In an NBA Finals match-up all too familiar, the Golden State Warriors will be taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth straight year. Similar to years past, the Warriors come into the series as the odds-on favorite to win it all. The Warriors opened as -1000 favorites to win the series ($10 bet pays $1), which is the biggest favorite since the 2001 NBA Finals (when the Los Angeles Lakers were -2000 against the Philadelphia 76ers.)
NBA Finals Preview: Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Round IV
There is a reason this team has been to four straight Finals. The top-end talent on this team could go head to head with any the of the top all-time teams. On any given night, one of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or Klay Thompson is capable of taking over a game and nullifying the output of LeBron James.
The Warriors, however, looked beatable in their series against the Houston Rockets. They found themselves down 3-2 when star guard Chris Paul was injured, taking him out of the series. In both Games 6 and 7, the Warriors were down by double digits at halftime before turning it on in the third quarter and taking over the game.
Durant will be looking to duplicate his masterful Finals performance from last year. His 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game led the Warriors to a 4-1 series win and Durant claimed his first Finals MVP.
Yes, everything was smooth sailing for Durant and the Warriors in the 2017 playoffs but this year we have seen Durant struggle with his play at times. The previously mentioned series against the Rockets challenged Durant and he resorted to a lot of isolation plays. The scoring has remained consistent but Durant’s assists numbers took a hit. In the three games that the Warriors lost to the Rockets, Durant had only three assists combined.
If Durant is able to stick to his game and not force offense, he has a great chance to win another Finals MVP.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson
Curry and Thompson are two of the best three-point shooters to ever do it. Both of them are capable of catching fire at a moment’s notice. Curry can be very flashy when he takes over games. Once he gets his shimmy going, there is no stopping him. True to form, Thompson is the quieter of the two stars on the court. He just has a way of finding open space and knocking down shots without hesitation. Cleveland’s defense would struggle to guard just one of these shooters, but having them on the floor together – alongside Durant – will again give the Cavs’ defense fits.
Leading this group for the Warriors is Draymond Green. Green is the heart and soul – and mouthpiece – of this Warriors team. Green has a way of getting under players’ skin and inside their heads. If he is able to give the Warriors a spark on offense as well, then it’s a wrap.
Andre Iguodala has already been ruled out for Game 1, so the Warriors will have to play without their ‘LeBron stopper.’ A possible Iguodala return could bring a calming presence to the lineup if the Warriors struggle to contain Cleveland’s offense early in the series.
The only thing that has stayed consistent about this Cavs playoff run has been LeBron James. His 34.0 PPG and 8.8 APG lead the Cavs, and his 9.2 RPG is second to Kevin Love‘s10.0.
James finds himself in the NBA Finals for the eighth straight season. He has gone 3-4 during that run and is 1-2 against the Warriors over the last three seasons. James averaged a triple-double in the Finals last year and it was still only enough to win one game. James will need to be at his all-time best in order to give his team a chance, and even with him playing at his top level, he will still need help from his supporting cast.
Kevin Love needs to get back on the court and get back to himself in this series if the Cavs are going to have any chance here. This will be the first Finals series for Love in which he could be the true second option. His defensive game will need to be better as well, forcing stops and allowing Cleveland’s offense to work in transition.
J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver need to make shots. It’s as simple as that. Smith and Korver were big for the Cavs in their sweep of the Toronto Raptors, as they both scored 10+ points in three of the four games. However, Korver has scored 10+ points in just six of the other 14 playoff games, and Smith has scored 10+ in five of the other 14 playoff games. The Cavs will need the Smith and Korver from the Raptors series for the next two weeks.
The question going into Game 7 of the Cavs/Boston Celtics series was who would be James’ second option. The answer was Jeff Green. Green’s 19 points were a post-season high for him and he did it on 50 percent shooting. Green will need to duplicate his Game 7 performance to give James a much needed second option.
The Cavaliers might have the best player in the series but that’s all they have going for them. The Warriors are the more talented team, have home court and want to show that last year was no fluke. If this was a one-game elimination, the Cavs would have a puncher’s chance because of James. However, there are just far too many things that would have to break Cleveland’s way in order for the Cavs to win this series.
Last year, James averaged a triple-double and Kyrie Irving averaged 29.4 PPG in the Finals. That was only enough to help the Cavs win one game. This Warriors team is just too good. Cleveland should be able to win a game, but nothing more.
Final prediction: Warriors in 5
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