For the third consecutive year, the NBA's two best teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will meet in a best of seven series to determine who is the best. So many storylines in this one, possibly the most star-studded Finals in NBA history. Can the super team in the West prove last year was a fluke? Can LeBron James slay the dragon once again and cement his legacy? Can Kevin Durant finally reach the heights he never could in Oklahoma City? With the 2017 Finals about to begin, BC's NBA Finals Preview will attempt to answer these questions.
In 2015 when the teams met, Kevin Love was hurt and Kyrie Irving did not play after Game 1. LeBron could not do it all on his own, and the Warriors took the title in six games. Last year, Stephen Curry was not 100%, Draymond Green was suspended for a big Game 5, and LeBron and Kyrie took over. Cleveland did the unthinkable and won the series in seven games after being down 3-1, and in the process brought Cleveland its first sports title in 54 years. How do you follow all that up? Well, the Warriors added the second best player in the league in Durant in the off-season, and enter these Finals 12-0 with yet another chance at making history. Cleveland enters 11-1, as LeBron James makes his staggering seventh-straight Finals appearance. Who will win?
For Cleveland to win:
The Cavs will need to slow the game down. The Warriors are possibly the most dangerous transition team in NBA history, and the amount of shooters they employ at all times can make you pay in a hurry. In the half-court, defense is key. Tristan Thompson will own the paint, it is the perimeter that will give the Cavs fits, as the Warriors will most likely run the pick and roll offense through Curry and Durant. Lebron has pretty much owned Durant throughout the latter's career, and he will need to do it again. Last year, the ghost of Harrison Barnes was barely being guarded by the end of the series, and that will not be the case with Durant. Irving genuinely feels he is better than Curry, and will be looking to prove it. Look for the Cavs to play lots of iso with Irving and LeBron. Love will need to keep up his steady play, especially his 47% from 3 in these playoffs. Between JR Smith, Kyle Korver, and Deron Williams, someone will have to come through when they are inevitably left open when Irving and James draw all the attention.
For Golden State to win:
They just have to play their game. They have so many ways they can beat you, but the offense will go as Curry and Durant go. Starting in Game 5 last year, the Cavs were able to overwhelm them with defense and took away the transition baskets they can usually get in droves. By the time Game 7 rolled around, they were on their heels and the Cavs were in their heads. This year, they are hungry to prove that was a fluke. Green is the key for them, he will end up with a ton of wide open looks, and last year he made Cleveland pay almost every time. Almost an afterthought, which is dangerous, is Klay Thompson, almost as good a shooter as Curry is. They also have the defensive edge, except Curry on Irving, which they will shift to try and avoid wherever possible. The Warriors just have so many players that can hurt you when they touch the ball, when they play their big guns it is near-impossible to stop them.
So, who will win?
I see this being a dogfight again. Hopefully there will be no injuries or funny business and we can just have the two best teams in the NBA go at each other to see who is the best. I think Golden State comes out guns blazing. The real question is this: which Cavs defense will show up? They play to their competition, and we haven't really seen them challenged like this since last years Finals. The teams split their two meetings in the regular season, including a Cleveland victory on Christmas with Irving hitting another game winner over Curry. The game in Golden State was a dominant, decisive victory for the Warriors. On paper, the game in the Bay will be how the series should go. But…I can't pick against LeBron. the guy is playing superhuman basketball, he is at his peak, and in Kyrie Irving he has the best Robin to his Batman he has ever had. I think they trade shots, maybe even seeing Golden State going up again, before the Cavs really turn it up, forcing another Game 7 at the Oracle. If that happens, Cleveland knows they can win there, the Warriors know they can win there, and that mental edge will be enough as The Cavs win in 7.