Coke vs Pepsi.
Marvel vs DC.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors.
The world is filled with rivalries that dictate our culture. Heated battles between two undeniable behemoths that play out before us in commercials, movie theaters and sporting events. The very soul of the public consciousness on the line in the battle between an irresistible force and an immovable object.
Aside from my melodramatics, the Cavaliers and Warriors will meet in their third consecutive NBA Finals, with each having claimed the Larry O’Brien Trophy once in the past two seasons. The Warriors took advantage of a few key injuries and prevailed in 2015 while the Cavs had a magical comeback down 3-1 to win it all in 2016.
That’s all well and good but the real question is who wins this tiebreaker? Yes, the Warriors look like the class of the NBA heading into the Finals but it’s time for the Cavaliers to accomplish the rare back-to-back championships. Oddsmakers disagree, as the Cavs are +200 underdogs to win the series, but here are just a few reasons LeBron James and company stand tall once again.
Cavaliers Are Shooting Stupid Good
There simply isn’t a better shooting team than the Cavaliers. During the playoffs, Cleveland is shooting 50.7 percent from the floor and 43.5 percent from deep, both of which pace the NBA. The deep threat from the Cavaliers has been unbelievable with James, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Korver all averaging more than four 3-point attempts per game.
How can you possibly guard a team that has that many shooters firing and hitting at such a high clip? Statistics say that the Warriors are capable of doing so but none of the teams they have faced so far in the playoffs had as many threats all shooting so well. And none of the teams the Warriors have faced so far were able to send out a lineup that could feature four legitimate deep ball threats at once.
Shooting at the four spot will be critical for the Cavaliers in this series, as Love and Channing Frye went a combined 5-for-12 in the team’s victory over the Warriors earlier this season compared to 0-for-4 in the loss. Luckily for the Cavaliers, Love and Frye are both shooting over 47 percent from downtown while averaging a combined 9.7 attempts per game. With Draymond Green potentially finding himself guarding LeBron James or moving inside to the five at times, Love and Frye hitting good looks from outside will be important.
The Cavaliers are shooting too damn good right now. They are putting up historic numbers and though the Warriors defense is good, I can’t see them limiting Cleveland over the span of a series.
A Defense That Is Better Than You Think
You’ve already heard this countless times throughout the season but people are still harping on the Cavaliers’ supposed lack of defense. Don’t get me wrong, they weren’t especially good in their own half of the court throughout the regular season but they have been stellar in the playoffs.
Over the past two rounds (against the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics), the Cavaliers have held opponents to 100.7 points per game, 43.9 percent shooting from the field and 34.2 percent from deep. If they would have averaged those stats in the regular season, the Cavaliers would have had a top-three defense in the league.
A lot of people tend to point to the Cavaliers’ transition defense as being the biggest issue but they have actually fared very well in that regard throughout the playoffs. Plus, the Warriors’ transition offense has been downright terrible in the postseason.
I shouldn’t even need to say a damn word here. It’s LeBron James. If you have the best basketball player in the world on your team, you have a chance to win. James has been absurd in these playoffs by averaging 26.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 8.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game, pacing the team in every single one of those categories.
The Warriors couldn’t stop him last season, as LeBron averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists in the 2016 Finals while routinely being guarded by one of the best defenders in the NBA. The scary thing for Golden State? James is shooting the trey far better this postseason than last year. Now, the Dubs need to worry about guarding James at the arc while also trying to make sure he doesn’t drive all over them.
James is currently in the middle of one of the greatest playoff runs in NBA history. Nobody has been able to even remotely stop him; he has scored less than 30 points twice in the postseason. Things are not going to change either.
I’m on the Cavaliers in seven, which you can get around +600.
Our resident NBA expert Stephen Campbell finds himself backing the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Though I can’t fault him, I will have no problem gloating when he ends up wrong. However, if you want to read his reasoning for backing the Warriors, you can click here.
|Golden State Warriors||-240|
Odds as of May 29 at Bovada