The sports world is doing pretty good lately with their dream matchups; Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, FIFA officials and the F.B.I. and now the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In one corner you have the NBA’s MVP in Stephen Curry and in the other you have the league’s best player in LeBron James.
James has played in 21 consecutive playoff series where he recorded a road victory. An incredible stat, second only to Michael Jordan with 24. If James is to get to 22, he is going to have to win in the toughest arena around.
The Golden State Warriors went 39-2 at the Oracle in the regular season and have only dropped one playoff game at home. Their rabid fans are the league’s best (sorry Toronto), and they owned the regular season’s most efficient offence and defence.
The Warriors are nearly impossible to close out; no lead is safe at the ROAR-cle. Their backcourt of Curry and Klay Thompson, the Splash Brothers, might be the best shooting duo we have ever seen.
In Game 3 of Round 1 against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Warriors – led by Curry – overcame a 19-point deficit with six minutes remaining for a thrilling 123-119 overtime victory on the road.
The problem is that the Cavs won’t throw anything at Golden State defensively that they haven’t already seen. James will probably switch onto the hotter Splash Bro late in games, but it’s the other 40 minutes that worries me. James can’t chase Curry around all game. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and at this stage of the playoffs it’s like he is playing with one foot on a banana peel.
To be fair, the Cavs have really cranked up their defence this post season. They are holding opponents to shooting 41.2 per cent from the field and a playoff best 28.1 per cent from three. An intriguing stat considering the Dubs’ best weapon is being knock-down from threesville.
The Cavs are holding teams to the lowest points per game at 92.6. With their prized offseason acquisition Kevin Love out with a separated shoulder, Canadian kid Tristan Thompson has been like Shrek on adderall after being inserted into the starting lineup. He will be a big factor again as the Warriors were a middle-of-the-pack defensive rebounding team in the regular season and the postseason. Thompson was among the league’s best offensive rebounder in the regular season.
The Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr has already said they aren’t planning on double-teaming at the King.
The Warriors are going to back up and let James shoot it and force someone else to beat them. James has been denting rims all playoffs. He shot a miserable 17.6 per cent from the land beyond in the Eastern Finals. That’s an awful number even for a men’s league game. He has been less effective the further he is away from the basket.
The Warriors have the ability to throw multiple upper-echelon defenders at James with Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala. James is going to need help; he is going to need Kyrie Irving’s leg to be healthy and maybe J.R. Smith to steal another game.
Regardless of who guards James, the Warriors are restaurant-quality great and an all-time team. They finished the regular season with the sixth best record all-time, 67-15, one win better than James’ best season in Miami in 2012-13. Their 10.1 point differential was the highest in the league. Out of eight previous teams with a differential over 10, just the 1971-72 Milwaukee Bucks failed to win the title.
The Warriors have greater depth, they’re healthier and the better coach.
This will be the best team James has ever faced in the finals.
With all that being said, I’m still going with No. 23. This is why he came back to Cleveland.
He is the ultimate trump card and is capable of elevating his game higher than anyone in the world.
The King is no idiot, he can do math. He realizes in the post-Jordan world, all people care about are how many rings you own.
He knows that Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, isn’t the greatest of all time because of his 1-2 record in the Super Bowl. Currently 2-3 in the finals, James does not want to see his record fall two series below .500. He has the ability to flip on kill-mode better than anyone else and carry the Cavs to victory.
This series might remain on my PVR forever. I’ll bet a round of wings at the Longhorn on the King and his cavalry in six.