Here we go again. The tetralogy between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will commence this Thursday evening at Oracle Arena.
This is the first time in NBA history that two teams have faced each other in four consecutive Finals, but this time, there’s no pop.
Kyrie Irving is not around to drop daggers and break ankles, nor is Richard Jefferson and his snarky trash talk. Warriors-Cavs just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
The rivalry has fizzled, and if the Warriors bring their A-game, this series will be over fairly quickly.
The Warriors are the largest Finals favorites in at least 16 years. Most sports books have made the Warriors 12-point favorites in Game 1, which speaks to the talent disparity.
We’ve seen this movie before. We’ve seen LeBron James before — the last seven Finals, to be exact. Also, when you think of movies, how many sequels are good? How many] trilogies are good, let alone tetralogies? Rocky? Police Academy? Lethal Weapon? Not many, but since we’re forced to digest another Cavaliers’ beatdown, let’s break down some keys in what should be the Warriors’ third championship in four seasons.
Keeping the Turnovers Down
The Warriors get bored and overconfident, knowing they can wipe out their competition with one of their patented third quarter blitzes, and as such, they tend to waste possessions with sloppy ball handling and lazy passes. They averaged 13.6 turnovers in the three losses against Houston, so they need to make a concerted effort to handle the rock with care.
Cleveland needs all the help it can get, but handing James and company extra possessions can make this series longer than it should be.
Make the ‘Others’ Uncomfortable
James is going to get his. He’ll be in his bag. He’s the best player in the world, averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists a game. He’s scored 40-plus in seven of the Cavs’ 18 postseason games, but his supporting cast is average at best, and you have to wonder if they’ll win a game in this series.
Outside of James, Kevin Love (13.9 points) is the only Cleveland player scoring over 10 points a game. Kyle Korver is the Cavs’ most lethal three-point shooter, but Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala (if he’s available) and Kevin Durant can erase the sharp-shooter. J.R Smith is hit-or-miss, and Jordan Clarkson has looked shook during the postseason.
The Warriors should have no trouble carrying over their defensive intensity from the Western Conference Finals. Which brings me to …
Over the final five games of the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors held the Rockets under 100 points, and keep in mind, Iguodala missed the final four games of the series.
James is a one-man wrecking crew, but forcing him to be a one-man show will tire the 15-year veteran out. The Cavs don’t have the firepower the Rockets possess, and the Warriors should be able to lock-in on the supporting cast.
The Warriors’ defense — one which should suffocate the Cavs — is why they’re in the Finals.
Attack the Cavs
The Celtics, like the Rockets, couldn’t put the ball in the basket in Game 7, but it wasn’t like the Cavs were locking their offense down. The Celtics went ice-cold, losing their first home game of the postseason by producing a measly 79 points — their lowest output of the series.
Let’s be honest: The Cavs stink defensively, and we’ll witness the Warriors get back to their ball-hopping ways.
According to Synergy Sports, almost two-thirds of the catch-and-shoot attempts by Cleveland’s opponents are unguarded, resulting in teams shooting 40 percent from behind the arc on these possessions.