Warriors (fan) vs Cavaliers (fan)
By Andre Kidd, a Warriors Fan and Jeff Harris, a Cavaliers Fan
After a strenuous run through the Western Conference playoffs, the Golden State Warriors once again find themselves in the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a rocky road for the Dubs to make it to this point, having to deal with the untimely injury of star player Stephen Curry. The squad was able to get through the first two rounds with relative ease even with Curry missing a total of 6 games during the course of those two series. During the Western Conference finals, facing up against the big and talented Oklahoma City Thunder, the Warriors found themselves out of synch and as a result almost got bounced from the postseason losing 3 of the first 4 games. In just the nick of time, the Warriors rallied behind the excellent defense and superb shooting that won them 73 regular season games. They pulled off the improbable series comeback winning the series 4 to 3. In the final two games of the series the Warriors got back to their old ways defending and I feel they have finally gotten their shooting groove back.
The Oklahoma City Thunder definitely gave the Dubs a run for their money and probably had the best matchup and tools to beat the reigning champions. Now the Warriors face off against the unstoppable force known as LeBron James and company, and they are no slouch either. The Cavaliers have bulldozed their way thru the competition in the East losing only two games the entire playoffs. After sweeping the first two series, they are well rested and playing some of their best basketball all year. Everyone is healthy so things could play out a lot different than last year’s finals showdown. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love both hurt last year, LeBron James had to perform superhero type feats averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game during that series. James scored 40 points three times in the 6 games of the finals series. This time around, James will not have to carry the burden of bringing Cleveland it’s first NBA basketball championship ever solely on his shoulders.
The addition of Irving and Love makes the Cleveland Cavaliers a much more dangerous opponent to the Warriors. They make them a much better shooting team and will allow them to spread the floor on the Warriors in ways they could not do last year. In 2015, the only outside threat that Cleveland had to help Lebron was JR Smith who was streaky, yet inconsistent. Kyrie and Love will allow James to drive the lane and kick out to dependable jump shooters whenever help comes. This could be a problem for the Warriors. Lebron James is hard enough to stop without two knockdown shooters that can play on the perimeter. And if that wasn’t enough they also acquired Channing Frye who just so happens to be shooting 57.8 from 3-point range throughout the playoffs. Yes, this will be a very different type of series than last year’s battle.
While the Cavs are a legit basketball team, the Warriors didn’t attain a 73–9 record by accident and they surely didn’t win 3 straight games facing elimination just to give up now. The same things that it took the Warriors to get to this point will be the same things needed to get past this point and raise the O’Brien trophy for a second straight year. They will need to defend, defend, and defend some more. More than likely the Warriors will concede to allow LeBron James to get his points. He can’t beat this team alone. That was proven last year. They will need to throw a few different defenders at him like Andre Igoudala and Harrison Barnes in order to keep him working. Perhaps even try to tire him. The goal should just be to make his shots as hard as possible and hope that he misses. The most important dynamic defensively will be to close out on those shooters they have. Do not allow Irving, Love, and Frye to get those open looks from deep. If the Cavs are able to score the 3-ball consistently it will neutralize the Warriors’ greatest weapon. They cannot allow that to happen. In addition the Warriors will need to work a lot harder on the glass. The Dubs were outrebounded nearly every game in the Western Conference Finals against the Thunder and it resulted in a ton of second chance points. If Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s shot isn’t falling, then those rebounds are going to play a big role in the outcome of this series. One of the last key points that the Warriors will need to capitalize on is the play of Draymond Green. He will have a lot better matchup going up against Love than those trees he had to deal with in OKC. Kevin Love is great shooter and a good rebounder but his defense is suspect. Hopefully Green can exploit that weakness with his versatility and have some success offensively.
All in all this has the makings of being a ridiculously entertaining championship series with the two best teams being led by arguably the two best players on the planet. It should be a battle for the ages and I can’t wait for it to begin. The Cavs have proven themselves and appear ready, but I feel the Warriors just have too much fire-power and stellar defense. The team chemistry and depth of the Warriors will prevail and all will be right with the world. See you in Oakland at the parade!
The Warriors are the favorites and deserve to be the favorites. They won 73 games this season and just accomplished the inevitable in coming back down 3–1 to the Thunder. Some people think it is a huge red flag that it took the Warriors 7 games to beat a sub 55 win team. On the contrary, the Warriors showed once again that when they need to take it up a notch they can,and did so by winning 3 straight against a team that was playing incredibly well in the Thunder.
The Thunder have 2 fantastically amazing key offensive players, but then just a group of guys. The Cavs are an unstoppable and deep offensive juggernaut. Their 8th man, Channing Frye, is 26–45 on 3-pointers, thus far in the run. Frye has an Effective FG% of 81.8% which is the highest ever in the Playoffs. The Warriors cannot lock into just shutting down two Cavs players and let the rest of the bunch go unguarded because that bunch will beat them. And beat them bad.
While you can argue the Cavs offense is just as good at the Warriors offense, the Warriors defense is a step above. The Warriors had the number 1 defense in the league last year and when they need to step in up to the next level, they can be just as smothering this year. The Thunder had an Offensive Rating of 111 through the first five games, but with the series on the line, the last two games the Warriors held the Thunder to an Offensive Rating of 103.
It is becoming universally thought that the Cavs will be run of the floor due to the poor defensive ability of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
This season Kevin Love’s Defensive Win Shares was a +3.8 and his Defensive Box Plus/Minus was a +0.9. In the Cavaliers Christmas game against the Warriors he had a Defensive Rating of 88. To put that in perspective the Spurs who has one of the best defensive seasons ever had a defensive rating of 99. For those non analytical fans out there, the lower the Defensive Rating, the better. When the Warriors run out their Death lineup, if you put Kevin Love on Harrison Barnes or Iguodala, and Lebron on Draymond to switch on the Steph/Dray pick and roll then the Cavs will be fine.
Kyrie Irving on the other hand was the only Cavalier to have a negative Defensive Box/Plus Minus with a -1.8. He is a train wreck defensively 99.9% of the time. However the “.1%” came during Game 1 of the NBA finals against the Warriors and Steph Curry. In Game 1 last year, Kyrie had 4 steals, 2 blocks (including a potential game winner from Steph), and a Defensive Rating of 106 which is about as good as it gets when your primary assignment is Mr. Curry. If Kyrie can channel this defensive potential he flashes (okay, flashed only once but still) then the Cavs defense will hold up just fine.
The Cavs are going into the Finals with the 3rd highest Net Rating, adjusted for opponents level to eliminate the “East is weak” argument, in NBA Playoffs history. The other five teams, including the 01 Laker and 96 Bulls, in the top 6 all went on to win the NBA Finals. Time to make that 6 out of 6.