The Road to the 2017 NBA Finals
The road to the Finals this season has been relatively “easy” for the Warriors and Cavaliers. 12-0 and 12-1 runs to the Finals didn’t make the playoffs very interesting….if you weren’t a Warriors or Cavs fan, of course. Being as I am a Warriors fan I don’t care if we won every game up to this point by 50 and along the way a team decided to forfeit a game 4. Game 7’s are only interesting when your favorite team isn’t involved. Well, to an extent anyway. Personally I wanted to see both teams go undefeated up into the Finals but the Cavs couldn’t take care of business. But that’s neither here nor there.
This will be the first of three consecutive Finals that both teams will be 100% healthy going into it. I feel that is something we can all definitely get excited about. Both sides have made the injury excuse as to why each team has lost a Finals game. The suspension certainly had a lot to do with things but honestly? It all is what it is at this point. Complaining sure isn’t going to change the history books. A few things to look at one the road to a third consecutive Finals match are this season’s playoff matchups. The teams played are one of many reasons I don’t feel the playoffs are going to be close.
The Golden State Warriors had to play the Blazers (41-41), the Jazz (51-31) and the Spurs (61-21). The defensive assignment of having to guard a Damian Lillard isn’t easy to say the least. Although the games were never close it took a real defensive effort to be able to shut down a player like Dame. He’s not quite Kyrie but is a similar threat as far as shooting ability and explosiveness to the basket. We all knew the outcome of this series, but if you actually watched the game, it was more of a defensive shut down than a flurry of jump shots that the Warriors seem to only to known for. The Jazz were a pretty tough matchup as well even though the series record doesn’t reflect it. Rudy Gobert is one of the top DPOY candidates and I won’t allow you to tell me that doesn’t matter because you feel the Jazz may be trash. That trash Jazz team had the exact same record as the Cleveland Cavaliers, this season, which landed them at a 5th, seed in the West; although the Clippers (can’t believe I just mentioned them in an article discussing the Finals) shared the same record at a 4th seed. I only say that to say that it’s a little tougher in the West. Let’s face it. Lastly, the Dubs played a (Kawhi-less) Spurs team. Obviously Kawhi going down aided in the Warriors winning the series as quickly as they did but let’s not act like the Spurs were winning that series. True they were down 25 before Kawhi went down but that’s literally one game. A team like the Spurs should absolutely be able to maintain a 25-point lead whether Kawhi was there or not. You can’t replace Kawhi Leonard but the Spurs have just as much of a “next man up” system as the Warriors do. There were a few moments in the series where the Spurs were keeping things close until things got out of hand. I just don’t feel it’s the Warriors’ fault or issue that they “haven’t faced anyone yet”. With all due respect I seem to remember Manu getting buckets and having a game saving block against one of the top MVP candidates. I guess he’s too old of a player when it’s against the Warriors though. I know, narratives change to fit arguments of the moment.
While we are on the subject of teams played going into the Finals let’s take a look at the ones Cleveland has faced. The Cavs faced the Pacers (42-40), the Raptors (51-31) and the Celtics (53-29). The Pacers series was a lot closer than people are willing to admit. The Pacers clearly gave 2 of those games away. Credit to the Cavaliers for the comeback, sure, but I saw a Cavs team grinding out wins against a team that essentially only has Paul George. Add in team turmoil due to the Pacers losing and the series was over in 4. It was a 4 in which LeBron average nearly 40 minutes a game. Considering a game is only 48 minutes long that’s a lot of time to be on the court. But with sweeps come rest, and that’s exactly what Bron got after that series. Next the Cavs play a Kyle Lowry-less Raptors team. Now, is Kyle Lowry some game changer that would have won the Raptors the series? Nope, but he would definitely have helped them on the offensive end. Derozan pretty much broke down and gave up right before our very eyes. Basically praising the man they call King James and admitting defeat before the series was over. This is another series in which Bron average 40 minutes per game. But again, when you sweep, you get much needed rest. Lastly the Cavs played the Boston Celtics. I knew this series wouldn’t be close either. I wanted the Wizards to win because I thought they would pose more of a challenge but they couldn’t take care of business. The best player on the Celtics is all 5’9” of Isiah Thomas. Did we really ever think Boston stood a chance? Boston was left with Jerebko and Olynyk to save the day and had to rely on Marcus Smart to be their main offensive weapon. To my surprise this Boston team without IT was able edge out a win. Damn near one two in a row but Kyrie decided to go crazy. Shortly after, the series ended 4-1.
The Cavaliers have yet to be tested, especially on the defensive end. I feel the Warriors have already run into the most difficult defenses they will face in the Spurs and the Jazz. Cleveland won a lot of their games simply because the other team couldn’t make shots. In the Boston series the Cavaliers left a lot of players wide open. Bron will undoubtedly be playing 40+ minutes a game. I anticipate a sweep in favor of the Dubs but in the event the series is prolonged, all of those minutes played will begin to wear down on LeBron. The Warriors have the advantage of playing with their rotations to where the always have Steph, Klay, Draymond or KD on the floor at all times. They can do this while not having to boost the amount of minutes played. The Cavaliers only hope is to get this series over quickly.
I’m sure those of you who hate the Warriors, hate the Warriors players or even more so hate the Warriors fans will disagree with everything I’ve said in regards to the Cavs. That is to be expected as you are probably arguing your emotions and not the game of basketball. I’m just happy to be witnessing greatness right now. Getting to the Championship isn’t a guarantee no matter how stacked a team may appear. The Warriors and Cavaliers have managed to do it for 3 consecutive years. Most will probably appreciate all of this when it’s no longer happening.