On June 1st, NBA fans will finally get what they have been craving since the season began all the way back in October… the third installment of the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Golden State Warriors. Each team will be vying for their second NBA championship in the last 3 seasons, with legacies on the line for both sides. Though the Warriors should be viewed as favorites, each team has a chance to win this series as long as they can accomplish these keys.
Golden State Warriors
Move the Ball
This Warriors team could arguably be the most talented group in NBA history. What is not up for debate, however, is that they possess three of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant will give the Cavaliers defense too much to handle if they work as the well-oiled unit they have proved they can.
When the Warriors are playing team basketball there is no team in this league that can beat them. If they fall in love playing isolation or hero ball then they will give the Cavs a chance to hang with them. If that happens watch out, because LeBron James will capitalize on one’s mistakes.
Keep Emotions in Check
The Warriors are a much better team when Draymond Green is involved and, most importantly, on the floor. If he does not get suspended in game 5 of last year’s finals the Warriors probably do not lose that series. He is the heart, soul, and defensive anchor of this team and they cannot afford to lose him again.
Stephen Curry needs to be effective no matter how well he is shooting. He suffered shooting struggles in last year’s finals and he let that affect the rest of his game as well. He has the help on this roster to be effective in other areas while others handle the offensive load if need be.
Focus on Defense
The potency of Golden State’s offense is no secret. They have led the NBA in points per game each of the last three seasons and have three guys who can take over a game at any point. Each of the past three seasons the Cavaliers have made additions to match the Warriors offense, positioning themselves to be just as lethal.
Where Golden State’s advantage truly lies is in their defensive abilities. Cleveland struggled mightily after the all-star break on this side of the ball, ranking 29th in points per game allowed. Many doubted their chances of even making the finals before they switched the flip this post-season.
Though improved, the Cavaliers defense does not compare to Golden State’s when both are engaged. It would be a dangerous game for the Warriors to rely on their offense to out-score the Cavaliers in this series. But if the Warriors can play inspired defense, then there is no way they lose this series.
LeBron James is going to get his. What Cavaliers fans need to hope for is consistency from Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and the bench.
This year, even more so than others, the Cavaliers offense relies on three-point shooting from guys like Love, Irving, J.R. Smith, and Kyle Korver. If this group can shoot high percentages then the Cavs will have a shot. If not, then good luck to LeBron.
Make Curry Uncomfortable
When Curry is playing at his best, typically, so are the Warriors. He unquestionably makes this teams engine go and when he’s balling the team takes on a swagger that makes them unbeatable. To combat this the Cavaliers must game plan to eliminate him, much like last year.
This will be harder with the Dubs addition of Durant. The 7-foot point-forward gives the Cavaliers one more superstar to have to deal with. The main reason why Curry was defended so well in last year’s finals was due to the Cavaliers willingness to let Harrison Barnes shoot or be guarded by a much smaller guy.
For a lot of the series LeBron James matched up with Curry and was too big and strong for Curry to make an impact. This year it seems that James will be busy with Durant leaving Irving as the most likely to shoulder the duty. This will not be enough to slow Curry, making it interesting to see how Coach Lue goes about defending this Warriors offense.
Steal Home-Court Early
No matter how last year’s finals may have ended, the Cavaliers will not win this series if they do not play well from the jump. With home-court once again in favor of the opposition, the Cavaliers need to go home in game 3 with a win under their belt. These Warriors are much improved and should smell blood after last year’s disaster.
If Golden States jumps out to a 2-0 or 3-1 lead, they will not blow it again this year. This isn’t the same Golden State team as before.