NBA FINALS PREVIEW! And Breakdowns for both teams to win
This is gonna be pretty in depth so if your a casual reader it may not be for you. This is for my basketball junkies. I'm gonna try to not get into legacies too much because I would like to save that for after the finals is over. But as I said before Lebron is in a really tough spot because after he loses it will put him at 2-4 in the finals.
Houston "was who we thought they were" which is a joke and a waste of a series which should have been really good. I go back to the Clippers being clearly the better team in that Houston series and then giving away game 6. I knew it wasn't real and it wasn't. I predicted 4 or 5 games and was right on again. I wish the Clippers had won because I think that would have been a much better series and would have gone 6 or 7 with the Warriors ultimately winning. But Doc Rivers is overrated so it didn't happen. I also had Cleveland winning the east. Had it going more than 4, but I also had Atlanta having a heart, which it turns out they do not. I feel like Atlanta is in the same boat as San Antonio for about a 5 or 6 year span before the past two years where they kill it during the regular season and then don't have the grit to win playoff series. All of the Spur and Pop fans forget several early exits for the Spurs after they had the best record in the west. They were built to prey on weak regular season opponents and then when it came to hard nosed series in the playoffs, they couldn't compete. They had to get guys like Leonard who are more physical in order to get over the hump. I feel that Atlanta is in the same boat.
So now the stage is set. The best player in the world versus the best team in the world. And unfortunately I believe the best team will win the series. Lebron has carried this franchise on this back throughout the playoffs, granted against weaker teams than in the west, but I think he finally if facing a team with just too much for even him to overcome.
Some notes on the series.
In NBA history, 14 teams have won 65 or more games, the previous 13 all won the title. Golden State is the 14th
30 times the League MVP has made it to the Finals, and 22 of those 30 times his team won the title. Steph Curry is the 31st.
538.com has used advanced analytics to rate every team in the history of the NBA, and rates the Warriors as the 3rd best team all time while they rank the Cavs as the 112th best team of all time.
Steph v. Kyrie Advantage Golden State
Klay v. Shumpurt Advantage Golden State
Barnes v Lebron Advantage Cleveland
Green v Thompson Advantage Golden State
Bogut v Mozgov Advantage Golden State
Benches Advantage Golden State
Coaching Advantage Golden State
How Do the Warriors Win the Title
In order to win the title, the Warriors need to continue to play the team defense that has gotten them this far. They were the #1 defensive team in the regular season and are the #1 defensive team in the playoffs so far. Everyone keep talking about Draymond Green guarding Lebron James and slowing him down. Well you people are wrong. I think Draymond will not guard Lebron much if at all. Why is that? Because of the match up problems that would occur if he does. That would put Harrison Barnes on Tristan Thompson. The best offensive rebounder in the playoffs, possibly in the league, versus a small forward who isn't a naturally physical player. Then you say, ok, put David Lee on Thompson and slide Green to the 3. Understandable option except that Lee is a horrific defender and won't be able to guard Thompson. Also, who will the Warriors bring in to replace Lee? McAdoo? He is D League player brought up to be a cheerleader and emergency back up. Therefore I think that Green will spend most of his time on Thompson to keep him neutralized. So what does that mean for the Warriors? I think they need to play team defense against Lebron. I would go WAY under screens the way the Spurs did in 2007 since Lebron is now shooting 17% from 3. And even if he makes a few, stay with it because it is better than him driving it down your throat. When he posts up, I would have a hard double and leave Bogut under the hoop playing everyone who comes near the hoop. What does that mean? Cleveland can't put both bigs on the block with Lebron posting on one of the block which means one will have to be at the high post. I would double off Thompson's man and leave Bogut in the paint. Everyone sags in a little and force Lebron to kick it out. If Thompson or Mozgov catch the ball at the free throw line, I'm gonna let them shoot that for 7 games and see how that goes for the Cavs. You have the rim protected with Bogut, and frankly you have some guys on the perimeter who are shooting better than they should be and are due for some regression.
On the offensive end I would get Kyrie to defend a lot of ball screens and see how the Cavs guard it. I know Mozgov won't want to come out to guard Curry and he can do all of his flashy stuff and pick Cleveland apart. If the Cavs decide to switch guard to guard screens I would look to exploit that as well. Dellavadova and Kyrie can't guard Klay and Livingston on the post so if they do switch, those guys should have a big advantage on the post. Finally, I would try and keep the pace up (as they usually do). The Cavs are a team being held together with duct tape and band aids and the more the Warriors can tire them out, the less effective the Cavs, and especially Lebron, will be.
How Do the Cavaliers Win the Title
Short of a plane crash, its gonna be tough. But I'll give it a go anyway. First and most importantly, the Cavs NEED TO STAY BIG. If the Warriors have a weakness, its their size. Draymond is a 6-7 power forward, and David Lee off the bench is taller but not near as physical on either end. The Warriors also love to go small with Draymond at the 5 and expose teams from the perimeter. I say let them. Then let Mozgov and Thompson and Lebron post up and crash the glass against the smaller team. The second the Cavs go small, I believe the Warriors get a huge advantage. I am torn on whether I like Kyrie or Dellavadova more in this series because with Kyrie out, they are much better defensively. I don't know how Curry does against Dellavadova but I think he will annoy him and slow him down a little. But obviously Kyrie gives you great offense which in essence can counteract Curry's offense unless he is just by him every time and getting great looks for this teammates. Of course Lebron is going to have to play heavy minutes and be asked to do everything again on both ends and see if he can drag them across the finish line.
Defensively is where I think the Cavs can flip the series. There are two things that I saw in previous rounds that I think can work and be HUGE:
1. Double Curry and Thompson on ball screens from the bigs and make Bogut and Green scorers. I have noticed that when Bogut catches the ball on the perimeter he doesn't even look at the hoop and when he does set a screen he isn't the fastest player to the hoop. Therefore, double Curry, with big hands, make him throw it over the top or kick it back out and then scramble back. If Bogut does roll, they should have Lebron there to get in his way which means he will kick to Barnes, Barbosa, Livington and Green for weak side threes. I am ok with that. If those guys are gonna beat you then your not going to win anyway. None of those guys are knock down 3 point shooters and if we remember Green in the last round lost all his confidence and was passing up on 3s and airballed a couple. Play way off him and get in his head. Double the guy with the ball and make Curry and Thompson passers. I believe they will become hesitant to shoot, then it will end with Curry and Thompson taking tough shots at the end of shot clocks.
2. Pressure Curry all over the floor. If you watched Game 5 of the Rockets series when the Rockets were down 10 with like 2 minutes to go, they went into complete urgency mode and guys like Terry and Ariza were pressing full court. Curry did not like it at all. He almost got several 8 second violations, but more importantly, every single time he passed the ball across half court. Why is this important? Obviously you only get 24 seconds and when he is forced to give it up because of the 8 second count or because of pressure, it messes up their offense. Their offense runs through him and when it doesn't, they aren't near as effective. So when you pressure him in the back court and he gives it up, have that defender stay engaged with him so he can't get it back. That will run down the shot clock, disrupt their offense, and even if he does get it back, he won't have much time to work with. It should also tire him out which means that some 4th quarter might not go in.
13-1 so far in my predictions.
I could give 100 more stats on why the Warriors are the better team, like they scored more points per game, shot a high fg%, 3 pt fg%, ft%, had more assists and so on and so on, and were the best team in the league defensively. So you know where I am. I want Lebron to win so badly. But I just don't think his team is good enough nor deep enough to even really challenge the Warriors. When the big 3 in Cleveland was put together, it was Kyrie, Love, and Lebron. Kyrie has been a shadow of himself with his knee problems, and even missed some games last round and Love went down in the first round. So when you look at the first 3 games of the eastern conference finals, you had ONE of the big three that was supposed to be there. I would almost argue that you could put Lebron on any team in the Eastern Conference, he may be able to take them to the NBA finals. That may be a little extreme, but I believe he could take easily 10 of the 14 in the East.
Having said that, I believe the Warriors will cruise through this series like they have cruised through the regular season and playoffs. I