The Warriors are probably going to win these NBA Finals. Yup, I just led off the column with my pick. The Warriors are so good that they didn’t even have to try against Houston until the 3rd quarter of Games 6 and 7, where offensive explosions from two of the 30 greatest players ever sunk one of the best offenses of all-time. That’s what they did to Houston, the No.1 seed in the Western Conference and a team that some thought could beat this very Golden State team.
So thoughts of what this Golden State team is about to do to the Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t pretty ones. This could be a brutally boring series. There’s no doubt a Houston win in Game 6 or 7 would have made the Finals more interesting (I am of a small crowd that thinks Cleveland could beat Houston).
But we can’t let what’s about to transpire distract us from what we just watched. LeBron James’ 2018 postseason run goes down in the record books as one of the most fascinating and successful (Cough, Russell Westbrook) runs ever. This is what putting a team on your back looks like. A handful of guys have done it before (Dirk Nowitzki in 2011, LeBron again in 2007). But at age 33? In his 15th season? With Jordan Clarkson dribbling and shooting twice as much as he should? JR Smith barely being alive? Kevin Love concussed? Larry Nance Jr. protecting the rim? Good God! How did this team make the Finals?
We said it all year: The East was a crapfest. Whoever came out of it was getting waxed. No team we felt great about.
Just like the Eastern Conference Finals: Through it all, we still got here. We got a crappy Eastern Conference team about to be blown to bits by the West. And somehow, it’s the same two teams for the 4th year in a row. Through it all, we are still here.
NBA Finals: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
So do the Cavaliers have any chance against Golden State? Not really. The case for the Cavaliers to win the Finals starts with LeBron having such a good series that we leave it saying “Without a doubt, he’s the best player of all-time.” Seriously, what kind of numbers would LeBron have to finish with in these Finals for the Cavs to win? A 52-17-14 average? He’d have to destroy Kevin Durant on the defensive end, which is unlikely since KD is a career 1-1 against him, the win coming in last year’s Finals where Durant put a clinic on LeBron and at the center position. Then, at the same time, he’d have to lock down KD on the other end, which also seems unlikely since no one has stopped KD this postseason besides KD himself, and since LeBron has clearly demonstrated a strong effort playing defense this season.
Asking LeBron to take on that workload is just not reasonable or sustainable. I was gonna say that you can’t ask a human to do that, but then I forgot that LeBron actually isn’t human and that, if anyone could do it, it’d be him. Still, it’s completely unreasonable.
Just to match Golden State would require that sort of output from LeBron. To beat them, the Cavs would need good showings from one of JR Smith, George Hill, Kevin Love, Kyle Korver or Jeff Green in every game. Good luck. Man, it’s just too bad Cleveland doesn’t have a consistent, experienced offensive player beside LeBron.
I don’t think this is a sweep. The Warriors effort fluctuates dramatically; it can shift in a quarter, as we found out against Houston. LeBron, unlike Houston, knows how to show up and probably won’t blow the chances he has to keep up with the Warriors. Minus the odd Game 5 performance against Boston, LeBron has kept going all postseason without slowing down. As I’ve said before, no one can stop LeBron. Throwing dudes at him just doesn’t work. Even though KD is one of two guys in the league who have demonstrated the ability to make LeBron somewhat work, it’s hard to believe that he’ll be able to slow this version of him down every night. The Warriors collective lack of effort comes from everyone at some point, and KD’s first half performance in Game 7 against Houston was indicative of that. Durant will turn it on when he needs to, but don’t think LeBron won’t take advantage when the opportunity is there.
That’s how Cleveland gets a game. They could get two if the Warriors’ effort really sinks, but I find that unlikely since they’re so close to getting where they’ve wanted to be all year long.
When watching these games, it may seem like Cleveland wants it more throughout the whole series. But the matchup problem is so great that is just won’t matter.
Prediction: Warriors in 5