After an amazing three straight games from the Splash Brothers, I think we are going to see much of the same heading into the finals when the Golden State Warriors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers, in a rematch of last years finals. I don't want to discount what LeBron and Co have done so far in the playoffs, steamrolling through the East, and LeBron reaching his sixth (!) straight NBA Finals. However, did anyone expect any less of this Cavs team in a middling at best Eastern Conference?
Tonight will be a real test, and surprisingly, I think the Cavs will steal Game 1 in Golden State with fresh legs. If they don't, they will be in a world of pain and could potentially lose the series in five games. Since I do think the Cavs win the opening game, I see the series unfolding like this:
Game 1: CLE over GSW. Point differential around 14 after free throws. It won't be a blow out but it will be pretty clear from the start that LBJ is ready.
Game 2: GSW over CLE. Point differential around 20, clear blowout. Draymond Green will be the MVP of this game and there will be some great shooting from the Splash Bros.
Game 3: GSW over CLE in OT. Point differential around 3. This is going to be a tight game, back and fourth, but ultimately Curry will win it for GSW in OT to steal back home court.
Game 4: CLE over GSW. Point differential around 9. Kevin Love has his only great game of the series and gets some solid help from the bench to even it heading back into GSW.
Game 5: GSW over CLE. Point differential around 7. Another close game but I think we see another effort from Klay here like we did in Game 6 of the WCF.
Game 6: GSW over CLE. Point differential around 14. Steph does everything in his power to avoid a Game 7, having the night of his career and the three ball just does too much to CLE who end up devastated much like OKC were in Game 7 of the WCF.
Who knows what will actually happen but there are actual reasons I see the Warriors coming away with their second straight championship.
First, Cleveland can't hide Kyrie on the defensive side. For the most part, Kyrie has proven to be a "D" grade defender at best. When he actually tries maybe he reaches a "B-", however, he isn't going to be at that "B-" level throughout this series. Whoever Kyrie guards, whether it be Klay or Steph, Kyrie will have a negative point deferential during that matchup. I imagine Kyrie and Klay guarding each other with Steph and Shumpert guarding each other (J.R. Smith should never ever be in a starting line-up, but coaches never do what I tell them to anyways.) Cleveland can fight against this unfavorable matchup by offsetting Kyrie and giving him more time with the second unit, similar to the way LeBron helped the Cavs second unit in the previous two series'.
The next issue for Cleveland, again includes Kyrie's lack of defensive skills. However, this time it has more to do with any playing time Kevin Love is going to get. Whoever, Love is guarding just needs to set a screen on Kyrie and you force two awful defenders in a situation where one of them needs to step out on Klay or Steph. The Three-ball is Golden State's offense and whenever Love and Kyrie are on the floor at the same time it will be easy money for the Warriors.
What Cleveland needs to do to have a chance in this series is to hit threes like they did against Atlanta, and have an outstanding series from Tristan Thompson, who (along with LeBron) will have to keep Draymond Green from making the big play that gives the Warriors a boost in energy any given night. Lastly, it comes down to the bench. There were multiple spurts where Kerr deferred to his bench, even when things were looking sticky against OKC. This gave the starters the rest they needed that Durant and Westbrook didn't have and it showed late in games.
In the end, the three-ball from GSW, and how they are able to make shots that most would consider to be almost unmakeable is going to be too devastating for LeBron and Cleveland. LeBron does not do well when falling behind. He gets frustrated and defers too often when what his team really needs is for him to take it in strong. Half the time, when Cleveland is down and LeBron drives, he has decided to pass it before he even gets to the lane. After watching teammates miss open shots (which they will at some point) Cleveland will go back to the other end, see Curry hit a remarkable shot and it will be game over for the Cavs from a mental stand point. When this happens, Cleveland will resort to throwing up three's in an effort to match Golden State. They may be able to trade three's with Golden State for spurts, but when matched up against Curry, who will most likely go down as the greatest three-point shooter ever, and Thompson, who is probably the second best three-point shooter in the league today, you are inevitably in a losing battle.