When we think of great sports trilogies… a few names come to mind:
Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier 1971-1975.
Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal: 2006, 2007, 2008.
Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird 1984, 1985, 1987.
For the first time in the history of the NBA two teams will face each for the 3rd straight year in the NBA Finals. Two years ago, the Golden State Warriors defeated a gutsy Cleveland Cavaliers team. Despite being without all-stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving the Cavs took the Warriors to six before losing at home. Last season, Cleveland was down 3-1 before coming back and winning Game 7 on the road for their first title in franchise history. The Warriors had the easiest road to this year’s championship. They defeated the Portland Trailblazers, the Utah Jazz and the Spurs without their best offensive and defensive player, Kawhi Leonard. But, give them credit, they went 12-0 in the first three rounds. The Cavaliers cruised through the first three rounds as well winning 4-0,4-0 and 4-1. When I think of this matchup one song comes to mind, Burning Heart (Rocky IV theme, by the band Survivor).
“Two Worlds collide rival nations.
Is it East vs West or man against man,
In the warrior’s code There’s no surrender, though his body says stop
His spirit cries, never! Deep in our soul
A quiet ember, Know it’s you against you
It’s the paradox, that drives us on
It’s a battle of wills, In the heat of attack
It’s the passion that kills,…the victory is yours alone.”
Other than the Magic Johnson Lakers or the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers, I don’t know if there has been a better starting 4 in the history of basketball. What the Warriors are bringing to the Finals is stuff opposing coaches have nightmares about.
Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry and Draymond Green are averaging 82 points per game. Green has been the MVP So far. He is only averaging 13.9 points per game, but he leads the team in rebounds 8.7, assists, 7.2, steals 1.9 and blocks 2.1. He is the only player on this team who can’ have a bad series if they expect to win. Ian Clarke, JaVale McGee and Andre Iguodala are averaging a little over 20 points combined off the bench. If the Warriors want to win this series, McGee has got to be a double/double guy. His size, length and athleticism could give the Cavs fits.
The Cavs are led by the one and only LeBron James. The man they call “The Chosen One” has now been to 7 straight finals (8 in total) with 4 different coaches. James is averaging 32.5 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game in the post-season. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are combing for 41 points and Love leads the team in rebounding, averaging 10.4 per game. Center, Tristan Thompson is averaging 9 points and 9 rebounds a game and always seems to grab an offensive rebound when the team needs it most.
Last season in the Finals the Warriors got tired. They were worn down from playing in every regular season game. In doing so, they set the NBA record for most wins in a season (73-9). But, being the first team in the history of the NBA to blow a 3-1 lead in the finals has left a bitter taste in their mouths. They have been on a mission all season long. Something no one seems to be taking about is Mike Brown has taken over the in-game coaching with Steve Kerr still recovering from his back injury. That does not bode well for the Warriors, Brown is a terrible game coach. Look for Tyronn Lue to exploit him and take advantage of timeout situations and out of bounds plays. If Lue and Brown were football teams, I would give Lue a 2.5-3.0 per game advantage. The battle here is simple, it’s the starting 4 of GS against the depth and shooting of the Cavs. Against the Boston Celtics, Lue did something I did not like. He played Richard Jefferson over Channing Frye. For the Cavs to win this series, they must outshoot the Warriors. This is something they can clearly do; The Cavs are leading all teams in FG percentage (50.7) and 3-point percentage (43.5) in this post-season. The Second unit of the Cavs. with Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, LeBron James, Frye/Jefferson and Kyle Korver has increased leads with their starters on the bench.
These teams hate each other, so I fully expect this series to be a roller coaster of emotion from quarter to quarter and game to game. 2 years ago, In pre-season, I predicted the Cavs would lose in the finals. Last year, in pre-season, I predicted the Cavs would beat GS in 6 games, they won in 7. I am 12-2 in playoff prediction in 2017. When the game means the most, LeBron is at his best and his numbers go up, that is a scary thought for the Warriors. There is no intimidation factor here. LeBron and company believe they are better than GS. That is something the Warriors haven’t faced this post-season. If GS gets down early, will they start to feel the pressure of losing two straight finals?
Take the Cavs in 6. Coaching, too much 3-point shooting and LeBron.
Follow the Sports Whisperer on Twitter Monte1223
And listen to #TheFullMonte Podcast Monday and Thursday’s at 6 PM.