The Golden State Warriors just crawled from a dark hole with incredible and triumphant feats of basketball fury. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been been patiently waiting, loaded and fully healthy. These NBA finals are far from a repeat of last year, as the tired Warriors will face up against a transformed Cleveland team that paces and spaces, with less reliance on last year’s bully-ball. There are also new questions, like how the Dubs will play after a truly legendary performance against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that took them to the limit? Here’s why each team can win.
Golden State Warriors:
The fact that Klay Thompson and Steph Curry play on the same team is historically unfair, as these two will surely stack up as two of the five greatest shooters of all time. So it can’t be ignored that at any point, no matter what you do, either one of these guys might decide to casually open the Ark of the Covenant, like in Game Six of the Western Conference Finals, when Klay dropped ELEVEN THREES. If the Thunder couldn’t handle it, the Cavs certainly don’t have the defensive tools.
Steve Kerr and the players acquitted themselves equally well in the Conference finals, as the team demonstrated that they can handle changing on the fly to adapt to the matchups. When it became clear that Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala needed to swap places for the sake of Iguodala’s defense of Durant, the team was able to do that. Cool heads prevailed, egos were checked, and they showed that they can take a champion’s knockout blow and come back swinging.
Draymond vs. Any Cavalier Not Named LeBron
Save for LeBron, I don’t think there’s a single player on the Cavs that has either the mental or testicular fortitude, both literally speaking, to withstand the veritable onslaught that is Draymond Green. How many times did we see Draymond intensely staring down someone nine feet taller than him in the last series, fearless and victorious? Steven Adams is as tough as they come, and held up admirably. Kevin Love? Super-talented marshmallow. Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Tristan Thompson? Perhaps only the latter has the physique to match up with Draymond’s octo-hands, but doesn’t have the offensive skill. He’ll be in their heads, grills, and business.
Although a marshmallow, Kevin Love gets buckets, passes the ball sharply, and rebounds. Pair that with Kyrie Irving’s health, and that’s a major duo of talent to buoy LeBron. He’s the star, but now he can take up different spots on the floor, especially in the post with Kevin Love providing space in the corner. With that capability, the floor’s balance changes, and Matthew Dellavedova’s hideous game stays on the bench for longer.
It has to matter that the Cavaliers no longer hate their coach. For all of David Blatt’s competence, it’s well-established that he was disliked by the players, and that he was openly ignored in time-outs. We all saw it live. I think LeBron “changing the plays” is an idiotic narrative since this is something entrusted to almost every team’s best player, no less the best player on earth. But still, players seemed to cross the line from dislike to disrespect, and that’s not a formula for success. It’s unclear to me whether it was LeBron’s willpower that helped to right the ship against the Raptors in the Eastern Finals, or whether Tyronn Lue simply reminded the players that they were much better than the opponent. Either way, they got there with relatively little pain involved. They got through the entirety of these playoffs by playing coherent, then crisp, and then deadly offense. Something is clearly working.
If LeBron is one thing, he’s aware. No, wait — it’s great at basketball. Regardless, he’s extremely aware of the narrative in this playoffs and how this might affect the story of his career. LeBron is a multifaceted ingenious billionaire who is arguably the greatest athlete of all time — he knows what people are saying about Steph, about the Warriors and greatness. He knows what it would mean for him to tear down that hegemony like the totem poles being pulled down by unruly campers at Kamp Krusty. Mix that awareness with the indefatigable brilliance of his game, that he’s at once the living-breathing best passer in the world and the most unstoppable penetrator in the game, and the results could be deadly for the Dubs.
Who will triumph, and who will fall apart? Will LeBron’s greatness overcome two-time MVP Steph Curry and the all-time force that is a 73-win juggernaut? The NBA Finals begin June 2nd, so stay with ScoreBoredSports for all takes, both hot and too hot to handle.