THE FINALS! OH MY GOD! THE FINALS ARE HERE!
That’s right people. It’s Christmas in June. With the matchup everyone wanted, it’s safe to say that, at least this year:
Ok. So it’s 9:00 PM EST tomorrow (Thursday) not 10:00 AM but the NBA equivalent of Santa is in fact coming tomorrow.
As predicted by basically everyone, the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off against the Golden State Warriors for the third straight year. I predicted both teams would win their respective conference championships in 5. Pretty sure we were one play away from that happening:
As it is, that makes 12 for 14 picking winners and 7 of 14 picking the number of games. Before picking a series winner, here’s a quick look at strengths and weaknesses for each team:
For the Cavs, it starts and ends with LeBron James. This is James’ seventh straight NBA Finals and eighth overall. So far he is 3-4 but one of those championships was last year’s comeback from being down 3-1 against these same Golden State Warriors. After last year, do you want to bet against James?
For the Warriors, their strength is that this year’s Warriors are not the same as last year’s. This offseason, the Warriors traded strength in numbers for strength in, well, strength by dumping depth for Kevin Durant. As it turns out, the Warriors bench has exceeded expectations with new players like Zaza Pachulia, David West, and JaVale McGee contributing roughly 40 minutes per game without setting the team back in the process. According to SportingCharts.com,1 all three have a per game plus-minus that is higher than Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo as well as Cavs’ players J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Channing Frye.
For the Cavs, watch out for their regular season defense. Being as good as your opponent on offense only matters if you’re as good as them on defense too. Per ESPN, the Warriors and Cavs ranked first and fourth respectively during the regular season on offense.2 On defense, however, the Warriors dropped to 11th while the Cavs dropped all the way to 20th.3 If the defense that was worse than New Orleans, Minnesota, and Sacramento shows up then the Cavs are in trouble.
For the Warriors, watch out for the officiating. If the Cavs, especially James and Tristan Thompson, are allowed to be physical then this could be a completely different series. The Warriors bench performed better than expected this year but still isn’t as deep as the past two years. They can’t afford for any of their stars to wear down, or get hurt, in this series. For that matter, they can’t afford for Draymond Green to get suspended for hitting anyone in the groin again either.
I’m breaking two rules here: (1) don’t bet against LeBron James (no matter how much you want to based on principle alone) and (2) don’t agree with Stephen A. Smith… on anything but especially the NBA finals.4 A couple days ago, Stephen A. picked the Warriors to win the finals in 7.5 I’m going to distinguish myself from Stephen A. as much as I can and pick the Warriors in 4. That’s right: Warriors in 4. Why? Glad you asked:
Steph Curry needs to play better:
Klay Thompson needs to play better:
Draymond Green needs to make up for this:
Kevin Durant owes James for this:
Acting head coach, Mike Brown, must be tired of getting dismissed by the Cavs after this:
I’ll admit, I think the Cavs have a great chance of winning Game 1 and if any of the Warriors big 4 get hurt then all bets are off. That being said, if the Warriors win Game 1 and stay healthy then they have all the motivation necessary to put this series away early. This series is, and should be, personal for too many of the Warriors for it not to be. If you’re still on the fence then remember that the core of this team is the same team that managed to win an NBA regular season record 73 games last year. They’re also the team that is already 12-0 this postseason. Simply put: the Warriors have the ability, motivation, and track record to believe they can sweep the Cavs and this postseason. And I hope they do. I’m betting on it.