In the beginning, there were 30 teams vying to become the best in the NBA. Many teams had their stars and role players. Coaches strategized as best as they could. In the end, there was one inevitable outcome.
Only two remain for basketball supremacy. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors truly emerged as the best the NBA has to offer. June 4 is where we will witness which team takes their first step towards immortality.
Before we analyze these two teams, let’s take a look back at how they got here.
After taking the Central Division, the Cavs earned their No.2 spot in the Eastern Conference. But it would come at a price. Love suffered a dislocated shoulder in the first round and continues to miss the entire postseason. Irving is dealing with nagging foot and knee injuries.
James would’ve had to carry the load on his own if it hasn’t been for his teammates. Tristan Thompson took over quite nicely for Love. Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith also filled their roles well, backing up James. Even Matthew Dellevedova became a serviceable role player when needed.
Thanks to their efforts, James and the Cavs are four games away from bringing a championship to Cleveland. Only one team stands in their way.
The Warriors had coaching controversy when Marc Jackson was unceremoniously fired by the Warriors’ administrative staff. They hired Steve Kerr, a rookie coach who won five world titles as a player (three with Michael Jordan and two with David Robinson, among other greats).
Kerr was coached under the likes of Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. Clearly, their winning ways rubbed off on Kerr.
The Warriors went on to hold the best record in the NBA. Their All-Star guard Stephen Curry became the MVP and deservedly so. He and fellow All-Star Klay Thompson became a threat that could not be stopped over time. They’re also filled with hungry veterans including Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut. Mixed in are tough young players, such as Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green.
After clinching the Pacific Division, the Warriors made it look easy as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. But they too would feel the injury bug. Thompson, their second best player, allegedly suffered a concussion. His status for the Finals is uncertain, but don’t expect him to play.
Now, these two teams will do battle on the court. They’re more similar than you think.
Both teams have rookie coaches in Golden State’s Kerr and Cleveland’s David Blatt. Both are led by their star players.
Both have great depth in their rosters. As mentioned earlier, Smith and Shumpert emerged as weapons. They take off the pressure from James and Irving while making it easier for their team.
Golden State is more of an even mix. They, like Cleveland, can score in the paint as well as hitting the long three.
So what will be the X-factor? That’s simply experience but not in the players.
Granted, the Cavs have four players that have NBA Finals history. Besides James are his teammates Kendrick Perkins, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller and James Jones. The Warriors have none.
Ironically, it’s the coaching that will make the difference.
Think of it as the Denver Broncos vs. the Seattle Seahawks, Super Bowl 48. The Seahawks used a great strategy to neutralize Peyton Manning, the unofficial player-coach of the team.
This too will happen here, despite who plays. James is their unofficial player-coach, changing plays to help his team. Even though James has credited Blatt for leading them this far, James is the ring general rallying the troops to war. All the Warriors need to do is to pressure him. And that’s happened before.
The San Antonio Spurs handled James very well last year. It led to the Spurs winning their fifth title in 15 seasons. In fact, their last two titles were off James, with 2007’s victory while he was in Cleveland.
Kerr isn’t a fool. He’ll strategize quite nicely to combat with James’ demeanor and has the players to do it. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. If they cannot shut down James, Cleveland’s prodigal son will finish his mission.
My Prediction: Warriors in six
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Copyright @ 2007
*stats from basketball-reference.com