Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Golden State Warriros – Ultimate Finals Preview
Cleveland Cavaliers Vs Golden State Warriros – Ultimate Finals Preview
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will clash again on the NBA’s biggest stage in their fourth straight Finals meeting tonight. It looked unlikely both teams meet again after both franchises found themselves 3-2 down in their Conference Finals series and having to win a Game 7 on the road, but here we are all over again. Each time the Cavs and Warriors have faced in the Finals it’s been slightly different, but this time will see a colossal disparity in talent as the Cavaliers are without dynamic point guard Kyrie Irving, and the health of Kevin Love is still unknown. Nevertheless, it still remains an intriguing matchup that will have our attention so let’s dive into the factors that will determine our NBA Champion for 2018.
PACE/CONTROLLING THE SCORING.
This is perhaps the biggest factor for the Cavaliers if they have any chance to win this series. In the Warriors Western Conference slugfest with the Houston Rockets, the Rockets had incredible success by forcing the Warriors to execute in the half court. The Rockets liked the matchups and their ability to switch, which ended up giving the Warriors all kinds of problems throughout the series. They did this well, and the Warriors still ended up winning because with their suffocating defense and ability to force turnovers, the Warriors did get chances to get out and run in transition, and that’s where the series eventually got away from the Rockets. In these Finals, if the Cavaliers stand any chance to take down the free flowing Warriors, they need to control the pace and tempo of each and every game. They will get slaughtered if they try and run with the Warriors. They’re built differently than the Rockets, who were able to do that with their three-point assassins, but the Cavs makeup is completely different. They must grind it out, play slow, play physical, switch everything, walk the ball up, get to the free throw line, execute in the half court so they can set their defense, and absolutely not turn the ball over. The games must be low scoring. If they do this, they give themselves the best chance to grind out wins throughout this series. It’s easier said than done, but it’s the only choice they have.
THE BATTLE OF THE BACKCOURTS.
In the Warriors-Rockets preview I covered this topic but this time it’s completely different. JR Smith and George Hill are by no means Chris Paul and James Harden in any form, but their importance in this series is paramount. Hill has battled injury since arrival in Cleveland, and Smith has been so inconsistent that fans consistently wonder why he sees so many minutes, but nevertheless, both will have to be nothing short of outstanding if the Cavs want to win this series. I’m not talking about either of them scoring 25+ points per game, but more importantly, their defense on Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Hill is a solid point guard, who is long and has a high basketball IQ defensively. He will have to be at his very best to slow down Curry when they matchup. In terms of the other backcourt battle, to his credit JR Smith and company have done an excellent job on Klay Thompson in past Finals. Klay has always been the poorest performer out of all their all-stars previously , but like we all know he can explode at any time. Smith will have his hands full yet again and he’ll have to be at his very best defensively. On the other side of the ball Hill must run the offense and take some pressure off LeBron James with his ball handling responsibilities and both players must absolutely knock down shots when they are open. This will provide the supplementary scoring lift the Cavaliers have desperately needed these entire playoffs. If they get nothing from their backcourt this series it could be over very quickly.
WILL ANDRE IGUODALA BE AVAILABLE?
The Warriors have an injury concern with their swingman Andre Iguodala (He’s out for Game 1). They managed to get over the Houston Rockets without him so I wouldn’t call it a major concern, but Iggy is still a big part of what they do. He’s a glue guy with great athleticism and does a little bit of everything for them which is a big part of their success. The reason his injury could be a slight concern for them, is because it’s one less body the Warriors will have to matchup with the best player in the world in LeBron James. Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will all try and slow down James, but without Iguodala it’s one less body the Warriors have especially if they experience early foul trouble or the need for a break as James will likely wear them all down. Iggy is also an extra ball handler that they definitely need at times. With Curry trying to shake off defenders attached to him, the offense sometimes becomes stagnant despite their talent, and Iguodala gives them another ball handler to make plays. His presence may be missed even more so than last series in the Finals if he doesn’t suit up.
TRISTAN THOMPSON AND DRAYMOND GREEN.
Both Tristan Thompson and Draymond Green will have a massive imprint on this series. They may be on the back end of the stars for each franchise, but these glue guys will go a long way into deciding who takes home the Larry O’Brien trophy. Both of them have been targets of defenders helping off them and leaving them largely open on the offensive end because they’re limited in scoring the ball and creating their own shot. With this, comes the ability for both of them to change this series. If Green can add points and outside shooting to his game in these Finals, the Warriors all of a sudden become even more unstoppable. With Thompson, if he can dominate the paint and be a true inside presence, the Cavs could have a much needed advantage on the interior. Thompson isn’t going to create his own shot but if he creates second chance opportunities and rolls hard to the rim, it could free up a lot of things for the Cavs and especially LeBron James, who has a great chemistry already with him. Adding to the fact can both men can switch onto anyone defensively, both Thompson and Green are unlikely to receive all the headlines, but their impact could ultimately decide the series.
WILL KEVIN LOVE FINALLY SHOW UP TO AN NBA FINALS?
The Cavs “supposedly” next best player after LeBron James is Kevin Love. I say supposedly because he’s been nothing short of terrible this postseason. He had a good series against the Toronto Raptors but it was purely down to the Raptors not having a versatile big man that could remotely guard him. Love has been extremely disappointing, there’s no hiding from the fact that other role players have been more productive than he has for the Cavs which should never be the case for someone who is considered an all-star talent. With that being said, Love is undergoing the NBA’s concussion protocol so his status for Game 1 is unknown. Be that as it may, Love will still be available for Game 2 at the minimum and the Cavs need him to produce. He has been underwhelming against the Warriors in nearly every matchup, and has had poor Finals’ campaigns the last three meetings with them. His time is now and the Cavaliers need him more than ever. James will do what he does, but Love needs to be that other guy to give the Cavs a fighting chance.
RODNEY HOOD MUST PLAY.
The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired dynamic wingman Rodney Hood from the Utah Jazz at the trade deadline, but out of all their acquisitions, Hood has struggled the most to find his place. He has struggled to find his spots, and has crumbled under the limelight when called upon. He has been so disappointing that he has completely fallen out of the rotation for the Cavs, with the less athletic and less talented Jordan Clarkson taking his place. Although he has struggled, Tyronn Lue must absolutely play him in this series. The Cavaliers have struggled because they do not have enough players that can create their own offense and create their own shot. Hood can fit the bill for them on both ends as he can score the ball and he’s long and athletic enough to switch on the defensive end. With his ability space the floor and hit threes, he also opens up the lane for James to operate and find him. He may have struggled so far for the Cavs, but he could be incredibly important in this series and Tyronn Lue must give him minutes against this high powered Warriors outfit.
LEBRON JAMES AND KEVIN DURANT.
The two best players in the world will meet again at the NBA’s biggest dance. LeBron James and Kevin Durant will take to the floor in the hopes of lifting their team to victory. It’s likely KD will guard James more than James will guard him, purely from an energy conservation standpoint. The Cavs understand James cannot spend large amounts of time guarding Durant and wasting energy on that end as they need every ounce of James to create offense for them. Still, James will guard Durant in spurts, as he will attempt to continue to do it all for his team. It’s hard to fully gauge this matchup because James has everything to do for the Cavaliers whereas the game is made very easy for Durant at times, but the ability to see the two best players in the world on the floor at the same time is exciting nonetheless. The winner of this matchup is important, but it’s likely it won’t decide the series, because even if James gets the better of KD the Warriors still have three other all-stars that can decide any given game, and the load James takes on will be extraordinary in comparison. The Warriors are 0-5 this season when Durant scores 40 points or more, outlining this fact exactly.
THE IMPORTANCE OF JEFF GREEN.
Expanding on the previous point, Jeff Green is no doubt the x-factor for the Cavaliers in this series. Despite their struggles all season as a collective, Green has been a shining light with his production on both ends. He hasn’t played a huge amount of minutes this season, but his contributions have been solid. With Kevin Love basically missing the two most important games of the season in Games 6 and 7 against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, Green stepped in and did an incredible job. I’m actually a believer that Green will be a lot more effective than Love in this series against the Warriors because of his brilliant versatility. Unlike Love, Green is a solid defender, with good length and great size who can guard multiple positons. He is also another ball handler, post scorer and nightmare in transition for the opposition. I think all these factors are why Green will be more reliable than Love this series from a production standpoint. With Love perhaps missing Game 1, it could be a blessing in disguise for the Cavs who could play Green extended minutes alongside James. The biggest factor for the Cavs will be Green matching up with Durant. Like we touched on earlier, James won’t be able to guard Durant for extended periods because of the load he has to take on, this is why Jeff Green will be so important. He will likely be Durant’s primary defender, and the ex-sonics teammates will be going at it all series. If the Cavs want to win this series, they’ll need Green to have an amazing showing and slow down the production of Durant. If he can do that, it will significantly help their cause.
HOW FAR CAN LEBRON JAMES TAKE THIS TEAM?
LeBron James is putting together maybe the best postseason we’ve ever seen from a superstar. From 40+ point games, to buzzer beaters, to bigtime blocks, to carrying the whole franchise on his back, the kid from Akron has done it all to get up to this point. He’s now about to go against a completely different animal in the Golden State Warriors, who are the widely regarded as the greatest collection of talent the league has ever seen. For many, it’s mission impossible. For James, he’ll relish the challenge. He may be arguably the greatest player of all time, but one man will never beat a great team, and that’s what he’s up against. If the King somehow manages to pull this off, he could become the undisputed greatest player of all-time and do the unthinkable. If he gets the support he deserves, it could also aid the Cavs’ chances of keeping him in free agency. That’s what is at stake for James and the Cavs. Does he have one last mind-blowing series up his sleeve to dethrone this hall- of-fame riddled team? He’ll likely do his part, but if it will be enough is yet to be seen.
A FINALS MIRACLE?
If we are all being completely honest here, this may be the most one sided Finals we could see in recent memory. Many fans and analysts believed the true NBA Finals was the Houston Rockets – Golden State Warriors series and they may in fact be right. LeBron James has been so special this postseason, that he’s brought a Cavs team to the Finals that really has no business being there. In all truth, the Celtics may have put up a better fight than the Cavs are about to with their balance and excellent coaching, but the undeniable greatness of James stopped them in their path. With this team, it’s actually hard to see Cavs winning even one game in this series, the gap in talent and ability is that wide. James alone will not be able to win this series, and the Warriors have the firepower to blow any game open at any given time. The one thing the Cavs have is absolutely nothing to lose, because they understand they come in as underdogs and can scratch and claw this whole series without any genuine expectation to take down this Warriors team. Like I said earlier it’s going to be mission impossible for the team from Northeast Ohio, we will have to witness a Finals’ miracle for them to pull it off.