It’s the Golden State Warriors (GSW) versus Cleveland Cavaliers (CLE) III in the coming National Basketball Association (NBA) best-of-seven Finals, beginning on June 1 (June 2, 9AM in Manila) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. For the third straight season, the Warriors and Cavs battle for pro basketball’s finest in an exciting trilogy. GSW won it in 2015, while CLE took the title last year. It’s the first time in NBA history that the same two teams are meeting in the finals for three consecutive years.
Many anticipated this grudge rematch, and the excitement is building up for Game 1 on Thursday. By the way, both the Warriors and Cavs had a smooth ride to the finals. GSW swept the San Antonio Spurs 4-0 in the Western Conference finals by an average winning margin of 16 points. CLE finished the Eastern Conference championship in five games, 4-1, but via a whopping 25.75 winning margin average. Key players in their opponents’ rosters sustained injuries but both the Cavs and Warriors would’ve still barged into the last dance.
Now, GSW suffered a most stinging defeat at the hands of Cleveland last season when they lost a 3-1 finals lead after the Cavs won four straight games, including the clincher in Oakland, which stunned the home crowd. The Warriors were supposed to have a magical year after setting a new NBA record for most wins in a single season with a 73-9 card. But the fairy tale ending turned into a nightmare after the Cavs’ spectacular comeback in the finals, which made Golden State the first team to blow a 3-1 lead in the NBA championship series.
Redemption is surely in the minds of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and the rest of the Warriors as they waited a year to get a chance of returning the favor to the Cavs. And now, GSW is more formidable than ever with the addition of another NBA superstar in Kevin Durant to form the “Fantastic Four.” From a great team, Golden State became a super squad.
But as great as the GSW team is, Cleveland still has the “King” Lebron James (LBJ), who may very well be the greatest player on the planet since Michael Jordan’s retirement. And he has been sensational this year, especially in the playoffs, averaging 33 markers, eight boards and seven assists, while shooting 57% from the field, and 42% from beyond the arc. If there’s one player who can win the title all by himself, that should be James. In 2015, the Cavs still won two games in the finals versus Golden State even without the injured Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, all because Lebron was as great as he is.
But the “King” is also feeling the effects of wear-and-tear at 32-years old, and will need a lot of help from his teammates to pull another upset this year. With that said however, the Cavs’ only chance is for James to have a Lebron-like game. As great as Irving, Love, Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith are, CLE still needs LBJ to be in his A-game to make it two-in-a-row against GSW in their trilogy.
In contrast, Steph can blow hot and cold throughout the series and the Warriors could still win the series. They just have too much firepower, especially with Durant now on the roster. The Cavs can trap Curry all they want but that would leave the other gunners open for the easy basket. GSW is not just a great shooting team but ranks first in passing, and second in defense in the league. Yes, they’re that good. Hey, they managed to become the fastest team in NBA history to clinch the playoff berth, and also the first to start 12-0 in the playoffs after sweeping Portland in the first round, Utah in the Western semis, and San Antonio in the Western finals. And they did all this even with Thompson not on “Splash Brothers” mode. Durant could just be the big difference this year because of his do-it-all role. And Green, the best rebounder and passer in this great squad, is also shooting 47% treys in the playoffs.
I got GSW, 4-2.