The 2016 NBA Finals are set and we get the rematch many pined for. The Golden State Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of the 2015 finals.
I think the primary reason this rematch was desired is that the NBA public wants to see if Golden State can beat a Cavs team that is at full strength. Remember last year when Cleveland played without injured Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love and still took the series to six games before falling to the Warriors?
No excuses this year. At least regarding injuries going into the series.
You have to like how Golden State got here. Led by the amazing play of repeat league-MVP Stephen Curry, the Warriors compiled the best season in NBA history, recording a record-setting 73 wins against just 9 losses. They beat the Houston Rockets, 4–1, in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and then knocked out the Portland Trail Blazers in five games in the second round. Golden State then rallied from a 3–1 deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games for the Western Conference title. They survived last round and will enter the Finals with momentum.
Led by LeBron James, Love and Irving, the Cavaliers (57–25) were the best team in the Eastern Conference all season. They built off their regular season success by sweeping the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, before defeating the Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Historically, Golden State has won three titles including last year’s. Cleveland has never won an NBA title.
The Cavs did not fare well against the Warriors this season. Golden State won both games the teams played during the regular season, including a 132-98 blow out in Cleveland.
Both teams have their “Big Three.” Most of the attention will center on James, Love, and Irving. But Golden State’s trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are right there with the Cavs trio.
And then there is the question of ‘The One.’ There was a lot of talk this season that Curry has supplanted James as being the best player on the planet.
Where Golden State will have a big edge is with their bench. While the Warriors superstars get the hype, their bench came up big in allowing the Warriors to rally past the Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Harrison Barnes, Sean Livingston and Anderson Varejao all provide depth that Cleveland won’t be able to match.
As was the case last year, Cleveland can’t run with the Warriors, so they must find a way to keep Curry, Thompson and Green from shooting at a high percentage and putting up big numbers. Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert will be key off the bench. They have to play meaningful plus-minutes for Cleveland to win.
Speaking of meaningful minutes, LeBron will really need to come up big. Really big. Appearing in his sixth consecutive NBA Finals, James is still the most dominant player in basketball. He’ll have more help in this year’s finals with Irving and Love being healthy, but James must lead his team and seize the opportunity to bring a title to Cleveland.
I like Golden State. But it could get really interesting if Cleveland can win one of the first two games in Oakland.
There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the Warriors to cap off their historic season with a second consecutive NBA title. Golden State has responded like champions, especially last week against Oklahoma City. They only need to trust that they are the better team, and let their play deliver the championship. But LeBron could be the equalizer if Golden State has any doubts or does not respond well to the pressure.
It has all the makings of a classic.