NBA Finals: The Best in the West

Golden State Warriors 5.30.18

Let’s start with the elephant in the room.

The Warriors are huge favorites to repeat as champions, just as they were when the season began. Very little has changed from last year for this absolutely loaded team that simply doesn’t have many weaknesses. This year has seen a good number of key injuries and the occasional cold streak, so they’re not invincible, but they’re still really, really good at almost everything. The Cavaliers, who managed to squeak out one win in last year’s finals, are definitely not the same squad, having lost Kyrie Irving, and looking more like a one-man show than any other finals team in many, many years. The consensus pick is another five game affair, with the Warriors capturing their third crown in four years. These teams are facing off for a record- setting fourth consecutive time, and either way, a legacy will be cemented, and another unfairly tarnished. Here’s my top three reasons why the Warriors will win this year’s finals, and two reasons why they might come up short.

Why Golden State will win

Too many options
The Warriors are a murderer’s row of scorers, especially from beyond the arc. They have two MVP’s on the roster and two other all-stars waiting in the wings. Their methodical attack consistently finds the open man and exposes weak, or slow defenders. They rank at, or near the top of almost every important offensive statistic, except points in the paint. These Warriors play team basketball, don’t get it twisted. There’s no lip service to the concept here. When asked if he was focused on winning his first Finals MVP award this year, two-time MVP Steph Curry replied, in part; “Who cares?”. Want to know who’s hit the most three-pointers this postseason? LeBron? Nope. Harden? Nope. Curry, or Durant from Golden State? Wrong. It’s Klay Thompson, who’s struck an insane fifty-five times from beyond the arc in the playoffs. The Cavs may have the best player on the court, but no one else from the Cleveland would make the Warriors starting lineup. Yes, I mean that. Sorry, Kevin Love, but it’s true.

Defensive dominance
Even without 2015 Finals MVP Andre Igoudala in the lineup (he’ll miss at least game one with a leg contusion), the Warriors are a lock down unit when they are focused. They had lapses early in several games during the conference finals, I don’t expect that sort of sloppiness in the finals. One thing they’ll be on the lookout for is switches that leave LeBron one on one with Curry. This matchup favors the Cavs, but LeBron will have to work hard to get his points against Green, Thompson, or Durant, who is a greatly improved defender, and has the length to make King James uncomfortable. Draymond Green, as always, is the anchor of this Warriors defense, he’s in the top three this postseason in rebounds, blocks and steals.

LeBron is tired
Let’s face it. LeBron is coming off an amazing seven game series against the Celtics that certainly exorcized some demons, and propelled him to his eighth NBA finals in a row. He’s also coming off the highest usage rate of his career, plus two seven game series in this playoff run. The guy may be superman, but the Celtic green looked a lot like kryptonite. King James looked absolutely gassed late in games, and why shouldn’t he? He’s never needed to carry a team like this on both ends of the floor. It took everything he had, and then some, to get past the Celtics. Against a team like the Warriors with very few weaknesses, it would be the greatest achievement of his career if LeBron could take the Cavaliers to the title. If he wants to win this one, he’ll need some help. JR Smith, Kyle Korver and Tristan Thompson will ALL need to find their groove for the Cavs to have a chance.

Why Golden State could lose

Laziness/Arrogance

Sounds obvious, but Golden State’s biggest flaw is that they can be lackadaisical and put themselves into holes, assuming that they can turn up the heat and dig out. Slow defense, late switches, too many turnovers and falling back into isolation on offense helped bring Houston back into the conference finals when Golden State looked ready to steamroll them. They’ve proven that they can turn it on, but have yet to play a solid forty-eight minutes. If the Warriors trail and LeBron gets some help, they might not be able to play catchup, as they often do in the third quarter. If Kyle Korver and JR Smith get hot at the wrong time, the Cavs can win some games.

LeBron just isn’t human
While the Warriors have been an unstoppable force, putting Harden in the rear view (barely), they seem destined to clash with the immovable object that is LeBron James every year in the finals. If there’s anyone who knows Golden State inside and out, it’s King James. He’s the most dominant physical player of all time, and he has one of the highest basketball IQ’s you’ll ever see. Expect to see Draymond Green (and Igoudala, if he returns) playing some head games to get James out of his comfort zone. If LeBron can continue his amazing run, and get some help, anything is possible.

Prediction:
With Andre Igoudala on the sidelines, King James can certainly take over some games. With that being said, it’s probably just too big a hill for him to climb on his own, especially with Kevin Love still in the concussion protocol. I see Golden State winning their third title in four years without too much drama. Warriors in five sounds about right.

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