Warriors in 5
The 2017 matchup everyone expected at the start of the season is finally here as the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meet in the NBA Finals for the third straight season. Each team has won once, so this series sets up to be the rubber match from the two titans in the NBA a league that has been reduced to two super teams, a few contenders and a bunch of also rans who just can’t compete. This has led the NBA to having perhaps the worst postseason in the history of the association. There have been few memorable games as both the Warriors and Cavaliers have smashed their way through the postseason like ATAT against the helpless rebels on Hoth. The NBA now hopes that they can get a classic Finals series much like last year’s seven game comeback by Cleveland.
The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA Championship last season, rallying to beat the Warriors after trailing 3-1, marking the first comeback from 3-1 in the history of the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers player well most of the season, but appeared disinterested over the final six weeks and ended up losing home court. The playoffs saw the Cavaliers turn it on as they swept the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors to reach the Eastern Conference Finals. The Cavs dominance continued against the Boston Celtics, though a slip up in Game 3 at home would be their only blemish as they ran the Celtics off the floor in Boston winning all three games at TD Garden by mile as they reached the NBA Finals in five games.
After blowing their 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers, the Warriors who in the regular season won a record 73 games got even better with the signing of Kevin Durant. While there was no historic regular season run, the Warriors again were clearly the best team in the NBA posting a record of 67-15 much like 2015 when they beat the Cavaliers in six games. Golden State, had a slump in early March, finished strong, winning 15 of their last 16 games. The Warriors continued the momentum in the postseason as they became the first team, since the first round went to a best of seven to sweep their way through the first three rounds. In sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs, the Warriors have rarely been challenged, with only two of their 12 wins being decided by less than ten points. Making the Warriors run all the more remarkable is that Coach Steve Kerr has been away suffering from spinal related illness since early in the first round. Proving that great players don’t even need a coach as assistant Mike Brown has just needed to sit there and not mess it up, with Kerr typically sitting in the locker for nearby guidance.
There is no question that when all things are equal that LeBron James is currently the best player in the NBA, and is among the best of all-time. The Warriors though have the deeper and overall stronger team and will be looking for revenge from last year’s NBA Finals. The Warriors for the first four games completely outclassed Cleveland and were on the doorstep of immortality, but a poor decision by Draymond Green in the waning moments of Game 4 became the turning point of the series. When Green was suspended for his low blow on LeBron it woke up the Cavaliers and left Golden State without their top defensive player when they went for the clinch in Game 5 at home. The Warriors also lost Andrew Bogut in Game 5 and lost at home, opening the door for Cleveland’s comeback. The Cavs of course won Game 6 at home and a classic seventh game in Oakland, complete with the unforgettable last five minutes with LeBron’s block and Kyrie Irving’s three pointer. The Warriors in going for history expended a lot of energy in the regular season last year and it showed come the postseason as Stephen Curry was hobbled, missing several games with a sprained ankle. Even as the NBA Finals arrived it was clear Curry was not 100%. The Warriors had a tough road in last year’s postseason, needing their own 3-1 comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Kevin Durant in the Western Conference Finals. This is why signing Durant gave the Warriors such a competitive advantage. This season, the Warriors had a normal regular season and like the rest of the league took some games off. However, since the middle of March it has been clear the Warriors have been on a mission and that mission is to show just how much better they are than the Cavaliers. If the Cavs are to make this a series they must win one of the first two games in Oakland, since the Warriors having ten days off since beating the Spurs could be a tad rusty. The Cavs themselves have had a week off, so chances are there will be no difference in sharpness. The Warriors focus and aggression, the play of Kevin Durant who after missing much of the last two months appears to be healthy and playing his best basketball and the shooting of Stephen Curry will be too much for Cleveland to overcome this time around. Don’t expect a classic series, expect the Warriors to dominate, and the Cavs to get one game only due to the skill of LeBron James, who has too much pride to allow his team to get swept. The Warriors dominance is clear and will be the story of the NBA Finals as they win five games, winning most games by double digits to put a bow on a boring lifeless, listless postseason.