By: Colin Chiles, who you can follow on Twitter here: @ColinC27
Estimated read time: 5 minutes
Today on the twitter machine, you can find a litany of finals previews. It’s likely that if you’re reading this you’ve already read one or two. You can find them from writers who know much more about the league than I do and are able to convey their points more eloquently than I can (though I doubt you’ll find anyone quite as strikingly handsome). So instead of force feeding you another traditional finals preview, I want to provide a brief, whip-around look at what to watch for in these finals.
Kevin Durant and LeBron SHOULD spend significant time guarding one another. It’s always interesting to see how exactly each team wants to match up, and I think ideally the Cavs would prefer to put J.R. Smith on KD, leaving LeBron to save guarding someone less active. But this isn’t an ideal situation for them, and while we might see J.R. spend some time on Durant, I expect we’ll get a healthy dose of an awesome LeBron/KD matchup. On the other end of the court, you can expect the same sort of ratio split guarding LeBron with Durant and Andre Igoudala.
Who wins the Kyrie/Steph offensive matchup? Last year I think it’s pretty safe to say they played to a draw, which was a pretty huge win for the Cavs. (I can hear Kyrie stans screaming through their computer/phone right now). Steph was hurt and struggling with his shot but unlike Kyrie, Steph can pass and set guys up in the right spots. It also can’t be overlooked that the attention that Steph draws from opposing defenses just by being on the court is an immediate benefit to other Warriors players. If the Cavs want to have a shot in this series, Kyrie has to match Steph.
Cross matches, transition play and rebounds. I lump these together because they’re all related. There are going to be a number of natural cross matches on the court. Klay will likely guard Kyrie though Kyrie will likely guard Steph. We already went over the LeBron/KD scenarios – if either of them take a break on someone else then that’s another cross match. We also will have Draymond guarding Kevin Love but I would be stunned if Love spent much time guarding Draymond. This leaves the potential for a ton of cross matches in transition, which is basically death for defenses especially with two teams that have multiple guys shooting a high percentage from three point land.
It can however, be negated by offensive rebounding, something the Cavs should have a big advantage in. It’s a tricky dance for both teams however, because if you divert too many resources to crashing the offensive boards, then you’re vulnerable on the back end. Conversely if you’re the Warriors trying to run and you don’t send anyone at the basket, the Cavs are going to get a ton of second chance points. This will be something to watch in this series.
If the Warriors don’t win this series, their entire 3 year run is a disappointment. I’m stealing this take from Zach Lowe but I think he’s 100% correct. The Warriors have already won the most games of any team across three seasons – and if they only come away from that with one title, that is a disappointment.
On the other hand…
If LeBron can pull this off, it’ll be one of the great NBA accomplishments ever. You’re going to see a bunch of hot takes about this being the biggest upset of all time if the Cavs win. There might be a tiny bit of merit to that argument but I mostly reject the idea that if one team has the unanimous best player in the world on their team, they can’t be involved in the biggest upset ever. However for LeBron to TWICE beat the team with the most wins across three seasons, including back to back titles, THAT would be incredible. I don’t even want to qualify it or put it into perspective. I just want to say it would be amazing. Not that his legacy is in jeopardy at all but if LeBron pulled this off, this is an extremely impressive notch to add.
NBA fandom is quite odd sometimes. I hate Kyrie Irving more than anyone else in sports. I have resisted writing a 5,000 word take down piece on him but to summarize my problem with him: he’s one of the most gifted scorers of our time, and he spends every possession hunting down the worst shot possible, and seeing if he can make it. But more to my point, I hate Kyrie, love Steph, still really like KD, hate Draymond and appreciate LeBron. I spent the last two seasons rooting HARD against the Cavs and for the Warriors in the finals. Yet somehow all of that adds up to me rooting for the Cavs this year, and it honestly only has a little to do with KD joining the Dubs. I just want to see it happen. I’m rooting for the storyline.
I’m hoping one of these teams breaks the finals record for most threes in a game. The Warriors set this record last year with 17 and both of these teams are capable of easily making 20. I would love to see a game where BOTH teams make 20. That would be wild. And supremely fun.
Finally, Kevin Love outlet passes. You really should check out FiveThirtyEight’s article on this, but barring that, at least watch the video below
I’m picking the Warriors in 5. I originally was calling for a sweep (the Warriors truly are THAT good) but I’ve since been talked out of it. Kevin Love is playing incredible basketball right now and the way the Cavs shoot threes make pretty much any game winnable. To make it specific and make myself look dumb I’m going to call this – Cavs win game 1 and then the Warriors rip off 4 in a row. Kevin Durant is your finals MVP. (Let me say again though – I’m honestly rooting for the Cavs)