By: Monte Perez
In my NBA pre-season preview, I predicted the Cleveland Cavaliers would beat the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Warriors are 27-0 at home and 56-6 overall. They on pace to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72 wins in a season.
The Cavaliers are 44-18, they fired their head coach David Blatt half way through the season and have looked lethargic, uninspired and out of sync at times under new coach Tyronn Lue. So if the Warriors are setting records and look unbeatable and the Cavs are struggling… why am I still confident that LeBron James will bring a championship home to “The Land” (Cleveland) for the first time since 1964?
(The last time the city of Cleveland had a sports team win a championship, was the 1964 Browns with Jim Brown)
There are three teams in the NBA that can upset the Warriors and represent the Western Conference in the finals:
San Antonio Spurs (53-10)
The Spurs are built to beat any team in the league. The Spurs have won 50 games or more for 17 straight years. That is probably the greatest accomplishment in the history of the NBA. They are a picture of consistency and have the best two way player in Kawhi Leonard ( 20 PPG, 6.9 Rebs, 2.5 Assists 1.8 Steals and shooting 46% from three). They have the best coach in the NBA in Gregg Popovich. The problem the Spurs will have… their backcourt struggles to score. Tony Parker and Danny Green are averaging a combined 19 points per game. Patty Mills and Manu Ginobili are solid bench players but not elite guards.
Oklahoma City Thunder (43-20)
The question with the Thunder come playoff time is simple. Can Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant be the two best players on the court for 4 out of 7 games. The answer is yes… Westbrook is averaging 24.1 PPG, 7.5 Rebs and 10.3 assists. Those are Magic Johnson like numbers. Durant is averaging 28.1 PPG, 8.3 Rebs and 4.7 assists. This team still struggles at times with too much isolation basketball but they can get hot and go on a magical playoff run.
The LA Clippers ( 41-21)
The Clippers have had a very good season considering Blake Griffin has been out with an injury. Their big three of Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan just don’t match up as well against GS,SA and OKC. In order for the Clippers to get to the Finals Jordan would have to average 20 points per game in the playoffs. I don’t see that happening.
In the Eastern Conference there is only 1 team who can beat Cleveland.
The Toronto Raptors ( 42-20) The Raptors are having a sensation year. Kyle Lowery is averaging 21.7 PPP and 6.5 assists. DeMar DeRozan is averaging 23.5 PPG, 4.3 Rebs and 4 assists. I look at this team like the Arizona Cardinals in Football. They are a very good regular season team but they are not a legitimate threat to win a championship.
5 Ways for the Cleveland Cavaliers to beat the Warriors:
1) Put Constant Pressure on Stephen Curry and Klay Thomspon to play defense: The Warriors recently lost to the Los Angeles Lakers 112-95. GS shot 4-30 from three point range (13%). Most NBA analyst said… that was the reason they lost, the blamed it on a “cold” night shooting. That was part of the problem, but there was a much bigger issue. The Lakers Guard Dominated. D’Angelo Russell scored 21 points, Jordan Clarkson scored 25 points, Marcelo Huertas had 10 points and Nick Young scored 13 points. LA’s backcourt scored 69 points. The Cavs have a plethora of guards who can score. Kyrie Irving is averaging 19.3 points per game. Matthew Dellavedova, is shooting 42% from three and J.R.Smith is one of the streakiest shooters and scorers in the history of the NBA. Veteran Mo Williams hasn’t been used much this year but he averages 13.2 points for his career. Iman Shumpert provides offense, defense, and athleticism off the bench. I have never seen a deeper collection of guards on an NBA roster.
2) Control the Boards- The Warriors are 1st in the NBA in scoring 115.1 points per game. As scary as that stat is, it is misleading. Curry has sat over 16 times in the fourth quarter because GS was blowing teams out. The Score in bunches and are beyond efficient on offense. They are second in FG% (Spurs are first) shooting 48.6% and first in 3 point shooting,41.8%. So on the rare occasions when they miss a shot, you can’t give them second chance opportunities. Kevin love is one of only 10 players in the NBA to average 10 or more rebounds per game. Tristan Thompson has been coming on of late and is averaging 9.3 rebounds Pat Riley used to say, “No rebounds, no rings” If the Cavs want a championship they have to dominate the glass.
3) Be physical – Last year in the playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies and Cavaliers had some success being physical against the Warriors but it didn’t last over a 7 game series. The Cavs have to use their depth and pick up Curry full court. Make him work for everything. They must show different defenders at him all game.
4) Win different ways- The Cavs are 4th in allowing 97.2 points per game and 9th in scoring, averaging 103.2 points per game. This bodes well in the playoffs. You can’t be one dimensional because well coached teams will take away your strength. The Cavs can win a defensive battle, 90-89 or a high scoring affair, 122-121.
5) Put the egos aside- There has been a lot of talk lately about LeBron James and his cryptic Tweets. Rumors are flying all over the place that the Cavs don’t like each other. In particularly James and Irving. This playoff run can’t be about who gets shots, who gets points who gets minutes. It has got to be a total team effort. All egos have to go by the way side. If Lue can get this team to play unselfishly and not worry about who can gets the credit they will win the championship and LeBron James will be King of Ohio for the history of our existence.
the Warriors are one of the best teams I have ever seen but they are not unbeatable. It will take a Herculean effort… but it can be done
(Picture from Yahoo Sports)
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