By Jaime Gonzalo
The Golden State Warriors overcame a 3-1 losing series to set themselves up against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2nd time in a span of 2 years. Last year was quite disappointing though, as Cleveland came in with a much depleted line-up. The Warriors would eventually win the series 4-2, but it still wasn’t enough to silence the critics. Today, the fans get what they’ve clamored for. This year has turned out to be a rematch of last year—only this time it’s going to be much more exciting since both teams will be equally matched. Here are some key points to ponder for the upcoming finals.
8. A whole new ball game
Unlike last year, the Cavs are at full force. Not only will Irving and Love add to the team’s offense, they will also add to their team’s depth, allowing the head coaches to manage his players’ minutes properly. (If you recall, last year LBJ was basically run down by the Warrior defense. You really can’t ask a player to almost singlehandedly take out a team of the Warrior’s caliber—it just won’t happen. Kudos to his valiant effort last year though.)
Will they be able to contain the splash brothers and the rest of GSW this time around? That didn’t seem the case during the regular season wherein they succumbed to GSW over the course of two games—the last one resulted in a humiliating 132-98 defeat. This are the finals though, and it’s really up to whoever steps up. Will it be the Cavs or the Warriors this year? We’ll soon find out.
7. Back to basics
We know that both teams are extraordinarily good at offense, but how will they cope with defense? The Cavs need to contain Steph Curry and Klay Thompson early on if they don’t want to be chasing an impossible game. At the same time, the Warriors can’t just triple team LBJ like they did last year because that would leave the dangerous Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love open. In terms of scoring, it looks like the winner will be whoever will be able to shut out the other. It’s time for the players to dig deep and showcase how much they really want this ring—and it starts with defense.
6. Consistency is key
Consistency will be key throughout this finals series. Most of the Warriors were pretty consistent in the WCF against OKC, with the exception of Curry who was battling an injury. The Cavs, on the other hand, have been rather shaky, with LBJ seeming to be the only consistent player on his team. Irving has been pretty bad throughout these playoffs and it appears that he’s aware of the fact—he needs to step up and shine if they want to win.
During the regular season, the Warriors also proved that they could exploit Love defensively and that’s going to be a big problem for the Cavs in the finals. That said, if Steph and Klay don’t “show up” to the finals then it could be a really quick series for the Cavs. It all boils down to consistency at this point, and the more prepared team throughout the whole series will undeniably end up as champions.
5. Will Kevin Love decide to “show up?”
As previously stated, Love was exploited defensively by the Warriors during the regular season. The Warriors were able to play around him and make use of their deadly shooters to run away with both games. Before Love even starts thinking of offense, he has to be able to stay on the floor defensively. The Cavs need big games from their big man, consistently. If he can contain the Warriors this time, then the Warriors have a very big problem.
4. Steph Curry’s injuries
Steph Curry’s lingering knee and ankle injuries made him noticeably slower during the WCF. He struggled during the first four games vs OKC, but was eventually able to get his rhythm back and help the Warriors come back from their 3-1 ratio.
What scares GSW fans is that if Curry just so much as tweaks his ankles or twists his knee in a bad way, it could spell the end of the series for their team. Steph Curry is the heart of the team and without his distribution skills, his fantastic shooting, and his ability to out-dribble his opponents, GSW be a shell of the team that won the finals last year. Here’s to hoping that all players from both teams stay healthy throughout the series because that’s what the fans want to see!
3. Battle of the Shooting Guards
JR Smith will face off with Klay Thompson yet again in a battle of the shooting guards. Klay burned Smith last year in the perimeter—however, he has been playing remarkable defense this season. Will Smith’s improvement be enough to match Klay’s intensity this time around? The latter has undoubtedly been the Warriors best player this playoffs and the pressure is on Smith to match that intensity. Both players have to tighten their defense and make sure they contribute offensively, whether by scoring, forcing turnovers or dishing out assists.
2. Lebron James’ dominance
LBJ is a monster and that’s a fact. He was phenomenal in the finals last year, and the only reason they lost was because the team lacked depth. This year is a different story—Lebron will have proper assistance, leaving him wide open to do what he does best while retaining the option to move the ball around. The Warriors cannot simply triple team LBJ this time around because Kyrie and Love will make them pay. Will the Warriors be able to contain Lebron? Will they be able to stop his offensive rebounds, his assists and his insane scoring? They’ll need to pull out all the stops to be able to do so.
1. Who will rain down more 3s?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s actually the Cavs and not the Warriors who have the highest percentage of shots from three-point range.
The Cavs have been playing small and taking smart shots all season long. Their second game against Atlanta this playoff meeting saw them make the record books for scoring the most 3 point shots (25!) in an NBA game. We tend to overlook the Cavs when we see how flashy the splash brothers can get with their outrageous shots, but the truth is that this battle is dead even. We know that there will be three’s raining down in the final—we’ll just have to wait and see which team they’ll be coming from. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a great watch for sure!
Which team is your bet to take the NBA Finals this year? Sound off with your team pride in the Comments Section!