This game does not need an introduction. It has almost seemed a foregone conclusion all year, as no other team in the NBA was able to assemble enough firepower to truly compete with the best team in the respective conferences. That has been true, for the most part, for the last three years.
On July 7th, 2016 is when we started waiting for this game. That was the day that Kevin Durant announced he was going to be signing with the Warriors.
Now, we get to see the test begin. The Warriors could be the best team that the NBA has ever seen in the playoffs. They are 12-0 so far and have the highest point differential of any team entering the finals. They have the two of the most recent MVPs in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant as well as two other All-NBA players in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Curry, Durant, and Thompson are probably three of the best five shooters to ever play in the NBA. Draymond is probably the only player in the NBA who can do what he does.
So why does the other side even have a chance? Simply due to one man, LeBron James.
Rather than reiterating what everyone has already said a million times over all year, let’s take a look at a few things to watch for tonight.
How does Kevin Love play?
The Kevin Love of last year’s NBA finals and the Kevin Love of this year’s playoffs are two different players. Much has already been written about how Love is finally fitting together with LeBron and Kyrie, but it certainly is incredibly important for the Cavs to be able to rely on him for his scoring, playmaking, and rebounding. The Cavs are at their best when they can have Love and Tristan Thompson out on the floor at the same time, but the Warriors will try to pick on Love mercilessly in the pick-and-roll. How he fare could determine the series.
Who does LeBron guard?
Last year the Cavs and the Thunder were able to mitigate the destructiveness of the Curry-Draymond pick and roll by sticking a mobile big man on Draymond. Kevin Durant did it for the Thunder and LeBron did it for the Cavs. However, now that Durant is on the Warriors, that means that the Cavs have to decide who LeBron would most effective guarding.
What kind of offense does Golden State run?
Will they try for more direct high pick-and-rolls and attack Kevin Love or another weak defender that the Cavs can put out there, potentially forcing Love, Kyle Korver, and Channing Frye out of the game? Or will they utilize their more normative offense that is less focused on the pick-and-roll?
How long to the Warriors stay big?
Will the Warriors try to save their “lineup of death” till the fourth quarter or will they be forced to break it out earlier? How long can Zaza or JaVale McGee stay on the floor and when they play will they be able to keep the Cavs off the boards? If they can, that would be extremely problematic for the Cavaliers.
Tonight is the first test of many to come. How these matchups play out over the course of the series will likely determine who is the eventual victor.
This will be the game thread for tonight.
Happy Chatting away!