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Its East meets West as superstars collide in this year’s NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors has become a reoccurring theme for the past four seasons.
This year’s installment will have all the great storylines as previous season surrounding legacies and dynasties. After surviving a pair of game sevens where both teams were down double digits, all players involved are itching to get this matchup underway.
The Cavaliers had a tougher time getting to the finals than in previous seasons. LeBron James has carried his team all season and the load couldn’t be heavier.
Every game it seems we are wondering which one of his teammates will step up and help the Cavs to victory. They will need all hands on deck if they have any hopes of defeating the Warriors.
Golden State had a tough time getting the finals themselves. They have gotten away from the free flowing offense that they usually implement and have found it difficult to score at times.
Still, the Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green combination has never lost a playoff series together. They will have to clean up their act and continue to play well on the road if they want to knock off the Cavaliers for a second straight season.
Keys to the game – Cleveland:
Cleveland will have to do their best to either hold a lead or be close at halftime. The Warriors have made a habit of making staggering third quarter scoring runs. The Cavaliers must try stopping that by attacking the rim for buckets and trying to draw fouls. Slowing the game down will take the air out of those fast paced runs and it will also keep the Cavaliers away from trying to trade three pointers with Golden State.
Cleveland need to make the Warriors an isolation, one-on-one team. In the Conference Finals, they struggled when the ball wasn’t being moved around and the extra pass wasn’t being made. Cleveland has to do everything in their power to break that rhythm and make the Warriors think hero-ball is the way to go.
Head Coach Tyron Lue will have to trust his bench more. James logged 288 minutes played in the the Conference Finals while Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Rodney Hood combined to play a total of 203 minutes.
Lue will have to squeeze serious minutes out of those first two guys and let Hood out of whatever doghouse he’s in. He’s going to need all hands on deck to keep his starters fresh, maybe even dust off Jose Calderon for a spell or two.
The Cavaliers will have to get over whatever demons they have on the road. During Conference Finals the team averaged 112 points per game at home and only 86.7 on the road. They have to steal a road game in order to win and those scoring lulls won’t cut it versus the heavy arsenal of the Warriors.
Keys to the game – Golden State:
The Warriors will have to keep their pace in overdrive and score heavy on the fast break. Cleveland has shown signs of fatigue in the second half, so keeping the running to a maximum works in the Warriors’ favor. By keeping the ball moving, they get all their shooters involved and they stay away from forcing shots late in the clock.
Guarding James won’t be walk in the park (he averaged 33.6 points per game in the Conference Finals) in this series. They should stay away from letting him go one-on-one with any of their players.
Trap him, double team him and do whatever they need to to keep players right in his face. The other Cleveland players will have to prove they can beat them and letting James go off for 35-40 points will give everybody else confidence they can win.
Keeping their turnovers to a minimum and not committing cheap fouls is a necessity. In the seven games played, the Warriors had 92 turnovers and 139 personal fouls. Giving the Cavaliers extra possessions and free throws will tighten the gap in talent between the two teams.
Matchup to watch:
Durant versus James will be one for the ages. This will be the third time they meet in the finals overall and they each have won a title versus the other. James must show why he’s called the “King”. Durant has tasted success and he wants more no matter who’s in his way. Both are not only playing against each other, but history as well.
We’ve underestimated the Cavaliers all season and they’ve proven us wrong time after time in these playoffs. We’ve called the Warriors unstoppable and they have proven that isn’t the case. With that being said the Warriors are a better team, but I wouldn’t just count out Cleveland. I can see this series being tied at some point before its over, but I’ll take the Warriors to win the series 4-2.