensive threat, his defense would quickly become a liability.

If Golden State can’t find an answer for Lebron, it’s gonna be trouble.  Having the best player in the world turned loose on offense is a scary thought, but if it doesn’t work out defensively, it’s not like the Warriors don’t have other options.

Klay Thompson has the biggest mismatch on him in this series.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Iman Shumpert.  I think he’s super underrated.  However, Klay is a different specimen.  He’s quicker, and more athletic.  He can pull up from anywhere, and has developed a very nice get-to-the-rim game.  We know where Thompson is gonna play here, Golden State won’t screw around with moving him.  He’ll do what he does, and, if he truly is okay, will have a great matchup on his hands in these Finals.

Two of the better point guards in the league are gonna be on each other for these games, and it’ll be fun.  Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving have taken their games to a new level this year, and not quietly.  Curry obviously won MVP, deservedly so (even though James Harden was my pick).  Kyrie, who’s battled injuries this year (especially in the postseason), has adjusted with Lebron coming in, but seems to be really figuring it out.

Their games are different.  Curry is the hot hand, three point launcher, Baby-Faced Assassin.  Kyrie has the moves, the ball-handling, the drive.  They’re different players.

The Cavaliers could experiment switching on Curry, as many speculated they could put Lebron on him at times.  That seems insane to me, but if Cleveland gets that desperate, it’s a possibility.  While Lebron is Golden State’s biggest mismatch, Cleveland’s is Curry.  And it makes total sense giving they’re the two best players in this series.

The Cavaliers can win this series if the backcourt steps up.  Guarding Steph and Klay isn’t easy.  These are the players that win games for Golden State.  These are their stars.  Cleveland has to keep them under control.  We know that when the Splash Brothers are hot, there’s nothing you can do.

I really believe there’s a chance the Warriors can win this in a sweep.  I’m going to lay that out below:

The Warriors are so good they can win games from so many different contributions and players.  Night after night, some one unexpected shows up. It’s almost like a rotation.

Here, the Cavaliers have limited room for error.  Golden State has four disticnt ways they can win a game.

  1. The Stephen Curry heat check game:  Basically, Steph goes off, has nine threes and 45 points.  No one stops him.
  2. The Splash Brothers together go off, score something like 70 points between the two of them.
  3. Andrew Bogut has a 20 points, 15 rebound game, and the Warriors kill everyone in the post (check below).
  4. Draymond Green and Bogut go 10 (points) and 10 (rebounds) each.

Guess what?  That’s four wins right there.  Four wins gets you eliminated Cleveland.

The bottom line is, that the Warriors bring too many matchups to defend.  For anyone.  That’s why they’re here.

As I said at the beginning, I didn’t think anyone could beat the Warriors in this postseason besides Memphis.  That didn’t happen.  The playoffs are all about matchups.  The Grizzlies were the only team that could possibly take advantage of the Warriors lack of size.  Turns out you need shooting too, Memphis.

Anyways, the Warriors have been unbeatable this year.  They’ve been the best team.  It only makes sense for it to end this way.

The only way, and I mean only way, the Cavaliers win this series, is if the Warriors can’t defend Lebron.  As I noted above, that’s the only guy Golden State can’t totally defend, and that’s a pretty scary thought.  However, Golden State has other ways to win games.  A Lebron take-over is something you can never rule out, but we haven’t seen that against a team that as loaded as the Warriors are.

In Cleveland, it wasn’t supposed to be like this.  Lebron was expected to have help, and yet agin, just like Miami, injuries happen, and he’s left on an island  We’re assuming Kyrie Irving is 100% here.  If so, that’s a huge boost to the Cavaliers offensive game (Kyrie is no match for Steph on defense).

If the Cavaliers somehow win this series, this goes down in Lebron’s legacy as one of his greatest achievements, and it probably moves him up my Top 25 Of All Time.  That though, has a very low probability.

Prediction: Warriors in 5

Enjoy the Cup and Finals!!!!