Well, it’s finally here… the inevitable rematch fans have waited 347 days to see. For the 3rd straight year, the Golden State Warriors face the Cleveland Cavaliers to settle the score once and for all. Actually, scratch that – at this rate, who knows when we won’t see these two powerhouses battle for the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June. But for now, let’s enjoy a series that promises to be an instant classic, and will surely be well worth the season-long wait. Now, let’s take a look at who will go up 2 series to 1 during this epic saga. And if my perfect record so far this 2017 postseason is any indication.. it’s appropriate to add: SPOILER ALERT.
Alright, I’ll cut to the chase. This series isn’t about Lebron James or Stephen Curry. It’s not even about Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. This series is about Andre Iguodala and J.R. Smith, and the rest of the bench players. Let me take you back to 2015. Which starter for the Warriors won MVP? Keep looking. Oh, there he is! Iguodala had started exactly 0 games during the regular season before stunning the Cavs with his MVP performance throughout the 6-game series. Now let’s look at last year, who had the grit and tenacity to keep the Cavs fighting through every game? It was the clutch shots of J.R. “Swish”. So, if you haven’t caught on yet… the difference in this series won’t be by the superstars. The 2017 champion will be defined by the heroics of a surprising role player… but who?
Before I get to that, I guess I have to mention those who have the spotlight on them. You saw how James Harden’s disappearing act in the Conference Semifinals virtually handed the San Antonio Spurs a berth in the next round. It’s no small task for the leaders to just do their jobs. Remember, Iguodala is a tenacious defender who looks to keep James in check, and the same can be said about Draymond Green as he battles Kevin Love in the post. However, in my opinion, there is no stopping Irving’s unholy handles. Even so, I’m giving the defensive edge to the Warriors.
On offense, it’s hard not to side with the Warriors as well. They’re the first team to reach the Finals at 12-0, and they’ve won 26 of their last 27 games. This team doesn’t lose! And that’s the problem. They haven’t faced any adversity, and you better believe the Cavs are going to give them a battle. As much as the Warriors have been dying for redemption against the Cavaliers, I’m not sure they’ll be ready. Look at who they’ve beaten – the #8 seed Trailblazers, the exhausted and inexperienced Jazz, and the Warriors were down 25 before Kawhi Leonard suffered his season-ending ankle injury. That’s not the epitome of top competition (looking at you Draymond Green). Their biggest test was beating a team without their two best guards, and not to mention, they haven’t even had a coach!! It’ll be very interesting to see how they respond after losing on their home floor in Game 1.
Wait, What!? Cavs win Game 1 on the road?? Yes. There’s a little mini prediction for you, and here’s why I think it’ll happen. As hungry as the Warriors are for revenge, you don’t think the Cavs want a piece of their new rival? Cleveland is going to come out firing and try to prove to the country that they’re the undisputed NBA champions. They’re clicking on all cylinders and have deadly ball movement. There isn’t a player on Cleveland’s roster that doesn’t know what to do with the rock. As long as the Cavs keep the Warriors’ defense on their heels (and they will), they’ll be tough to stop. Offensive Edge: Cavaliers.
Now for the X-factor. I’ve been impressed with two particular big men all season whom I believe have flown under the radar for too long. Behind Green vs. Love, I see a towering JaVale McGee, and a tough Tristan Thompson. This one-on-one matchup could easily determine the fate of this series. You may not find McGee on the stat sheet (yet), but watching his tape you can see he does all the small things correctly. He sets ball screens for his teammates, spreads the floor with his passing, and protects the rim with his length. He’s the perfect utility man the Warriors need. However, Thompson nearly averages a double-double, and looks forward to shining under the bright lights of the Finals. It’s the perfect time to break out, but will he be able to step up when the Cavs need him most?
Aaaaand finally. The winner of the 2017 NBA Finals. I’ll give a quick summary so I can say, “I told you so,” but you can look forward to my game-by-game recap and prediction during the off days. That said, here is how the final series of the 2017 NBA season will go down:
Game 1: Cavaliers come out strong and stun the Warriors, winning 119-108.
Game 2: Warriors shake off the rust and escape in OT to even the series with a 121-115 victory. Game on.
Game 3: The Cavs fight hard behind their fans at the Q, but its not enough to retake the series lead as GSW gets the W, 107-102.
Game 4: Cavaliers play desperate as Tristan Thompson shines with a 19-point double-double, propelling Cleveland to a 116-113 victory.
Game 5: Back at home (and nice to see you again Steve Kerr), the Warriors still struggle to find their footing and lose at home again, 118-106.
Game 6: Not ready to wait another year to get their revenge, the Warriors delay the Cavs celebration, forcing game 7 in Oakland. Golden State cruises 124-105.
Game 7: A back and forth battle with every twist and turn imaginable culminates with…
Prediction: …The Golden State Warriors reclaiming their spot as World Champions. In the end, they simply have too much talent for the Cavs’ defense to handle as they pull it out 117-112.
MVP: Stephen Curry. Despite a relatively down year, Curry comes up big for the Warriors in Games 6 and 7, as he earns his first NBA Finals MVP trophy. But don’t be fooled, it’s going to take way more than this sharpshooter if the Warriors want to avoid more offseason anguish.