Last year’s finals ended in a disappointing fashion for LeBron James. He fought hard, giving his Cav’s two wins in the series; two wins that no one thought they would get. It was painful because it was LeBron’s 4th lose in the Finals, and one that he had no control over. His star teammates, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were hurt, leaving LeBron to shoulder the load. This year, the Cav’s are healthy and playing better than ever, setting the stage for one of the most anticipated Finals match-ups in recent memory.
I’m not much for hypothetical’s, but could you imagine if Curry had been without Klay, and Green last year? I don’t know if the Warriors would have gotten a game on the Cav’s. LeBron earned my respect last year. I was among the many who questioned whether he could lead a team to victory, or if he needed a star studded team to do so? His 2012 victory over the Thunder featured one of his best teams ever, in which a healthy Dwayne Wade may have been the second best player in the league at the time. Many would point to the Thunder’s inexperience and the talent surrounding LeBron as to why they won that series. Then there is the San Antonio-Miami match-up in 2013 that went to 7 games. A series that many said was saved by Ray Allen.
Last year there were no excuses for LeBron haters; it was LeBron against the best team in the NBA. J.R. Smith had a terrible series, and the Cleveland big’s got embarrassed by Draymond Green. LeBron averaged 35.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg, and 8.8 apg in the series, proving that he had what it took to carry his team when they needed him to. It was one of the greatest individual performances in NBA Finals history. A performance that i believed should have earned him the Finals MVP, but i won’t go too far into that rant.
This year’s Finals features the very best teams from the West and the East at the peak of their games, which is why this series is so exciting. The Cav’s are healthy, and the Warriors are healthy. It is the rematch that LeBron, and NBA fans, wanted.
This will be a very evenly matched series, as the two top 3 point shooting teams in the regular season face off (Cleveland average 10.7 3pt. fg per game; while Golden State averaged 13.1). Not only were they the two best shooting teams in the league in the regular season, but the playoffs have held much of the same. The Cav’s have actually been the better shooting team in the playoffs, making 14.4 per game, while Golden State has made 12.5 per game. When we look at why OKC lost to Golden State we can clearly see it was because they couldn’t keep up with the Warriors shooting, but Cleveland, can; and that is HUGE.
Another key for the Cavaliers is the play of their guards. While the Cav’s have struggled to guard opposing guards, there is no question that Irving and Smith can fill up the basket. Irving can score at a rate comparable to Steph’s and when Smith catches fire from the arch it’s dangerous. Although I can’t see Cleveland’s guards locking up Steph and Klay, they will at least be able to keep up on the offensive end.
The biggest advantage in the series favors the Cav’s; and that is LeBron James. At 31 he is still at the top of his game. The Warriors have always had an issue defending opposing SF’s, and while they did lock down Kevin Durant (sort of), LeBron is a different story. With LeBron there are multiple facets of his game that you need to defend. He is just as dangerous passing the ball as he is scoring, which makes it hard to double team him. Especially with all of the shooters that he has to pass it to. This ability to pass often gives LeBron favorable one-on-one match-ups; and I’m sorry Warrior fans, but as good of defenders as they are, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, cannot guard LeBron one-on-one.
I really don’t know if an NBA finals match-up can get more perfect than this one. It will be about as evenly matched as a series can get and i believe that every game will go down to the wire. I think that Kyrie and Curry are pretty evenly matched, playing very similar styles of basketball, and being able to score in high volumes at the point guard position. The advantage for the Warriors is their bench, and Klay Thompson; and the advantage for the Cav’s will be LeBron James. This series will go to 7 games, ending with LeBron getting his 3rd ring, perhaps the most important one of all: a ring for Cleveland.