NBA Finals Guide: Do the Cavs Stand a Chance?
It’s been 353 days since Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors won the 2017 NBA title in five games against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, 11 months and 19 days after their illustrious title, the Warriors and Cavs will meet again in the Finals, but this time with a matchup differential worse than ever.
One could argue that this might be one of the worst mismatches in NBA Finals history. As Zach Lowe said today:
“This is Celtics-Lakers if you gave Kevin McHale a concussion, and replaced Robert Parish and Dennis Johnson with league-average (or worse) players.”
The Warriors of today are up there with dynasties like the ‘90s Bulls, the ‘80s Lakers or the ‘80s Celtics. They’ve already surpassed the likes of elite teams of the past, like the San Antonio Spurs in the 2000s, the early 2000s Lakers or the ‘08 Celtics. Golden State is in a league of their own.
But what the Rockets exposed is the fact that the Warriors are in fact mortal. They can be slowed down, scored against and when they’re cold, you may even get a win against them.
Draymond Green, JaVale McGee & Jordan Bell vs. Tristan Thompson & Kevin Love
Maybe the most meaningless side of the ball in this series is the frontcourt matchup between the two teams, unless Draymond Green plays lights out defense each game, or Kevin Love averages a double-double in the series. JaVale McGee and Jordan Bell are too inexperienced to make an impact for Golden State and they will be called to simply help on the boards, or assist on the switch against LeBron.
Green will play well, there’s no doubt about it. As of late, Green’s shooting has been suspect, but he makes up for it by facilitating the ball well offensively, rebounding on both ends and locking down defensively.
Tristan Thompson is really the only person down low for either team that can make the paint a nightmare, but his past inconsistencies cast him as a make-or-break for the Finals.
Winner: Cavs, but it won’t matter
It’s no shocker to the Warriors that the Cavs will try to play big on them, but the Warriors don’t care; they’ll use their backcourt and KD to carry the weight offensively and make adjustments as they go on defense.
Klay Thompson & Steph Curry vs. George Hill & JR Smith
The Splash Brothers in Klay and Steph are ready for a huge series against the underwhelming backcourt duo of George Hill and JR Smith. Curry is coming off a monstrous game seven outing of 27 points against the Rockets, while Thompson had a series-high 35 in game six.
Winner: The Splash Bros… and this could get ugly
Unless Hill or JR shuts down Curry each game, the Warriors backcourt duo could average a combined total of 50 points a night. Smith has been shooting horribly, especially from beyond the arc. Subbing in the likes of Kyle Korver or Jordan Clarkson won’t help either for Cleveland.
Golden State Bench vs. Cleveland Bench
This actually might be Golden State’s worst list of reserves that reach the Finals through the four outings, and that comes even more so if Andre Iguodala is still out with his leg injury. Bell and McGee are interchangeable down low, but aren’t the least bit effective. David West and Zaza Pachulia are way past their primes, and Kevon Looney is too inconsistent to put on the floor for lengthy minutes. Nick Young and Shaun Livingston are all the Warriors have in terms of reserves.
Winner: Cleveland, but not by much
While Golden State struggles off the bench, so do the Cavs. Clarkson and Rodney Hood should never get minutes off the bench. Jeff Green has shown light in the last few games, but can also turn to a liability. Korver might be their hidden gem in this series if he can get some consistent playing time.
One x-factor to not count out is also Larry Nance Jr. Through the better half of the Boston games, Nance Jr. stepped up in big games, and he filled the role of Love formidably when he was injured for game seven.
KD vs. Lebron
Right here will be the best matchup between these two teams by far. Last year, despite LeBron shooting efficiently in the Finals and averaging a triple-double, it was KD who shot lights out and took over the game when it mattered. This postseason, KD has found similar success, averaging 29 points a game.
Only problem is LeBron is averaging an unreal 34 points in 41 minutes a game.
Winner: LeBron by a snub
Both Kevin Durant and James will get their buckets, assist in a good amount of points and be game-changers on the floor night in and night out. But it will be ultimately LeBron that takes over this series and gives every ounce of hope for the Cavs.
It’s not hard to understand the Cavaliers this year. They’re either on and they look great, or they’re off and look terrible. Cleveland is 12-6 this postseason, and when they win, they’ve won by an average of 10.5 points. But, if you take out their 35 and 30-point wins over Toronto, the Cavs have won 10 games by an average of 5.2 points. Seven games in the playoffs were decided by four points or fewer and of those seven games, the Cavs won six.
But when the Cavs lose, they do it in a blowout fashion. They’ve lost their six games this postseason by an average of 17.5 points.
So if any game in this series starts turning into a blowout against the Cavs, they’re going to lose. And, if it’s a close game, the odds are in favor of Cleveland to pull off a close one.
Final Prediction: Golden State in 5
The Warriors are just way too powerful for this Cleveland team that doesn’t have any answer for Curry, Durant or Thompson. Warriors win two off the bat, Cavs take one at home and the Warriors finish it off in game five at home.