There’s a lot of hype around the NBA Finals for many reasons. The first is, look who returned to Cleveland to get them a championship? It’s LeBron! And that he has been helping to do. James has been magnificent and the Cavs have responded. Next is, Stephen Curry, who is one of the biggest forces in the NBA. He is prodigious as a playmaker. Third is, that NBA Conference thing- which is better the East or the West? Most would say the West and that any team that has won the East has done so against much weaker clubs.
That’s the NBA hype and it’s right on target for a series that probably won’t go seven but may go five or even six. Here’s a look at five factors that will help to determine which team wins the NBA Championship.
LeBron and the Injured
James has proven to be not just a massive scoring machine, but also a huge rebounding, assist, and defensive asset. He’s the total player and a leader. It’s true that he is banged up, but who isn’t at this point? The big concern for Cleveland has to do with key injuries that have diminished play and a shallow bench. Both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are hurting, and there’s not a lot to be done about that.
The Cavs are pretty thin upfront and in the backcourt. Shooting guards J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert need to step up. But you also have to ask, how much can they be expected to make up for backcourt teammate Irving’s injury?
Curry and Company
When Curry took a major spill in the last playoff series there was huge cause for concern. Without Curry the Warriors are simply not the Warriors. He hits 45% of his shots and that’s no matter from what part of the court he’s launched the ball. In his last 10 games, he’s hit better than 50% of his field goal attempts. He’s good on 82% of his frees. Ironically, in what is a no contact sport, backcourt teammate Klay Thompson did suffer a concussion, but he has been cleared to play this Thursday. That’s good news for the Warriors, as his shooting acumen e is vital to the team.
Add to that the upfront power on offense and defense that Draymond Green brings, the big man play of Andrew Bogut, and the solid scoring chops of Harrison Barnes, and you’ve got a sound team that’s tough to beat.
Fast Break Versus Rebounding
The Warriors fast break is in place and functioning. To a degree, the upfront game of the Cavs is working; however Love’s injury puts a dent in it and tosses more weight on LeBron’s already heavy shoulders. In this series, Golden State’s fast break outperforms Cleveland’s banging game in front.
Defense and Bench Play
Cleveland has been able to negate every defense they have faced in the playoffs. But they have not faced the defense of the Warriors. These guys can double team opponents and still, somehow, cover the other four opposing players with three guys. They can switch without a hitch. Plus, they have teammates who can come off the bench and keep it together. Cleveland lacks this ability.
Inside Versus Outside Game
Which will dominate- the inside game of the Cavs or the outside shooting of the Warriors? The skinny is Golden State is simply in better physical shape right now than their counterparts. That simply is a fact. LeBron will be asked to do a lot in this final series. How much can he do?
The answer is a lot, but he’s about to face what is probably the best team in all of basketball, and despite the fact that he leads Cleveland in just about every major stat, it is very tough to win this series with a diminished starting five and a weak bench. Plus, State has a good enough inside game to contend with the Cavs.
The first two games are at Golden State. Cleveland must steal one to have a chance. They then play at Cleveland for the next two. If the Warriors leave Cleveland at 3-1 or even 2-2, they will be in command. The final three, if needed, alternate between the two venues with the seventh game, if needed, in California.
Game 1: Thursday, June 4 at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 2: Sunday, June 7 at Golden State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 3: Tuesday, June 9 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 4: Thursday, June 11 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)
Game 5: Sunday, June 14 at Golden State, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)*
Game 6: Tuesday, June 16 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)*
Game 7: Friday, June 19 at Golden State, 9 p.m. ET (ABC)*
Golden State has lost 3 games total at home. Two of those were in the regular season. Plus, they have an amazing ability to adjust after a loss. You can beat them once, but they are hard to beat twice. James is driven to win and his teammates can play inspired ball. But physically, by game five, they may simply be spent. The Warriors win this in five and are NBA Champs.