The NBA Finals are set, and once again, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off for the third year in a row. It’s a trilogy and it couldn’t come at a better time. In essence, it has become the most intriguing rivalry in the league these past few years The Warriors finished the regular season with an astounding 67-15 record after finishing the previous season 73-9. Just as we thought the Warriors couldn’t get any better, they added Kevin Durant into their equation, adding an additional All-Star and former MVP to their lineup. They finished off the Western Conference with an unblemished record of 12-0. The Cavaliers on the other hand finished 51-31 in the regular season, a down year for them. They had their ups and downs due to their defense being atrocious but managed to flip the switch and rip off 11 consecutive wins before finishing 12-1 in the Eastern Conference. There were many questions about whether or not Cleveland could get through the East, but they made it look easy.
This is the Finals match up we’ve all been waiting for. Just after Kevin Durant signed with Golden State on July 4, people were ready to fast-forward to June of 2017. The amount of star power in this Finals alone is just incredible: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Love and Draymond Green are all All-Stars. These two teams faced off twice in the regular season, splitting the series at one win apiece. The first match up came on Christmas Day in Cleveland, as the Cavaliers pulled out a win after Kyrie Irving sank a turnaround jumper to seal the game, something all too familiar for the Warriors. However, the second match up three weeks later wasn’t pretty, as Golden State scored 78 points in the first half and never looked back, en route to a 126-91 smashing. Here we are four and a half months later and ready to crown a champion.
So many matchups to talk about but the headline grabber is LeBron James verses Kevin Durant. The two best players in the NBA going head to head in the Finals for the second time and also the most heavily scrutinized. Kevin Durant has his chance to win his first championship and what better way to do it than against LeBron and company? Durant has been playing great basketball of late. So far in the playoffs he is averaging 25.2 points on 55.6% shooting, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.2 blocks, and 0.7 steals. He might not be putting up the most points of his career, but he is certainly playing the best he ever has on defense and that needs to be replicated against LeBron and whoever else he guards. Below are his season highlights against Cleveland.
Meanwhile LeBron James in year 14 has been playing the best basketball of his career in these playoffs. He comes in scoring 32.5 points per game on 56.6% shooting, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. James will need to be at his apex to take down a monster of a Warriors team comprised with lethal shooters all around. That includes getting everyone else involved which is never a problem for him, playing great defense and a more consistent jump shot if he has issues scoring inside. The odds are against LeBron and the Cavs yet you can never count him out. Last year managing to pull off winning a series down three games to one, first time in NBA Finals history and his confidence isn’t shorted one bit.
Cleveland’s defensive consistency has to be better and not so often afford to let guys wide open like in the conference finals series against Boston or the Warriors will run all over them. The first two games are being held at Oracle Arena and that could be the determining factor on who wins the series. You cannot go down two games to none and expect to win this time around because Kevin Durant won’t be missing wide open shots like Harrison Barnes was in the 2016 Finals. If the Cavs play to their strengths they will have a chance to win every game. Not allowing Golden State to get second chance opportunities could be the determining factor in this series.
On the other hand, Golden State is favored for a reason in this season, the addition of Durant. The Warriors tend to play their best when Curry is on the top of his game. Kyrie will need to do his best to stay in front of him but that is always a huge challenge considering his outside range and how many screens they set to get their guys open. One way to beat Golden State is to force turnovers. They are beatable if a team makes them play unconventional and plays half court against them.
Overall it should be a phenomenal series and hopefully it goes the full length of seven games. If so, the NBA wins and fans do too considering how pitiful the semifinals and conference finals were. This was supposed to be one of the best playoffs ever with all the star power and unfortunately injuries hurt those chances. We have a chance to wrap up an NBA season with a great series.
In conclusion, June 1st cannot come soon enough and this will be the most viewed NBA Finals in NBA history. Whichever franchise wins this series assuredly will have etched their names into the record books again.