For months now, whether it was with my friends, social media, and even myself, I’ve been debating how the outcome of this year’s finals matchup will turn out… and I’ve genuinely never had such a hard time choosing something.
This series, the finals trilogy between Cleveland and Golden State, can go down as an absolute CLASSIC, possibly above last year’s madness, with all the implications involved. It’s been a pretty freaking boring and predictable year in the NBA this season – and we surely need a great series between these two powerhouses to save the season, just like the situation in the recent NFL season.
So no, I will not be making a finals pick this year since I truly want to not only enjoy this series, but look at it from a neutral perspective overall (besides the fact that I can’t even decide between myself). But here I’ll be breaking down the basketball part of the series, and of course the implications involved – which put this on a whole other level.
Breaking Down the Teams:
It’s a pretty similar buildup for both teams up to this point: pure domination through not only the regular season, which came as a joke to both teams, but the playoffs where they both had record-breaking campaigns. The Warriors went a record 12-0 en-route to the finals, stamping through the Blazers, Jazz and Spurs – following a 67-15 record this season. The Cavs on the other hand powered through the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics with an 11-1 playoff record – as the one blemish was handed to them by Boston. Both teams are coming in full-steam ahead, filled with confidence (and surely plenty of trash talk) and a strong familiarity between each other on the big stage.
Cleveland, lead by their big three in LeBron, Kyrie and Love – possess something that their opponent doesn’t, which can ultimately control this series which is a very simple thing – pure depth of the roster. Sharp shooters in Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and their mid-season acquisition in Kyle Korver, and great locker room, and on-court veterans in Richard Jefferson and Deron Williams, provide this team with a strong bench-game, which will prove crucial once matched up with the Warriors weak bench and dead parts of the game, which can make or break a game as each one is extremely crucial.
Golden State, meanwhile, has the obvious star power no other team has ever possessed – in their four all-stars of KD, Curry, Dray and Klay. But besides matching up with the stars across the court, they must prove strong with an inconsistent and inexperienced bench, which will prove pivotal. Iguodala and Livingston will provide crucial veteran depth for them, but outside of that it’s young guys filling out the bench plus inconsistent big-men in Zaza Pachulia and Javale McGee.
Sure it may look like I’m putting down Golden State just because of their bench, which is not the case – as their star power is unmatched and they’ve proved almost invincible against the best team in the league throughout the year. But that depth problem will prove pivotal in this series.
We are faced with several questions concerning the teams overall, but one truly sticks out to myself:
Q: Will a key injury to star or severe downplay make or break the series?
A: Yes, and for sure… An injury will not just hurt Cleveland just because it’ll look like two stars on four, but Golden State will have to replace one of their’s with a much poorer player – a luxury that the Cavs don’t seriously have to worry about. And downplay to one of the stars can indeed play a huge part overall – just as we saw last season with Curry having an off series and the Cavs taking advantage of it. We’ll just have to play it out.
Lastly, we have to look at arguably the most important part of this – the implications behind this…
- Revenge: The Warriors are hungrier than ever after infamously letting last year’s one slip away while blowing a 3-1 lead to Cleveland. They will take every minute like it’s the last, just how they wish they did last year. The Cavs meanwhile want to take the lead between them and take a “2-1 Overall” lead against them.
- KD: Kevin Durant’s Warriors future, NBA future and of course his legacy heavily leans on this series. He is again on a one year deal, and does have the option to take a title and leave on that, a Darrelle Revis-esc move as he did with New England. Or even the opposite – maybe a win will tempt him to stay, or a loss will scare the Warriors away from super teams. That’s another story to be determined following all of this – but what we can say is that legacy will depend on this. KD is a phenomenal player, and the second best right now under LeBron. But a tingles career will have NBA fanatics scratching their heads forever on the topic of his legacy. It doesn’t matter how he does it, whether people would consider helping this super team become better deserving of a “*” next to his name when it comes to rings, a ring is a ring and he needs one for the sake of his career. In his second finals battle with LeBron, now on different teams than last time, he must take over and prove his own.
- LeBron’s legacy: Like many of the smart people in the sports world, the MJ vs LeBron “G.O.A.T.” debate is unfair with the differentiation in era’s, play styles, games played, competition, team help, etc. – but he could strengthen his case as the best statistical and overall player to ever live with a victory over a team truly built to beat not only the Cavs, but himself. A win will give him his fourth ring on eight tries (comparing with Jordan’s 4/4 at his age) – and two massive ones over Golden State. Put the stats aside, LeBron needs legendary moments like the legends of all sports have had, to solidify his legacy, just like his infamous “the block” play last year in the closing moments of Game 7. Here is a perfect opportunity for one – a clutch moment against a bitter rival in KD and the Warriors, looking to put him and his super team down. But we know he’ll be up for the task as he always is, and will look to lead and succeed like no one else can.
There isn’t much more to say but sit back, and enjoy the ride as this will be a hell of a matchup and certainly one to remember…