The NBA Finals officially begins tonight with the matchup that everyone has been predicting for months, for the fourth year in a row...
The Cavaliers are huge underdogs in this series. LeBron James was barely able to carry this team of haphazard pieces to the finals, squeaking past the upstart Pacers and grinding down the young Celtics (and destroying the Raptors’ entirely). This team is certainly in contention for the worst supporting casts that LeBron has brought to the Finals and they have to play against one of the most stacked teams of all time in the Warriors.
This Finals matchup is so lop-sided that the NBA blogosphere was relieved when we all got to spend a few days engaging in the wondrous mess that is the 76ers and Bryan Colangelo’s Twitter fiasco. One of the most amazing NBA dramas is unfolding in real-time. Are the burner accounts Bryan’s? Is one of them Jerry? Is Bryan’s wife operating several of them to defend Bryan’s fashion choices? These are the reasons why we love the NBA.
But back to the actual basketball. For a complete breakdown of the series, I would highly recommend checking out the inimitable Zach Lowe’s piece here.
Zach Lowe keys in on the most interesting component of the series, which is the potential lineups that the Cavs can use. The Cavs basically have a mishmash of players that do not fit well together, so there are endless possibilities of what they might throw at the Warriors to see what sticks.
Over the years, depending on the personnel available, we have seen the Cavs go smaller with Kevin Love at center and try to outshoot the Warriors, hoping for three-point variance to save the day, or they have gone super-big with LeBron at small forward and Tristan Thompson at center and tried to slow the game down.
It’s pretty dubious that any of that will work in this series. The Cavs simply do not have enough two-way players to put on the court. The Rockets were probably the only team in the NBA that did, but then a shoulder injury to Luc Mbah a Moute, a hamstring injury to Chris Paul, and 27 missed threes later, and there goes the ball game.
The Cavs best option for guarding Kevin Durant may very well be Jeff Green. For the millionth time...
LeBron has typically been using the first game of the playoffs series this year to “feel out” the opponent. That is not going to work in this series. As Andre Iguodala is unable to play, the Cavaliers would likely be best served to shrink the floor and slow the game down. The Warriors, oddly enough, are not going to have enough shooting outside of their stars to really force the Cavaliers to play their type of game. If the Cavs can make the Warriors play a center for most of the game, then they might have a chance.
Of course, this may all hold true for the first two quarters and then George Hill will lose Steph Curry for two possessions where he hits a pair of threes, Kevin Durant will hit a wild contested three-pointer from deep, and then Klay Thompson will hit a three in transition and the game will be over. There simply is no room for error and all it takes is 2-3 minutes and the Warriors can break teams.
We all likely know what will happen tonight and with this series. Our only hope for real competitive basketball is that the greatest player of our generation can somehow find a way. If there is anyone that can do it, it is LeBron.
Maybe we will be surprised.