Two heavyweights. Two league MVP’s. Two rookie head coaches. Two fan bases starving for championship celebrations. Two offenses and defenses that have been incredible in the postseason. Two players who headlined Finals Media Day because of their respective injuries, whether it was knee tendinitis or a concussion. What lies ahead in these NBA Finals?
Cleveland hasn’t won a professional sports title since 1964. The Warriors haven’t raised the trophy since 1975, and that was also the last time they’ve been to the Finals, which is the most years between Finals appearances in NBA history. Just nine teams have won the Finals since the 1979-80 season, so if you’re looking for parity, you’ve come to the right place.
Everyone is talking about the inexperience of the Warriors, and for good reason – no one on their roster has played in an NBA Finals. The last team with no Finals experience among any of its postseason players: 1997 Jazz. The ’91 Bulls were the last team to actually win the title under these circumstances.
This should be an epic and exhilarating NBA Finals. These aren’t flukes. Both teams are deservingly representing their conferences. Since Jan. 14, the Warriors have gone 48-12, including the playoffs. They’ve lost just three games at home this entire season. Oracle Arena has become one of the best home-court advantages, if not the best, in the league.
The Cavs are no slouch either. They’ve gone 46-15 since acquiring Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith (don’t forget Timofey Mozgov). It’s not happenstance that the team’s point differential has increased by 6.0 points, the amount of made threes have increased by 3.3 and their net rating by 8.1, because these two guys are capable of being impactful given the right situation.
We’re looking at a series where we’re going to see Draymond Green, Tristan Thompson, Shumpert and Matthew Dellavedova playing for bigger paydays this coming offseason (and possibly Smith as well). And rightfully so, these guys can all be considered X-factors.
During the postseason, LeBron, a four-time MVP, is averaging 27.6 points, 10.4 rebounds, 8.3 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.3 blocks. Meanwhile, the current MVP in Curry is averaging 29.2 points, 6.4 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 steals while shooting 43.7 percent beyond the arc.
Game 1 tips off tonight. In his career, King James is 0-3 in his career in Game 1’s on the road in the Finals. He’s also 0-4 in his career in the Finals sporting the number 23. But he’s the best player in the world, so everyone is expecting him to dominate.
As alluded to before, the Warriors have no such experience. What they do have is one of the all-time great teams in NBA history given their level of success. The stats validate that assertion and a championship would cement it.
Guess it’s time to give my pick now, right? Well, at the beginning of the season, I surmised that the Warriors would suffer a setback to some degree, as the coaching change was looked upon as something that could cause them to falter early. Mark Jackson brought this team back to relevancy and they played hard for him every night.
In addition to the questions about the coaching change, their bench also looked suspect. I thought they’d be a bottom-tier team in the playoffs that wouldn’t make it past the second round. Boy, was I wrong, as Kerr snapped his fingers and the team turned into an elite juggernaut.
But I don’t think I’ll be wrong about this. I’m picking Golden State to win this series in … FIVE GAMES. They’re the better team and their route to the Finals has been much more arduous than Cleveland’s. They’re battle tested and will cap off one of the greatest seasons ever. They’re the 14th team to win at least 65 games and reach the Finals. The previous 13 have all won.
Curry will win Finals MVP and add that to his trophy case. He nailed 13 straight threes to win the three-point contest back in MSG during All-Star Weekend, and I think he’ll get hot from downtown in this series. He also now holds the record for most threes ever in the playoffs. Isn’t it ironic that the last time the Warriors were in the Finals, not only had a Cleveland or Golden State player not been born yet, but the three-point shot wasn’t in existence. The Warriors and Cavs are Nos. 1 and 2 in three-point attempts per game in the playoffs.
LeBron is sixth all time on the playoff scoring list (4,805) and fourth all time on the playoff assist list (1,135). He’s the first ever non-Celtics player to compete in five consecutive NBA Finals and second player in NBA history to play in 10+ playoff games in 10 consecutive years (Scottie Pippen is the other). Can he do enough to will his team to victory in a series where his team is the heavy underdog? I don’t believe so, but you can never count him out.
It’s lights. It’s camera. It’s action. And it’s the commencement of the NBA Finals. Get ready fan bases. This should be a beauty.