The NBA regular season is 82 games. The NBA playoffs can be another 28 games – depending on the series. Despite all of this basketball, most of us knew where we’d end up: the Cleveland Cavaliers from the East and the Golden State Warriors from the West.
Why? Sure, the Celtics were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. But the Playoffs are like a second season. There are three reasons why we are seeing this matchup (again):
- The Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead last year after a record-breaking, 73 win regular season. They are out for revenge.
- The Golden State Warriors signed Kevin Durant – a move that was definitely triggered by two blown series leads. First, the Oklahoma City Thunder over the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 Western Conference Finals. Second, the aforementioned 3-1 defeat in last year’s finals. The Warriors offense, while extremely potent, struggled a bit against the Cavs. Adding Durant made those struggles go away.
- The Cleveland Cavaliers are healthy (again) and LeBron James is playing out of his mind.
On sports talk radio this week, I heard Adam Silver talk about the lack of parity in the NBA. He said that this isn’t the case. Whether this is true or not is a more lengthy conversation for another day. But it does relate to the Finals and what has happened in the NBA Playoffs thus far.
The 2017 NBA Playoffs have been a dud, from a basketball standpoint. Sure, there were some great stories to come out of the postseason. The main one is the heart of Isaiah Thomas – one of the toughest players in the league. I admire him for all he overcame this postseason. Kawhi Leonard’s injury made the Western Conference Finals less than stellar. The Clippers collapsed yet again. The Celtics-Wizards series gave us a thrill, but at the top the Cavaliers and the Warriors steamrolled their way through the Finals, going undefeated and with one loss respectively.
Can the Playoffs be saved? Last year was pretty hard to beat, but the Warriors have had a year to sulk. They’ve went out and retooled. Mike Brown (yes that Mike Brown) will be calling the plays for Golden State.
There are a few key factors that will influence this series:
- The Cavalier’s defense has been less than stellar. Sure, they’ve (almost) swept their way to the finals, but they’ve given a ton of points. True champions rise to the occasion. The Warriors are an offensive juggernaut. The challenge will be a tough one.
- Andre Iguodala’s health. Two years ago, Iggy was the Finals MVP for his defensive efforts against LeBron James. His presence is still important on this GSW teams.
- Klay Thompson needs to find his touch for GSW. This will create problems for the Cavs as they will have trouble keeping Curry (if he has a good Finals unlike last year) and Durant at bay.
- The Warriors play a lot of small ball with Draymond Green at the 5 spot. This makes it tough for the Cavaliers because it will be tough to have both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson on the court at the same time.
- Kyrie Irving vs. Steph Curry. Every Batman needs a Robin. If LeBron is Batman, then Kyrie needs to be a solid #2. He outplayed Curry last year, which I think was one of the keys to their comeback win. The Cavs are successful when Kyrie scores and dishes in double-digit quantities.
So who wins?
In looking at the Vegas odds, it seems crazy to me that so many are choosing the Warriors to win in five games. In my opinion, with the way LeBron James is playing, the Cavaliers will not go down without a fight. This game will go to at least six or seven.
My heart says Cleveland but my head says Golden State. More importantly, I am hoping for a solid series with good basketball.