By Jack Beck ’18
After meaningless early-round series and embarrassing blowouts in the lamest conference finals ever, NBA fans will finally be able to enjoy the competition they have been waiting for: Warriors vs. Cavaliers part three.
ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the Golden State Warriors a 93 percent chance of avenging last season’s humiliation. The same system also says that the Warriors have a 64 percent chance of beating the Cavaliers in four or five games.
The Cavaliers are 12-1 in the playoffs with nearly the best point differential of all time, 16.1 points according to nba.com, and an offense scoring at an impressive rate of almost 98 points per game. Even though these teams were worse than Golden State, a team doesn’t win by 40-ish points on the road against the number one seed without having the capability of historic greatness.
Lebron James is the best player in the league. There is no doubt about it. Kevin Love is playing perhaps his best basketball of his Cleveland tenure. However, the key to the Cavaliers’ win is the player who won them the series last year — Kyrie Irving. According to Basketball- Reference, Irving averaged over 27 points, almost four assists and four rebounds leading the Cavs into Game 7. He then hit the go-ahead three pointer with 50 seconds left to win the finals for Cleveland.
The Warriors, on the other hand, seem to be everyone’s favorites to win this series. They’ve been a perfect 12-0 on their way to the finals and haven’t even been challenged by any of their opponents. The Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and a depleted San Antonio Spurs had no answers.
Steph Curry is arguably the best point guard in the league, and definitely the best shooter in the league. He is joined by a trio of Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, who bring a defensive tenacity and offensive explosiveness that is truly unmatched by any other team. Klay Thompson will have the job of sticking with Kyrie Irving.
And then there’s Lebron James vs. Kevin Durant, a matchup of the two best players in the NBA. The two have played five games against each other in the playoffs, with Lebron taking four of those games. Obviously, Kevin Durant didn’t have the team he does now, but the numbers are definitely still intriguing. James averaged nearly a triple-double while limiting Durant to only two assists per game. This win-loss ratio may concern the Warriors as they look to Durant to compete with James.
The Warriors will rely on their extraordinary offense, which is averaging over 115 points per 100 possessions per game this postseason, according to teamrankings.com. The Cavaliers, however, are putting up over 120 points per 100 possessions per game, which is even better. The key to the Cavs’ efficiency is the three-ball. Between James, Love, Irving, Kyle Korver, JR Smith and Channing Frye, the team is operating at a ridiculous percentage of 46.8 percent from long range.
The key for the Warriors is obviously to stop this. But, so far in the playoffs, the Cavaliers have been able to play through all of their rotations without any serious pressure. Shortening up the rotations, given Golden State’s star power, can present plenty of problems for the Cavs.
This series could very easily go to seven games, though the Warriors do have home-court advantage. It will be interesting to see how the teams adapt after the first few games. This will definitely be one of the most exciting finals we have seen in the past years, even after boring playoffs so far.