The NBA Finals are set for Thursday, June 1st. This will be the third year in a row the Cavaliers and Warriors have met in the Finals. Each team has won once, the Warriors in 2015 and the Cavaliers in 2016. Cleveland got their revenge on the Warriors last season after coming back from a 3-1 deficit to win their first ever championship. This year, the Warriors are seeking revenge on Cleveland.
This year’s NBA Finals features two teams who look a little different from last year. The Warriors added former MVP Kevin Durant to a roster that already had 3 All-Stars, one of those being the two time MVP in Steph Curry. Cleveland has added key contributors such as Kyle Korver and Deron Williams to their bench. Both teams have the same star players from a year ago, but each team has loaded up their rosters to prepare for this very moment.
Both teams want to bring the NBA title back to their city. Kevin Durant came to Golden State to win his first title, while LeBron James is seeking his fourth, as well as to inch closer Michael Jordan’s legacy. Let’s take a look at 3 things each team needs in order to bring this year’s NBA title home.
1. A Superhuman LeBron:
The Cavaliers need LeBron James to be the best player in the world. The previous two years, LeBron has been a monster in the NBA Finals. He might need to be even better this year. LeBron has showed us his superhuman side throughout these playoffs, averaging 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 7.0 assists. He’s shooting 56.6% from the field and 42.1% 3pt. The only game LeBron hasn’t done well, is game 3 against the Celtics. 11 points, 30.8% shooting from the field, and 0% 3pt. The report came out that LeBron was sick during that game, which might have been a good excuse at the time. Now they’re in the NBA Finals. Excuses won’t be accepted here. If LeBron James has a bad game, the result will likely be a Cavaliers loss. The only way the Cavaliers will win this series, is if LeBron James plays at his very best every night.
2. Kyrie to Roll His Ankle:
For anyone who doesn’t know what happened in game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, no I’m not being serious. Go back and watch the highlights of Kyrie Irving after his ankle injury. He tightened up his shoe, got back up, and then went to work on the Celtics. Kyrie Irving was playing great throughout that entire game, scoring 42 points with 21 in the third quarter. I saw something different from Irving after he rolled his ankle though. I saw a player who wasn’t going to let anything hold him back. I saw a player who wasn’t going to allow his team to lose. Normal Kyrie is a great player who is a threat to score at anytime, but this Kyrie was unstoppable. That’s the Kyrie Irving the Cavaliers need in these Finals. Kyrie can’t sit back and defer to LeBron James. They have to dominate the game at the same time. They’re the two best and most important players for the Cavs. If either of them have a bad night, or even just an okay night, it will be that much easier for the Warriors to win.
3. Tristan Thompson’s Perimeter Defense:
Tristan Thompson’s ability to play perimeter defense is a very underrated, but a much needed skill for the Cavaliers. Thompson often gets switched onto guards on the defensive side of the ball. When guards have a big man on them, they can often easily get around them or create space with a quick dribble move. Not against Thompson. Thompson has the ability to stick with guards when they try to create space. The Cavaliers will need that against the Warriors. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are incredible shooters. If you give them just a little bit of space, they’ll knock down a three. I have a feeling Thompson will often get switched onto one of those guys, but Cavs fans shouldn’t worry. Thompson’s length and athletic ability will allow him to stay with Curry, Thompson, or anyone else trying to shoot over him. If they take a three on Thompson, he won’t make it easy for them.
Golden State Warriors
1. Out Rebounding Cleveland:
The Cavaliers top three rebounders are Kevin Love (11.1), Tristan Thompson (9.2), and LeBron James (8.6). The Warriors top three rebounders are Kevin Durant (8.3), Draymond Green (7.9), and Zaza Pachulia (5.9). The leading rebounder for the Warriors averaged less rebounds than the third leading rebounder for the Cavaliers this season. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are two of the leagues best rebounders. The Warriors have to keep the Cavs off the boards if they want to win this series. They can’t allow the Cavs to get extra scoring opportunities. With known shooters like Kyle Korver, Kyrie Irving, and J.R. Smith, the Cavs are a dangerous offensive team. Allowing them more chances to score won’t turn out well for the Warriors. They’ll need some extra effort if they want to out rebound, or at least get close to Cleveland on the boards.
2. Klay Thompson Finding His Shot:
In the regular season, Thompson averaged 22.3 points per game on 46.8% shooting from the field and 41.4% 3pt. His numbers have fallen quite a bit in the playoffs. In the playoffs, Thompson is scoring 14.4 points per game on 38.3% shooting from the field and 36.4% 3pt. The declined play of Thompson in the playoffs hasn’t effected the Warriors very much, as they’ve gone 12-0 so far, but Cleveland is a far better team than any of the teams they’ve played to this point. The Warriors will need everyone to be at their best in this series. I believe Curry and Durant will play well in every game, leaving Thompson as an x-factor. If Thompson returns to regular season form, I think the Warriors win the series. If he continues to play at his lower playoff level, it gives Cleveland one less thing to worry about on defense.
3. MVP Level Play From Former MVP’s:
Much like Cleveland will need their superstars to play like superstars, the Warriors will need their two former MVP’s to play like MVP’s. They need to match the play of Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The good news for the Warriors, they’ve been doing it throughout the entire playoffs. Kevin Durant is averaging 25.2 points per game, while shooting 55.6% from the field and 41.7% 3pt. Curry is averaging 28.6 points per game, while shooting 50.2% from the field and 43.1% 3pt. Draymond Green said he wants to annihilate the Cavaliers. The Warriors best chance to make that happen is through the play of Curry and Durant. Much like if LeBron or Kyrie have a bad night, if either Durant or Curry have an off night, it will make it that much easier for Cleveland to win the game.