NBA Finals Preview: The Trilogy
It’s finally here. Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for. It’s a day that has been talked about exhaustively over the past year, especially in the past week. Cavs-Warriors: Part III. As stated in a previous article, whether or not we wanted to admit it, we all knew this was going to happen. We had an exciting NBA season. Offensive efficiency in ways we’ve never seen.
The triple-double record broken. This, however, was all an appetizer to the main course. The main course being the first trilogy in NBA Finals history. Before we get to my prediction, we’ll explore how I came to that decision by the analysis of both teams and the X Factors.
The Golden State Warriors
The Warriors come into the Finals with an NBA playoff record 12-0 mark. For all the talk of Draymond Green that he wished the Cavs had more competition, the Warriors have not faced much competition either. The Warriors faced the Blazers (one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA), the Jazz (an incomplete, hobbled team), and the Spurs (sans their star player). That being said, the Warriors sport, easily, the best starting four in the NBA.
I say starting four because I feel Zaza is a starter due to lack of options. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green will give any player or coach stress whilst preparing for them. LeBron James even said so himself. When they are all on the court together, they have enough firepower (between KD and Curry) and enough defense (between Draymond and Klay) to bury any team. The one issue I will say the Warriors have is that can’t expect to play all those guys 40 plus minutes a game and expect the same efficiency as you would with playing LeBron or Kyrie 40 plus. This team is not built or designed that way.
Many have stated the Warriors are the deepest team in the NBA but I’m not buying that. Their bench has not had much pressure going into these Finals. The bench for the Warriors is an X Factor but not the X Factor I have for them. The top factor of the Warriors chances to win this series is obviously the monster of the starting four they possess. Number two is the X Factor I will discuss later. Number three is the bench. If all three of those come together in perfect harmony, the Warriors will win this series.
The Cleveland Cavaliers
The defending NBA champions come into this series in an odd position: as underdogs. To me, this is baffling because they are the defending NBA champions and their path to the Finals was similar to that of the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs come into the Finals with a 12-1 record. The only loss coming on a fate type game winner by the Celtics. Draymond Green is, however, right when he says the Cavaliers did not face much competition. Facts are facts. They did not. Paul George gave the Cavs fits but that is where the competition ended.
Easily, the biggest factor of this series for the Cavs is that they have the undisputable best player in the world in LeBron James. We all knew that going into this postseason. What we did not know, and what should concern the Warriors, is that LeBron James might be playing the best basketball we’ve seen him play…. ever. That’s a scary thought. On top of that, what should also concern the Warriors is the play of Kyrie Irving. Irving started this postseason slow but he has caught fire in the past couple of games. Irving is also, arguably, the best finisher and isolation player in the NBA. There is not a defender that can shut him down one-on-one. The Cavs do, however, have concerns as well.
While I do think the Cavs are the deeper team, that depth has not been consistently on display. Kyle Korver can shoot many people out of the building, but he hasn’t on a few different occasions this postseason. The same could be said for Channing Frye. Richard Jefferson has been uses sparingly, as well as Iman Shumpert. One of the keys for a Cavs victory would be to use their bench efficiently and for that bench to answer the call when needed. Much like with Golden State, if the bench plays well for the Cavs, they will win this series.
The X Factors
I feel silly typing this, but the X Factor for the Golden State Warriors is Javale McGee. JAAAAVVVVVAAALLLLEEEE MCGEE as Shaq would say. Listen, I’ve got nothing personal against Javale. I’m sure he’s fine young man. I just the understand the heavy importance and stakes placed on him for this series. Sure, he’s looked better than expected for the Warriors, but were we really expecting anything from him? So, that’s not saying much. If Javale performs at the level that has been claimed, then the Cavs will not be able to overcome that. I’m just very skeptical about that.
For the Cavaliers, the X Factor is what it has been for the past three seasons for them: Kevin Love. Most people expect Kevin Love to be a nonfactor in this Finals as he was in the Finals last year. It could be argued, however, that Love’s rebounding in the final games of the series last year was key but I digress. There is a difference between this year’s Kevin Love and the previous version. This year’s Love looks a lot like the Kevin Love the Cavs acquired from Minnesota. He’s been consistent all year and has been a problem for teams in this postseason. Kevin Durant is a much-improved defender, but I think he will struggle with the Love of this postseason. If Kevin Love plays at the level he has thus far this postseason, it’s goodbye Golden State.
On paper, unlike most other pundits, I think the teams are completely, evenly matched. Golden State has the advantage in the starting lineup with the exception of center. Thompson is lightyears better than Zaza. The Cavaliers have the advantage on the bench. What I think this series boils down to is three things:
The Cavaliers have the best player in the world playing at an elite level
The Cavaliers have one of the most unguardable players in the NBA
KD and Steph have yet to prove they have what it takes on the big stage
For sure, it is a bit unfair to place KD in such a light after having played in one final, but the LeBron led Heat dismantled that Thunder team in the Finals that year. Thems the breaks. In the end, the best players for the Cavaliers will be better than the best players for Golden State when it’s all on the line. For this reason, the Cavs will repeat as champions and beat the Warriors in six.
Bonus pick – Jesse Rosales
Cavs in seven
“This finals is as much the same as it is different from last year. To start, the pressure is 100% on Golden State. Even more than 100% with the addition of arguably the second most talented player in the league, Kevin Durant. I could easily argue that if the Warriors don't win this series, it will be more of an epic failure than the 3-1 collapse we all witnessed last year. As for the Cavs, the only real question they have to answer is on the legacy side. Make no mistake about it, if the Cavs win this series, Lebron James will be side by side with Michael Jordan for the right to be called, Greatest of All Time. If the Cavs lose, then everything played out how it "should" as they are significant underdogs in this match-up across the board. Game 1 is CRITICAL, but only for Golden State. If GSW lose game 1, then game 2 becomes an instant MUST WIN. The Cavs could lose both games 1 and 2, and be right on track still. The pressure again, is ALL on the Golden State Warriors. These 2 teams are easily the 2 best teams in the NBA. We have all known this was coming since the end of last year. Now that we are here, and finally done with what has otherwise been an abysmal playoffs to watch, it’s time to stop the talk, and play ball. I think this series will go back and forth several times, with the Cavs winning another epic game 7. Anything short of that would be a disappointment all while being the most likely outcome.”
The Boss Pick – Michael Spillan
Cavs in six
Vegas Insider Pick – Will Booher
Jets in 4....umm Cavs in seven
“My prediction is the Cavs take it in a complete seven game series. The Cavs are seen as the underdog in this and I think that is where they feel most comfortable. The Cavs physicality will be the difference here and they will beat the Warriors down to elevate the Cavs to their second straight championship”