OPINION BY TRISTAN SASSE
For the fourth consecutive year, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the NBA Finals. Just as impressive, LeBron James will be appearing in his eighth straight Finals. Although the remaining teams are no stranger to each other, many new faces will be featured in the hunt for this year’s crown.
Cleveland Cavaliers – The Eastern Conference Champions
The Cavaliers finished the regular season at 50-32 and won their fourth straight Central Division title. In the postseason, Cleveland is 12-6 overall, with two of its series going to seven games. Led by 14-time NBA All-Star LeBron James, Cleveland is impossible to count out although they enter the Finals as major underdogs. The Cavaliers are the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference but haven’t been phased by the underdog role in the postseason, which included a four-game sweep of the No. 1 seed Toronto Raptors in the conference semifinals.
Golden State Warriors – The Western Conference Champions
Golden State finished the regular season at 58-24 and won its fourth straight Pacific Division title. The no. 2 seeded Warriors have gone 12-5 this postseason but had to overcome a 3-2 deficit against the Houston Rockets to advance to the NBA Finals. If the Rockets would have stayed healthy, this finals showdown could have been a different story. Nonetheless, the Warriors, consisting of a quartet of All-Stars, are looking to earn the franchise’s third championship in the past four seasons.
What to Watch For
Although the Warriors are entering the Finals as heavy favorites, it is difficult to discount a team led by LeBron James. ‘The King’ is the all-time leader in postseason points and steals, and ranks in the top-10 in assists, rebounds, and games played. With one of the weakest supporting casts in his 15-year tenure, this would arguably be the most surprising series win in LeBron’s career.
This postseason, LeBron is averaging 34 points per game, nine rebounds, and nearly nine assists per contest. Kevin Love is the only other Cavalier averaging over 10 ppg. To have a chance in the Finals, Cleveland will also need major production from role players Kyle Korver, JR Smith, George Hill, Jeff Green, and Tristan Thompson. As well as increased roles by new acquisitions, Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, and Larry Nance Jr. Ultimately, to stop the Warriors, the Cavaliers will need a complete team effort. Up to this point, Cleveland has heavily relied on LeBron to save the day.
On the other side, Golden State is the league’s highest-scoring offense. With Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Klay Thompson all averaging over 20 ppg in the playoffs, the Warriors can strike from anywhere on the floor. They rely heavily on an up-tempo offense that should be able to wear down the Cavaliers. Additionally, Golden State has averaged over 30 three-point attempts per game in the postseason. If they are connecting from the perimeter, this series could get out of hand in a hurry. Golden State won’t be able to stop LeBron, but as long as they contain him, this series is theirs.
The Warriors have struggled on the road this postseason, with a 4-4 record away from Oracle. With that being said, Golden State has home court advantage in the Finals and went 8-1 at home against the Western Conference this postseason. Additionally, the Warriors won both matchups against the Cavaliers in the regular season. As heavy favorites, Golden State will come away with another championship trophy.
Game 1: Cleveland at Golden State
Thursday, May 31 at 8:00 pm on ABC
Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State
Sunday, June 3 at 7:00 pm on ABC
Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland
Wednesday, June 6 at 8:00 pm on ABC
Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland
Friday, June 8 at 8:00 pm on ABC
Game 5: Cleveland at Golden State (if necessary)
Monday, June 11 at 8:00 pm on ABC
Game 6: Golden State at Cleveland (if necessary)
Thursday, June 14 at 8:00 pm on ABC
Game 7: Cleveland at Golden State (if necessary)
Sunday, June 17 at 7:00 pm on ABC