Coming into the NBA postseason, the Warriors and Cavs were the two favorites to reach the championship, and honestly, I'm happy to see this is the match up for the Final series of the NBA season. While one team has the 2015 MVP, the other has this generation's best player, legacies are on the line. Even though the Cavs weren't the #1 seed, this is still a match-up with the two best teams from each conference.
Cavs Road to The Finals
Quarter Finals – Swept Boston Celtics 4-0
Semi-Finals – Beat Chicago Bulls 4-2
Eastern Conference Finals – Swept #1 seed Atlanta Hawks 4-0
Warriors Road to The Finals
Quarter Finals – Swept New Orleans Pelicans 4-0
Semi-Finals – Beat Memphis Grizzlies 4-2
Western Conference Finals – Beat Houston Rockets 4-1
Some say that the Cavs had an easy road to the Finals, and that isn't a bad assessment. The Cavs best challenge was the Bulls but when Pau Gasol had to sit out two games, the Bulls went into a long scoring droughts which made life easier for the Cavs, who was also without Kevin Love. The Hawks didn't have much of a chance in my opinion, even though they did beat the Cavs 3 times during the regular season. In the playoffs, you need a player that can takeover, something the Hawks didn't have. LeBron averaged a triple-double that series and the Hawks had no one to match him even a little bit.
As you can see, the Warriors had the tougher road. The Grizzlies actually had a 2-1 lead over the Warriors, but GSW would win 3 games straight by an average margin of 16 points to advance the Western Conference Finals. The Warriors went up 3-0 on the Rockets before losing Game 4. Some say that the Warriors had a fairly easy road to the Finals, but this time, that is a bad assessment.
January 9th, Oracle Arena, 112-94 Warriors
All 5 of the Warriors' starters scored in double figures. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined for 47 points, shooting 7-18 from behind the arc. They also outscored the Cavs 36-3 on fastbreaks, extending their win streak to 14. JR Smith, playing in his 2nd game as a Cavalier, led all scorers in scoring with 27 points, 11-23 from the field. Kyrie scored 23 points but had a bad night from the field, shooting 39%. It was one thing missing from this game though; LeBron James.
February 26th, Quicken Loans Arena, 110-99 Cavaliers
In an “MVP Race” game, LeBron proved why he is the best player in the world, dropping 42 points and 11 boards, scoring 24 points in the first half. Bronny outplayed Curry, who only scored 18 points and was 5-17 from the field. Not one player on the GSW roster scored over 20+, David Lee leading the team with 19 points off the bench. This was the Cavs 18th win in 20 games and 11th straight home victory. After this game, LeBron MVP buzz and the Cavs NBA Title buzz to a new level.
Steph Curry vs. Matt Delladova
The reason why I think this is a key match-up is because, one, Kyrie health is in question so Delladova will see some big minutes, and two, the agitating guard has made a name for himself this postseason with his pesky play. Of course Curry is the more talented of the two, but can Delladova get the MVP out of sync with his antics?
Lebron James vs. Warriors' Wings
No one will be able to stop Bronny but the Warriors have a group that can contain him and maybe match his productivity. Andre Iguodola, Draymond Green, and Harrison Barnes will have the task of checking Lebron and a lot of the Warriors success depends on how well these three can contain LeBron. It will be interesting.
Klay Thompson vs. JR & Shump
The former Knickerbockers have been balling in the postseason, and are big reasons why the Cavs are in the Finals. Klay “Money” Thompson offense took a decline (41% FG, 36% 3PT) last series, forced to use majority of his energy checking James Harden on defense. Klay will have to find his offense this series but it could be tough with the Cavs being a good defensive team but with the long layoff, can Shump and JR stay consistent?
Bench vs. Bench
The NBA Finals is all about the bench play. Warriors coach, Steve Kerr came off the bench for 5 Championship teams and made big shots for all 5. LeBron and the Heat lost to the Spurs last year thanks to the Spurs bench shooting. Which bench will come through for their superstar this year?
1. How Healthy will Kyrie be?
2. How effective will Kevin Love be?
3. Which rookie head coach will make the first mistake?
4. Can LeBron stay hot?
5. Which crowd will be the loudest?
I'm really excited for this series, mainly because of the story lines. Of course LeBron's legacy is the biggest of them all. Despite only having two rings, people still want to compare LeBron to Michael Jordan, so a third will surely increase the comparisons. Currently 2-3 in the Finals, LeBron can not afford to lose another series if his fans want to keep the comparisons going. No matter what though, he is still a great player.
The MVP, Steph Curry has an opportunity to become the 9th player to win a title in their first MVP season, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, or Kobe Bryant are not apart of that group. Curry is definitely known to be a shooter, but he plays an all around game. He hits the boards, send out dimes, and has done a good job at playing defense this year. Currently in the playoffs he is averaging 29 points, 6 dimes, 5 boards, and 2 steals while shooting 43% from behind the arc. Some are already considering Curry as the greatest shooter ever, which I think is premature, but a title will make it hard for one to argue he's not.
This will be the first time since the NBA's inaugural season that two rookie head coaches are in the NBA Finals, Coach Kerr isn't a rookie to the Finals though. He's been there with Jordan, and he's been there with Coach Pop and Timmy D, hitting game winners for both. I do think that former GSW head coach, Mark Jackson, built this team but I'm not sure if he would have been able to get them to the Finals. Steve Kerr has made this team better defensively, especially Steph Curry, which I think he deserves much credit for.
Blatt on the other hand, is playing the role of Erik Spolstra, trying to prove his worth on a star led team. I don't think David Blatt is a bad coach but I'm not sure how good of a coach he is yet. He hasn't been challenged much, mainly because the players have been playing well – something you could possibly give him credit for.
Not sure if this series will go seven game, but I hope it will. Only two series this postseason went seven games and they both involved the Clippers. The story-lines are there for this to be a fun series, so hopefully the Warriors and Cavs can end the 2014-15 NBA season with a bang.