The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will meet in the NBA finals for the second year in a row, but it should be a lot different this time around. LeBron James has his co-stars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love; Steph Curry is the one coming into the series with a banged up knee, not Irving; and the Cavs are playing the best offensive basketball in the league.
I have no interest in predicting this series because it’s almost impossible to guess how each team will play. Instead, I want to throw out some numbers from both last postseason and this year’s before offering any predictions.
- The Cavs shot 34% from three point territory in the playoffs last year after, and only 29% (!!!) in the finals. This year, the Cavs are shooting 43% from three going into the finals, and are scoring 107 points per game as opposed to 99 last year.
- The Cavs also lead the postseason in offensive efficiency, which measures the number of points a team scores per 100 possessions. The Cavs have scored 116.2 points per 100 possessions this postseason, while the Warriors have scored 109.8 per 100.
- The Warriors are shooting 40% from three entering the finals, which is actually better than they shot last postseason.
- Steph Curry: 48-118 on threes for the playoffs.
- J.R. Smith: 49-106 on threes for the playoffs.
The Cavs are playing a lot better going into this year’s finals, are fully healthy, and are shooting better than the Warriors, yet are still underdogs in Vegas to win the series at +185 (Warriors are -225). I think it’s going to be a lot closer than people think for a few reasons:
- LeBron played out of his mind last year in the finals, and there’s no reason to think he won’t again considering he’s fully rested, has his full supporting staff (and desired coach), and is presumably more motivated and confident to win.
- Kyrie Irving is a monster. He’s been dominant all postseason, and not enough has been said about his play. He played well before fracturing his knee cap in Game 1 last year, and I think he’s playing better heading into this year.
- The Warriors aren’t playing their best basketball. Steph Curry has had his moments, but he’s clearly missing a small step in his game because of his lingering knee injury; Draymond Green had a remarkable season, but he’s coming off a terrible series against the Thunder; The Warriors’ quietly important role players, like Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, etc, haven’t played all that well despite playing pivotal roles in the regular season; and the Warriors got crushed on the boards against the Thunder, and I’m sure the Cavs will try and follow that trend.
It’s tough to bet against the 73-win Warriors, but the value is there with the Cavs at +185. LeBron is due for another ring, and he won’t have any excuses this time around with a full, healthy and rested team around him. I think this series is headed for at least six games, if not seven. The difference will come down to shooting and match-ups (who guards Klay Thompson?). Regardless, it should be a fun series.
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