The world seems bothered by the fourth straight matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As the twitter world screams for diversity I am intrigued by this matchup. I am intrigued because this could be the potential defining moment for a player and a team.
If the Cavaliers win Lebron James will have his first true argument that he is truly the greatest player ever to play the game. The Cavaliers currently sit as one of the biggest underdogs in 15 years heading into the finals. Gone is Kyrie Irving — he averaged 29.4 points per game in last year’s series— and the role players that Cleveland brought in have mostly been flops. Rodney Hood has been relegated to the bench, and Jordan Clarkson has shot 30.6 percent from the field in the playoffs. Larry Nance Jr. has been effective as an energy guy off the bench, and George Hill has been a solid starter, though he’s been inconsistent. Others returning players from the 2017 Cavaliers team have been a shell of their former selves. Kyler Korver, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith bring finals experience but other they will have to play vital roles to have a chance to pull off this epic upset.
If the Warriors can pull off their third championship in four years they can cement themselves as a dynasty. This is not the same Warriors team the cruised into the finals in 2017 at 12-0. Kevin Durant has been has not been the dominant MVP of last season. He has averaged 29.0 points, but his postseason shooting has been all-too human, at 47.9 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from the 3-point line. Don’t discount the importance of Durant’s defense, either, especially if Andre Iguadola’s leg contusion keeps him sidelined. Iguodala usually gets the lion’s share of LeBron duties when these teams collide, but Durant could be one of the primary options if Iggy can’t go. The Warriors will also have an interesting matchup for Steph Curry against veteran George Hill. Hill surprisingly has a 10-4 career record against Curry while also holding a better shooting percentage in those matchups. If Curry does struggle the Warriors will have to look to their other two All- Stars Draymond Green and Klay Thompson to take on bigger roles.
This matchup has a clear advantage for the Warriors. They have the depth and star power to sweep this series. But there has almost been a sense of overconfidence for the Warriors all season. When the Warriors struggle they let it effect their emotions. Durant will most likely be taking on the task of holding down the force that is Lebron James. If he struggles to do so, will that effect his offensive game? This Warriors team also lacks the proven depth of the past. Relying on Kevin Looney, Quinn Cook and Swaggy P to provide solid minutes off the bench is a serious question mark.
This is the finals everyone expected to see. It is easy to say the Warriors will sweep with ease. But let’s not jump to conclusions until the games are played. Lebron has had a chance to rest for a few days and his legacy is on the line. I think he can carry them to at least one victory. I would consider myself a Lebron hater, but that does not mean I do not respect the game that masterful performances I have seen in these playoffs. The Cavaliers do not have the depth to compete with the historically talented Warriors but I am excited to see how this series plays out.
Warriors in 5
The Toronto Raptors were able to fend off the Washington Wizards in the first round of the East Conference playoffs setting up a matchup with their nemesis The Cleveland Lebron James’s. Cleveland has ended the Raptors playoff runs two years in a row including an embarassing sweep during last years conference semi-finals .LeBron James averaged 36 points in that sweep for Cleveland and carried his squad through a seven-game battle with the Indiana Pacers in the first round by pouring in 34.4 per game, including 45 in the 105-101 clincher Sunday.
The key to this series is and always will be Lebron James. Can he continue to hold up a Cavaliers team that has been uninspiring through its first round series. The evolution of the Raptors game has been a bright spot for them this season leading to a number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Moving away from the simple pick and roll offense of years past into a more ball movement offense has changed the way the play. Home court advantage in this series will also be a huge advantage, the Raptors were tied for the best home record in the NBA while at best the Cavaliers were mediocre to say it best. If the Raptors can jump out to an early 2-0 lead in the series it could deflate the psychie of an already mentally drained king.
The Cavaliers do have some hope, the emergence of Tristan Thompson in game seven could breath some fresh air into a team badly in need of a change. The Cavaliers also will likely have a healthy George Hill for the series, something the missed very much in the first round. His defensive ability will be huge against the Raptors star front court. But all of the role players in the world mean nothing if Lebron doesn’t carry the load. He has had little help from teammates in the postseason — Kyle Korver was often the Cavs’ second-best player until Tristan Thompson’s revival on sunday— and has had to carry Cleveland to this point. In the Cavs’ first three wins of the series, they needed 46, 32 and 44 points from James to get the W, plus 45 points in a tough game seven.
The Raptors have their best chance to dethrone the East’s top dog and they have to take advantage of this chance right now. With the young Sixers continuing to get better and the Celtics getting back a healthy Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward next year the Raptors window for Eastern Conference greatness is quickly closing. The question on everyone’s mind is whether the Raptors mentally have what it takes to overcome their past. Can they forget their history and pull off what many outside of Vegas would consider an upset? They have the star power, the bench and the experience to do it. They have to prove it.
Raptors in 7
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The Cleveland Cavaliers took a loss to the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday night dropping their 6th game of the last 7. Cavaliers Coach Tyronn Lue announced after the game that there will be lineup changes coming for the Cavaliers. While Lue can change the lineup he cannot change the culture that’s been created.
Miami Heat Lebron James was hungry for a title, he was able to take his team to the level they needed to be on a nightly basis. James was able to bring veterans like Shane Battier and Mike Miller, guys that shared his hunger to win while keeping their mouth shut. They were “team” guys, accepting their minutes and playing their hardest when they got their chance. The Cavaliers have brought in big personalities that can’t look past their personal goals. Jeff Green, Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas are dynamic talents that will never work with Lebron James. They are not the guys that can accept the reserve role, they are ball oriented players that care more about stat lines then team accomplishments.
The Cavaliers compounded their problems by not moving roles players like Tristan Thompson and to a degree Dwayne Wade back into the starting lineup. These are players that thrive off of the little things. Hustle plays like setting screens, making the extra pass and taking charges is what can make a difference for a team loaded with talent. Right now the Cavaliers spend more time pointing fingers then playing defense, they talk more about former teams then current.
The Cavaliers players are showing the same panic as management. There is a desperation in every game, they know that Lebron can take his talents where he chooses at the end of the season. The pressure to win now is so prevalent that anything less is unacceptable. The Cavaliers will get by because they have the best player in the world on their roster, but when playoff time hits they have to figure out some type of chemistry. For now though they are a dysfunctional family, everyone thinks its someone else’s fault. This is the Cavs in 2018.