The 2016 NBA Finals start tonight and it’s a rematch of last years final of the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, with Golden State taking it in six games, but this years result will be different.
It’s easy to downplay the Cavs’ postseason success because they play in the Eastern Conference, but when you continuously pummel teams by 20+, it’s no fluke. The Detroit Pistons gave the Cavaliers their best every time out, but Cleveland still prevailed for the sweep, winning by an average of 8.5 points.
Next up was the Atlanta Hawks, who also got swept, but the average margin of victory for Cleveland was 12.5, against a much better team than Detroit. In the Conference Finals, the Cavs finally lost in the playoffs, but still beat Toronto in six games, winning by 28.5 points per game.
The trio of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have been improving their level of play in every round against much tougher competition. The Cavs, outside of games three and four, made a 56 win team in the Raptors look like a D-League team. If they are stepping it up like that against a Toronto team that has a history of being bad in the playoffs, how do you think they’ll elevate their play against the team that won 73 games and beat them in the Finals last year?
Cleveland has only played 14 games all postseason and hasn’t played since last Friday, while Golden State has played 17 and had to exert a lot of energy in a seven game series against the Thunder, where they consistently had to come back in the second half to keep their season alive. However, the Thunder have a bad habit of blowing big games in the playoffs and closing out teams. Teams led by LeBron James rarely blow second half leads and can finish out a team in the final minutes.
Cleveland is the more rested team, which is crucial at this point in a long season.
And with that rest comes the advantage of being able to sit back and watch the Warriors play, and what head coach Tyronn Lue and his team should have seen is ways to beat Golden State. Oklahoma City switched on every screen against Stephen Curry, which made him less effective. Golden State was forced to rely on the streaky shooting of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry prayers from 30 feet to bail them out.
If I’m Cleveland, I use that same method, because I’ll let Curry take his chances with those shots all day, any day. Oklahoma City laid the foundation on how to beat the Dubs and make Curry work, but fell apart down the stretch of games, per usual.
Last year, LBJ carried his team to six games, reminiscent of his early days in Cleveland when he had Zydrunas Ilgauskas as his next best player. KLove and Kyrie Irving were both out with injuries, and James put up godly numbers.
This year, the other 2/3’s of the Big Three is healthy, and they are playing their best basketball as a trio since they joined up prior to last season. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have been shooting lights out and LeBron has been LeBron. The ball movement and three point bombs that Cleveland has been using has made them ungaurdable.
The trade deadline acquisition of Channing Frye has played its dividends, as Frye has become an invaluable piece off the bench. J.R. Smith has been on fire from deep and has even done his part on the defensive end, showing a new and improved effort this postseason.
This years finals will likely feature some of the same themes from last years finals. Star players taking over games, close finishes, and some questionable calls for both sides. But where this Finals will be different is which side will lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Cavs in 5.
Cover Photo via SportressOfBlogitude (what the?)
Photo via TheStartingFive