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NBA Finals Preview: Cavaliers vs. Warriors (with Gamblin Matt Mortensen)
We're less than 24 hours till the NBA Finals. Which means, yup, preview time! I know, I know, nobody reads these. But who cares? Gamblin Matt is here and ready to go, and so am I. So let's get to some previewing shall we? ON WITH THE SHOW!
NBA Finals Preview
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
Major Storyline: Curry or LeBron? It's that simple. LeBron James may still be considered the best player in the NBA, but I don't think there's any question that Curry is coming for his spot (Anthony Davis might be too, but an appearance out of the first round is order before he joins this conversation). Really, the only thing Curry doesn't have over LeBron is size. Otherwise, he's just as quick, he's as good (perhaps better) a ball handler, and he's a far, far better shooter than LeBron is on his best day. Which one is better overall? You're just going to have to wait to find out. By the way, how happy you think Adam Silver is these two are in the finals? I reckon he did a bunch of cartwheels in front of Donald Sterling while wearing a Chris Paul jersey. That's what I would've done at least. Never forget!
Secondary Storyline: Which rookie coach do you trust the most? Lost in all of this LeBron vs. Curry, tortured Warriors fans vs. tortured Cavaliers fans narratives is the fact that this will be the first NBA Finals since the first one ever that two rookie coaches will appear against each other. That's no small feat. But now is the real test. I really like Steve Kerr and the job he's done this year, and despite all the criticism he's received at times, David Blatt is no slouch either. But neither has been in this situation before, Kerr is now dealing with the distraction of his assistant head coach Alvin Gentry being halfway out the door (Gentry just took the New Orleans Pelicans job today. Man, Anthony Davis is getting some play here) and Blatt will be questioned the moment he gets the wrong film from Redbox. In short, whatever coach holds it together the longest will give his team the best chance. Though it must be said, neither guy will win or lose this series. That honor (or dishonor) is going to LeBron or Steph.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Tristan Thompson. You remember how important Kevin Love was supposed to be to this Cavs team? Well, since Kelly Olynyk Mel Gibson'd Love's arm in round one, the Cavs have gone 8-2 with Thompson in Love's place, and look to be clicking better than ever. It's no accident; Thompson may not be the outside presence Love is, but he's a grinder, as ferocious a rebounder as there is in the NBA, and a much, much better defender than Love was during the year. He's not going to be the main reason Cleveland wins this series (if they win this series), but they'll have no shot if Thompson doesn't continue his great play. I think he will, if only because the man has money to make this offseason. Is it nuts that the Cavs may actually have a difficult decision on whether to pay Thompson or Love? And is it even more nuts that paying Thompson might be the better decision?
Warriors Player to Watch: Steph Curry. It has to be. LeBron is going to get his for the Cavs one way or another; it's up to his supporting cast to do the job. With the Warriors, their hopes and dreams live and die with Curry. He shoots the living daylights out of the ball as per usual, Warriors will win this easily. If not, they're done. Simple as that. No pressure at all Steph.
Gamblin Matt and the Odds: The best player in the world vs. the best team in the world. Four time MVP vs. current MVP. Rookie NBA coach vs. Rookie NBA coach. Mostly NBA Finals first timers vs. NBA Finals first timers. It doesn't get any bigger than this folks, the pressure will be immense. Who is going to crack first?
These two teams have squared off twice in the regular season with both teams winning a game apiece. But the Warriors win has to come under scrutiny as they beat the Cavs without LeBron playing, whereas the Cavs won the rematch with LeBron playing and they beat a fully healthy Warriors team by 11.
I'll be blunt, Warriors will be the new NBA champions. In how many games is all I'm tossing up between. Factor in Klay Thompson could very well miss game one because of his concussion and that makes game one a little harder to predict. Speaking of Thompson what in the hell was up with him being let back on the court in game 5? Don't give us that bullcrap line about him developing concussion like symptoms after the game. They clearly didn't do the proper tests on the man. Not only that but he bled from the bloody ear! Blood. From the ear. Right. That screams everything is ok! Warriors have won 46 of their 49 home games this year by an average of 15 points. Quite frankly that's incredible. Blow out city.
One player from the Warriors is under an injury cloud and I can't help but wonder about the Cavs and how healthy Irving is. He is the man to watch in this series for me from the Cavs. Not LeBron. If Irving misses any games this series I'd confidently say that the Cavs will not only lose those games but get destroyed. They need his attack. His defence? I think they need it more. Bluntly put they put him on the worst shooters on the floor in defence. They can't do that against the Warriors. Every one of the Warriors players can hurt them on the floor, besides Bogut I'd say. The Cavs will always be in with a chance with LeBron on the floor but without Irving it'll be too much for the self proclaimed "King".
The player to watch for the Warriors? Curry I hear you all saying. Wrong. Wrong you all say? Surely he must be talking about Klay then. Wrong again. Then who is it you ask? Well it's the before mentioned Bogut. The Warriors can't let the Cavs get extra possessions. Thompson has been an absolute beast for the Cavs on the offensive glass. He is in line to ask for some serious money come free agency. Bogut and the Warriors can't let him do what he did to the Hawks and grab the boards and kick it out to Smith, Shumpert, Jones and my boy Dally! They have been deadly on shooting the threes and the Warriors simply can't let that happen.
The Warriors to win this series need to keep their hot shooting going. 52.8% on their field goals with 35.8% coming from beyond the arc (the Cavs mind you have 35.6% from behind the arc themselves!). You can call me silly all you want but apart from the Warriors going missing in their shooting the Cavs can't do anything to win this series. The Warriors are going to be an eventual three peat team. That's how good they are.
With that all being said and for my friend Goose, and I gotta get one right eventually, this is going to be over quickly. The Warriors just have too many weapons. Home court advantage. The best shooter in the history of the NBA. The loss of Love will be too much for the Cavs to overcome. Irving isn't healthy enough. Warriors are only giving up a -6 line here which is $1.98 with the +6 for the Cavs favoured at $1.83. The betting agencies are expecting this to be close. I'll agree it will be IF and only IF Klay is out for game one. Matter of fact if Klay is out for game one than I expect the Cavs to pick up the win. $2.85 is juicy odds. The NBA Finals MVP odds are rightfully a two horse race. Curry at $1.50 and LeBron at $2.75. Tad pointless betting on Curry at that short of odds but he should definitely win it. If the Cavs do win this series it won't be in seven. They won't win on the road and will need to close it out at home in six. $6 for that if you give them any chance. But as I said I like the Warriors. In four or five is the question. $4 for in five and $9 for in four. I have to go with my gut and I expect Klay to play game one and for the Warriors to comfortably account for the Cavs in games one and two. Warriors in four for me. Warriors to win game one by 11-15 at $5.50 too.
Winner: Warriors in six. I tempted to go seven, but not quite. The bottom line is that the Warriors are just plain better. They have more depth, they have a better starting five, they shoot better, they defend better; they're just better. It's not by a huge margin, and Cleveland can win this series if LeBron plays out of his gourd, Kyrie Irving is 90% healthy and the supporting cast rises up like LeBron's old Heat squads used to. But in the end, I'm going to play it safe and go with Golden State. In the end, the real loser is going to be Mark Jackson. That poor bastard either has to watch his old team win the NBA Finals without him, or watch Blatt (whose job Jackson CLEARLY wants) win a title. Way to be caught in a sandwich of suck Mark.
There you have it guys. I'll be back later today with a review of Community's season finale, and a preview of the NHL Finals. Till then, here's a message for Cameron Crowe.