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The 2016 NBA Finals are upon us. Quite possibly the biggest Finals rematch of all-time. The 73-9 Warriors are nearing the end of their quest to go down as the “greatest team of all-time”, but more importantly to win their second straight NBA Championship. The Cavs are coming back stronger than ever and are seeking redemption from their 2015 NBA Finals loss.
The games two biggest stars, LeBron James and Stephen Curry are two heavyweights at the peak of their careers fighting for the world title and all the other stuff that comes with it. Who is the face of the NBA? Who is the best player in the game today? All those questions will be answered within the next three weeks.
The stakes have never been this high. Legacies are on the line. The entire complexion of the next decade of the NBA will be dictated by the result of this years NBA Finals matchup, and as creepy as that is, it’s what makes this the most beautiful game in the world.
The entire Ball Don’t Stop team from the 2015-16 season have given their picks for the 2016 NBA Finals. Check them out below and be sure to keep it locked to @balldontstop throughout the next two-three weeks for all #NBAFinals coverage.
I still can’t figure out why the basketball world was forced to believe that Andre Iguodala stopped LeBron James in the 2015 NBA Finals. This man averaged 36, 13 and 9 and led his team (which actually became the 2007 Cavs after all the injuries) to two wins against a team that went onto statistically be the best in league history the following season. But, instead of receiving the Finals MVP award like he should have in 2015, they gave it to the guy guarding him…
Now, one whole year later, the stage is set again.
LeBron James’ resume cannot afford to hold a 2-5 record in the NBA Finals. He also can’t lose three straight Finals, in the prime of his career. If the Warriors win again, Stephen Curry will officially claim the title as not only the face of the NBA, but the best player in the game today.
It’s now or never for James. He still has a clean shot at going down as the greatest player in NBA history, but he’ll NEED this championship to ensure that he is even eligible for that conversation.
It’ll be the toughest series of James’ and his teammates careers, but they’ll come out on top. There will be three blowout games in this series, one early in the series and possibly in Game 1. For the most part it’ll be a thrilling back-and-forth battle that will see the Cavs and their leader come into the Bay Area, into one of the rowdiest/hostile environments in the history of pro sports and in the clutches battle of the series the Cavs will dethrone an exhausted Warriors squad in a rating record-setting Game 7, redeeming themselves from last years loss and bringing Cleveland their first championship in 52 years.
LeBron James is more focused and angry than ever. Be prepared for him to unleash all 6’8 and 250 pounds of greatness on this Warriors team and cement himself as not only the best player in today’s game, but as one of the three greatest players in NBA history.
Irving and Love’s availability in this year’s finals provides a level of intrigue, yet their defensive limitations should allow Curry and Green to dominate this series. LeBron’s offensive brilliance will prove difficult to handle, but the Warriors have a multitude of defenders, including Iguodala, Green and Barnes, who can provide different looks. Despite all of this, as we saw in the Western Conference Finals, Golden State’s masterful three-point shooting is capable of offsetting lopsided matchups and other disadvantages. That three-point shooting will ultimately prove to be the difference in this series.
Finally the series we were robbed of seeing last year is here. Cleveland is healthy this time around and despite two poor games versus Toronto, the Cavs are playing their best basketball over these playoffs. I see this enfolding much like the Western Conference Finals did, with the Warriors falling down early in the series. However, unlike the OKC Thunder, the Cavaliers will finish off the Dubs at home in Game 6 and finally give the suffering Cleveland faithful its first major championship since 1964.
Both teams are coming in with equal momentum. The Cavs cleaned the East up, the Warriors just beat the toughest opponent they have ever seen, three straight times.
In a back and forth series, the Warriors will enter the “Greatest Team Of All-Time” conversation when they overwhelm and blowout the Cavs with their 3-point shooting at Oracle Arena in a 7th Game.
Steph Curry shimmy his way to his first Finals MVP award and solidify himself as the new face of the NBA in the process.
On their best night, Channing Frye, JR Smith and Kevin Love combined can do what Klay Thompson and Steph Curry combined can do, and that’s all the Cavs need.
If this becomes a shot-for-shot contest, which it probably will, the Cavs still have a wizard in Kyrie Irving and the most dominant physical specimen in the history of the game in LeBron James.
James in the 2015 NBA Finals was a combination of Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson. When in the modern era did we leave a Finals saying a player on the losing team should’ve been the Finals MVP?
Just like last year, the floor is wide open for the freight train to attack all game long. Only difference this time is that Irving, Love, Frye and Smith will be doing their homework on the sides (in shooting position) and the Cavs will look like and prove exactly what they are: the most dangerous basketball team of the past decade.
Russell Westbrook gave Steph Curry some serious problems in that exciting Western Conference Final. Kyrie Irving believes and is fully capable of going at Curry in the same way as Westbrook, and he’s got Ty Lue in his ear making sure he moves the ball as well.
OKC shot themselves in the foot by doing too much in the WCF and that was the reason for their collapse. Lue isn’t letting Kyrie do too much, and that’s scary for the Warriors.
This Cavs team has too many weapons to fail against a Warriors team which really just got exposed. This Cavs defense will eventually live with the long three-pointers in the face of defenders, but if they move the ball and control the pace on the offensive end, the Warriors are in trouble.
The 52-year drought will end in Cleveland in an exciting sixth game as James delivers a performance for the ages.
The Warriors move the ball better than the 2014 Spurs. The same Spurs that had LeBron and his Heat looking too tired to rotate on defense, then had him go through a weight loss and take his talents back to Ohio.
That style of basketball is extremely frustrating to play against, especially with the possibility of Warriors scoring nine points through three possessions.
Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut will out-hustle the Cavs bigs and it’ll results in buckets from Klay, Steph and Iggy on the other end all series long.
This Cavs team, which actually looks stronger than ever due to the weakest Eastern Conference in years, is about to break up quicker than many expect.
LeBron James going 2-5 in the NBA Finals? Don’t think so. He was a Game 1 OT victory away from being the first player to single-handedly have beaten a team in the NBA Finals by himself last year and now he’s got his weapons and their fully loaded.
Expect Kevin Love to have a big series and give the Warriors front-court problems with his ability to stretch the floor and attack the lane, but also rebound the ball.
If Kyrie Irving plays smart, the Cavs will get the wins they need (Game 1, Game 5) and he may just walk away as the Finals MVP.
The Warriors will do exactly what they’ve been doing all year, but Cleveland is a much scarier team than they were before the All-Star break. If everyone stays healthy, Cavs end the championship drought, with ease.
Unlike the Cavs, the Dubs have the ability to break a game open at anytime on offense. They move the ball and score in bunches. From a defensive standpoint, their great individually and as a team.
Home-court advantage is huge in this series. As good as the Cavs are looking right now, not many players in the league can handle that wild Oracle Arena crowd.
Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are the two greatest shooters of all-time and they’ll light up the Bay Area in Game 7, tapping the Cavs out for the second straight year.
Last year the Warriors let LeBron get his and stopped the rest of the team. This year Steve Kerr may have to make an adjustment and try to do things the other way around, because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love won’t allow that to work, neither will Channing Frye.
If Tristan Thompson can carry the load on the glass, this is the perfect LeBron James team. He is surrounded with lights out shooters, and at least two of them will hit them.
The Cavs also have a defensive-oriented coach who as a player had a reputation for getting under any opposing guards’ skin. Lue is going to stop one of the Splash Brothers, and that’ll be enough for the Cavs to take home the title.
I start with the fact that I am a huge LeBron James fan, but I am a semi basketball historian from 1982. I am a realist at my base even though I have my favorite players and teams. With that said, Cleveland has a mighty mountain to climb in the 2016 NBA Finals.
The unbeatable Warriors ran through the regular season with a few hiccups here and there. They looked beatable as they were down 3-1 to the almost “Presumptive” Western Conference finalists in Oklahoma City. Yet, the defending champions put themselves in the record books by being only the 10th team in NBA history to come back from such a deficit.
With all that said, the Cavs are winning this series in six games. Even with the Warriors historic season on the line, King James’ NBA Finals record, and all the other storylines at stake, here is what Cleveland HAS TO DO to win.
DEFENSE: The fact that the Warriors beat the Cavs both times in the regular season (including the blowout in Cleveland), the first game out of that series in Oakland was promising. The edge goes to G-State on that front. One of the best, if not the best defense, in the NBA for the last 2 years helps fuel the doubt that the Cavs can get 1 game much less 2 on the Warriors. What is being overlooked in the East is the improvement of the Cavs team defense. This is really important in helping Kevin Love against any iso plays with Draymond Green and other post players for the Warriors. It’s a tall task, but couple with the other keys to victory, it could work.
Pace: Many against the Warriors have also tried this, and most have failed. Another year of domination under their belt has made them even more ready for whatever comes their way. The x-factors in this strategy are Kyrie Irving and James. Irving is a waterbug who will run and glide, and dart his way through most defenses, but he must pick and choose his spots. LeBron has a lot of experience in slowing the game down by posting up nearly every play. Golden State has shown that they will take quick shots early in the shot clock, and when they miss those shots, they get behind. With the Cavs healthier than ever, and all the shooting weapons they have, it will make for a good chess match in crucial parts in all of the games. Pace and defense will have to be on point to stop extended runs by the Warriors.
Rebounding: OKC had the potential to have a massive rebounding edge vs the smaller Warriors lineup which they ended up losing in a few games. Some by long rebounds, but others by purely getting out hustled to 50/50 balls. The Cavs may not have a bigger team than OKC, but they have active, proven rebounders in Tristan Thompson, Kevin Love, and Lebron James. Cleveland has a plus 6 rebound advantage on their opponents, while the Warriors have a minus 2 disadvantage. This is deceiving because of the Warriors shooting percentage being as high as it is at certain parts of the game; the rebounds are few and far between.
The X Factors: We all know about the big three for each team, but a few other players will determine who wins and loses the title. Kevin Love, JR Smith, Tristian Thompson, Channing Frye, and yes…. Richard Jefferson!
JR Smith was on the back of a milk carton in the last NBA finals, but his defense has helped him be more valuable to the Cavs just in case his shot is not falling.
Kevin Love can’t pull a J.R. Smith from the 2015 NBA Finals. Love was a 27 PPG and 12 RPG player in Minnesota. When the shots are not falling, you can always get in there and rebound.
Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye will have to pull their weight on the 2nd unit to stave off the powerful 2nd unit of the Warriors. Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Maurice Speights, and Shaun Livingston will be crucial again in keeping and regaining leads for the Warriors. Green will be aggressive with anyone he sees in front of him, including Love.
We may even see Love on the bench in the 4th quarter, in light of a better defensive lineup. Yet if the game is close, Love will be on the floor for more scoring/rebounding power. Bogut will need to stay out of foul trouble so he can make his mark on the game with screens, rebounding, and by blocking shots. Livingston, more than Speights, will be counted on to anchor the backcourt to give way to Klay and Curry resting.
In a nutshell, I’m banking on the same mentality the 2014 San Antonio Spurs had after losing to LeBron and the Miami Heat the previous year. As calm as I have seen LeBron James in pre game interviews leading up to Game 1, I’m anticipating a more calculated attack against the Warriors, while all of his chess pieces are doing their job.
Cavs in 6 games….unless it goes 7!