As many expected, we are getting yet another sequel in the NBA Finals. Golden State versus Cleveland. The Warriors and the Cavaliers will meet for the fourth consecutive time in the Finals.
There is talk out there that this matchup is getting “old.” Redundant perhaps, but not old. These are still the two best teams in the Association.
I view it like this. Three years ago it was intriguing as Golden State burst upon the scene and upset LeBron and the Cavs. Two years ago, James and Cleveland came back from a 3-1 deficit to upset the Warriors. Last year, Golden State, with Kevin Durant added to the roster, settled the score in five games. The Warriors are heavy favorites again this year.
One difference in this sequel is that both teams have struggled to make it this far. Both are coming off of Game Seven victories on the road. Golden State overcame double-digit halftime deficits in Game Six and Game Seven to eliminate Houston. Cleveland went to Boston for Game Seven and handed the Celtics their first home loss of the playoffs to advance.
Golden State entered the Finals with a 12-0 mark last season. This year, the Warriors are 12-5 in the playoffs. Cleveland was 12-1 last year heading into the Finals. This year, the Cavaliers are 12-6 after surviving two Game Seven challenges (Indiana and Boston). In other words, both teams are vulnerable.
Golden State has the same core of players including Durant. Cleveland managed to slow down Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson last year but did not have an answer for Durant.
Durant averaged 35 points a game in the Finals last year while shooting 56% from the field and close to 50% from beyond the three-point line.
One difference this time around is that Andre Iguodala will likely be not available for Golden State. Iguodala has been vital to the Warriors’ defense against James in all three of the Finals matchups between the teams.
The biggest difference this year however goes against Cleveland. Gone is Kyrie Irving who averaged 29 points per game in last year’s series. The Cavs’ new additions have basically disappeared as the playoffs have progressed and they are now relying heavily on veterans J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver to go along with James. Kevin Love is still there with LeBron but he may not be ready for game one due to concussion issues.
As good as James is, and he is playing better than ever statistically, Cleveland does not have the firepower to match the Warriors. Durant, Curry, and Thompson are all averaging over 20 points a game and all our capable of hitting for 40.
James is averaging 35 a game during the playoffs. After him, Love is next up at just 14 points a game. There’s just too much depth on the Warriors’ side in this series, and there is not enough help for James.
What will be interesting to watch are the spans of time when James and Durant guard each other. It happened a lot last year and Durant got the best of it.
I think this will be the final sequel between the two teams. The rest of the league is finally starting to catch up with these two teams and who knows where LeBron will play next season. My prediction in the fourth sequel is Golden State in five.
Curry, Durant & Warriors’ Coach Steve Kerr last Saturday