For the fourth time in as many years, the Cavaliers and Warriors meet again in the NBA Finals.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers are facing the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals for the fourth time in four years, a first in American professional sports history. While many will argue whether the annual matchup is good for the NBA, it will surely be a treat for those watching it. Steph Curry and Kevin Durant head into this series with high expectations, as the Warriors are favored to handle the Cavs easily. But as we all know, you can never count out a team led by LeBron James.
These two teams have gotten accustomed to playing each other three times a year: on Christmas, MLK Day, and the Finals. This year has been no exception. The Warriors have had no issues with Cleveland this season, defeating them twice in their two regular season matchups. It seems apparent that unless LeBron can deliver a slew of heroic performances, this series will end quickly. The absence of Andre Iguodala should give the Cavs a glimmer of hope, as no other Warrior has had equal success guarding James. But all in all, the burgeoning talent of Golden State seems too much for any team to handle in a seven game series.
If Cleveland wants this series to be remotely compelling, they will need someone apart from LeBron James to step up. George Hill has been a catalyst for Cleveland when he plays well, but he’s disappeared just as often in the playoffs. If he can provide a spark on both offense and defense, the Cavaliers may be able to keep things interesting. Another huge factor will be the health of Kevin Love, who is currently undergoing the NBA’s concussion protocol and isn’t guaranteed for Game 1. Despite the absence of Iguodala, the Warriors look primed to score and challenge the Cavaliers to match them offensively. If players like JR Smith and Kyle Korver aren’t hitting threes, the Warriors won’t have much to worry about.
Golden State’s point differential during the regular season was five points per game better than Cleveland, the fifth largest deficit between Finals opponents since 1984. All signs point to the underdog role that LeBron and the Cavaliers have assumed, but it remains to be seen how the team will respond. If Cleveland can use the chip on their shoulder as motivation, the Warriors may find themselves in another seven game series.