The NBA Finals begin June 1, and people have been waiting nearly a year to see the rubber match in the trilogy between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. We all know what’s at stake for these two teams and the amount of talent on each roster. We also know when and where to watch all of the games.What everybody wants to know is who will win? Well instead of making you wait until the finals are over, I will let you know right now. Let’s look at some of the key matchups and scenarios and see who has the upper hand.
When Golden State has the Ball
Depending on the lineup, the matchups will be the important thing to watch. The main question being, who is going to guard Kevin Durant? LeBron James is obviously capable, but that would take his focus away from the offensive side. If somebody like Iman Shumpert or J.R. Smith is guarding Durant, he will easily shoot over them. The Cavs could dust off somebody like Derrick Williams who has the size and athleticism to guard Durant, but he has not seen much time in the playoffs. Kevin Love could also give Durant some trouble with his size, but Durant will be able to take him off the dribble. If the Warriors are playing with a center on the floor, Tristan Thompson may be able to slide over and help. But if the Warriors go with their lineup of death, Tyronn Lue will have to decide if he wants to keep Thompson on the floor or go with somebody like Channing Fyre or Richard Jefferson off the bench.
Durant has been the piece all year that makes this team so difficult to guard, and if LeBron takes it upon himself to stop Durant, the rest of the team will need to step up and lock down the other players, as well as on the offensive end.
When Cleveland has the Ball
When Cleveland has the ball, they will try to get their three best players in their ideal scoring situation. Of course, they try to do that every game, but it is especially important against the swarming defense of the Warriors. For LeBron, he wants to be matched up in the post on a smaller defender or on the perimeter against one of the Warrior centers. If James is in the post against Curry or on the perimeter against Javale McGee or Zaza Pachulia, he should score every time. If Kyrie Irving looks up and sees Steph Curry across from him, he should feel like he can get to the rim every time. If he sees Klay Thompson or anybody else, he should look to drive and dish and try to find a mismatch.
The real X-factor is going to be Kevin Love. He struggled in the finals last year, but he is playing with more confidence now. If he can start hitting shots and expand the Warriors defense, Thompson should be able to rebound and get second chances.
If It’s Close Game
Both teams have a guy who you want with the ball at the end of the game. For the Warriors, Kevin Durant should be the go-to option at the end of a game, especially if somebody other than LeBron is guarding him. You could maybe see a Curry-Durant or a Durant- Green pick and roll to try to get some mismatches, but likely Durant is going to get the ball in a 1-4 set and take the last shot.
For the Cavaliers, the person who takes the last shot probably should not be LeBron, unless he is going to the basket. Kyrie Irving is maybe the best isolation point guard in the league, and a matchup with him guarded by Curry could result just like last year . A LeBron-Irving pick and roll could get James matched up with Curry, which would be ideal for an end of game play.
The advantage here probably goes to the Warriors, but any end of game scenario should be exciting and each team will get their best options the best shot possible.
If Draymond Green Get’s Suspended Again
Kevin Durant may just kill Draymond. The Warriors would have likely won the championship last year if Green did not get suspended last year, and he will likely be smart enough not to make the same mistake again. But in the moment, and if LeBron’s groin looks kickable, you never know.
If LeBron Gets Hurt
I think it will be a close series. Adding a top five player to a team that was already up 3-1 gives the appearance of a quick series. But Kevin Love appears to be very comfortable with his role now, and Kyrie understands what it feels like to be the killer on the team, and he knows when he needs to turn it on. That being said, the Cavaliers will still need a little more. It might be the bench, it might be 40 point per game LeBron, but the Cavaliers need a little more to overcome the addition of Durant and the likelihood that Green is not suspended again. Final prediction Warriors in 7. Kevin Durant MVP.
COED Staff Predictions
Ned Swain – Warriors in 6: Draymond Green MVP
Louis Baragona – Cavaliers in 4: Tristan Thompson MVP
Eric Italiano – Warriors in 7: Kevin Durant MVP