By: Kyle Boris
The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are meeting in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year. Steve Kerr and the Warriors have won 2-out-of-3 thus far with a third championship in reach. Seemingly, the only person in their way is, arguably, the greatest basketball player of all-time.
Some complain that they would have preferred a different matchup this time around, seeing as though we’ve seen this movie play out already for the past three seasons. But, unlike The Hangover 3, Little Fockers and every other terrible sequel, this franchise just seems to keep coming with hit after hit.
The fourth movie in this installment has added the injury questions with 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodola and 5-time All-Star Kevin Love. Nick Young and JaVale McGee are the buddy cop duo you never you knew you needed in this blockbuster. Then, there’s the role players don’t feature in many scenes, but if they shine, could make or break the film for a certain team. I’m looking at you Jordan Clarkson, Jeff Green and George Hill.
With all the different storylines intertwined in the 2018 NBA Finals, it’s difficult to come up with a definitive reason as to why either team will hoist the O’Brien Trophy this year. That is why I went to social media to ask for one reason, one word or one sentence why the Cavs or Warriors will win the NBA Finals. After going through all of them, let’s check out the results.
1.) Warriors because they know how to put the ball in the basket
These two Twitter users believe the Warriors’ offense is just too much to keep up with and they might be right. Durant, Curry and Thompson are all among the top 20 in points per game this postseason while the Cavs have only one player. That one player happens to be Lebron James who finds himself at number 1 with 34 points per game. That being said, Kevin Love is the next guy on the list for the Cavs, but he lands all the way at 42 with only 13.9 ppg.
The Warriors have three guys who could legitimately drop 30 a night, while the Cavs struggle to have a player other than Lebron drop 20. Kevin Love has scored 20+ just four times, while the rest of the Cavs have combined for two 20-point games, one from J.R. Smith and another from George Hill.
This postseason the Warriors have played one less game than the Cavs, but still have outscored Cleveland 1,855 to 1,821. The offensive fire power cannot be questioned and Lebron and co. will have to either try to keep up with Golden State, shut them down or just keep relying on the King. But, can they actually do that for a fourth consecutive series?
2. Warriors because Lebron is playing WAY too many minutes
Lebron James is a player unlike any we’ve ever seen before. He rarely misses games, he plays entire contests and he looks like he might actually play forever. But eventually, that has to take a toll on him, right? Right?!
The man has AVERAGED 41.3 minutes per game. The four main guys for Golden State are all averaging around 38 minutes per game with Curry getting the most rest at 35.7 mpg. A 3-minute difference might not seem like a lot, but when every minute counts, that little bit of rest could be the difference especially when the Warriors can rain 3’s on a team at the snap of Thanos’ fingers.
And when Lebron is on the court, he’s leading the postseason in usage rate regarding players who have played at least 7 games. James’ usage rate is at 35.9 while Durant is the highest Warrior at 31.2.
There have been rumblings that Lebron is exhausted and that he’s getting tired. Even so, he still has found a way to take his team to victories over the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics. Even so, that could be a different story once he attempts to tackle the Warriors. Let’s say Lebron and Durnat take a play off together, the Warriors STILL have the Splash Brothers(remember them) to rely on, while the Cavs would be lucky to have a healthy Kevin Love.
Can the Cavs afford to take out Lebron? Can they afford to not have him involved in most possessions? Maybe none of that actually matters?
3.) Cavs because the NBA is…RIGGED
I for one find this hard to believe because I like to believe that everyone is a good soul and no bad would ever be done in the world of the National Basketball Association. But…but! There are plenty of people out there who feel very strongly that our beloved NBA is indeed rigged.
A quick advanced Twitter search using the words ‘NBA’ and ‘rigged’ from May 27th(when the Cavs clinched) until now, will result in thousands of tweets from users who believe the NBA is definitely rigged.
I’m all about rigged television. I’ll tune into WWE each and every week even if it’s rigged so that Roman Reigns wins all the time. You bet I’m into some scripted entertainment, but if the NBA was actually rigged, the lights would go out before Game 1 and Russell Westbrook would show up in a Cavs uniform.
4.) Warriors because the Cavs just don’t have enough
It was mentioned earlier that Cavs players not named Lebron or Kevin have struggled to make an impact and in order for them to have a chance this series, they’ll need a Kyle, a Jordan, a Jeff and a George, and maybe even a Rodney to show up and contribute.
The Warriors have multiple players that contribute every night whether it be their four All-Stars or their role players such as Shaun Livingston and Kevon Looney. To be able to take down a team like the Warriors, it’ll take more than just Lebron and Kevin(if healthy) to get the job done. That was evident in Golden State’s series vs. the Rockets.
Houston was able to win three games that series and it was no coincidence that role players stepped up to match the big four of the Warriors. In Game 2, P.J. scored 22, Trevor dropped 19 and Eric put up 27. In their Game 4 and Game 5 wins, Gordon also scored 14 and 23 to help take the load off James and Chris.
The Cavaliers’ versions of Eric, Trevor and P.J. can be seen in Kyle, Jeff and J.R., but those guys haven’t proven that they can consistently help out Lebron. If that’s not the case when the Finals begins, we very well might be looking at a sweep.
5.) Cavs because Whatever Happened to Predictability?
You can never go wrong with 80’s/90’s sitcom parodies and CBS Sports tweeted out a fantastic mash-up to get you ready for the NBA Finals with the Family Matters theme song to put the icing on the cake.
“Season 4 of Cavs vs. Warriors was recorded in front of a live studio audience.” pic.twitter.com/xQJOdJAHSl
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) May 29, 2018
Did the makers of the video use Kevin Durant eating a cupcake on accident? Was it intentional that Klay Thompson was shown missing a dunk? Do they know something we don’t? Maybe “Coach Perk” is the X-factor that the Cavs needed all along?
6.) Warriors because they have SNIPERS
At the end of the day, the Golden Warriors are sending three of the best shooters in the world onto the court each and every night. During the regular season, Durant, Curry and Thompson combined to make 614 3’s and all three were in the top 10 in 3-point percentage among players who took at least 300 3’s.
That’s tough to swallow and even tougher to prepare for.
The Rockets had the bodies to compete with the Warriors thanks to their ability to score the basket at a high rate. But, how will the Cavs do the same when some of their best shooters are under-performing during the playoffs?
During the regular season J.R. Smith shot a respectable .403 from the field, but has seen that number drop to .356 thus far in the playoffs. Jordan Clarkson, another sharp-shooter, had a .456 field goal percentage, but that number has plummeted in the playoffs to .309.
The J.R. Smith Experience pic.twitter.com/1l9292w9lE
— Sherwob Holmes (@World_Wide_Wob) May 26, 2018
Those numbers got the Cavs by in the earlier rounds, but when up against a behemoth like the Warriors, Clarkson and J.R. are going to need to improve for Cleveland to have a chance.
Even if Jordan Clarkson and J.R. Smith shoot better, it’s no given that it will be enough. The Warriors have three MVP Awards between Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. It’s not often you see former NBA MVP’s playing together while both are still in their prime and it’s scary to think these two could be along for the ride for the foreseeable future.
Both guys averaged exactly 26.4 ppg during the regular season which just further showcases just how in-sync the duo is. The only other team to have two players average over 25 ppg was the Pelicans’ duo of Anthony Davis(28.1) and DeMarcus Cousins(25.2) with the latter only playing 48 games due to his season-ending injury.
Durant and Curry are at the top of their games and if Steph keeps shining and shimmying, while Durant keeps making contested long-range shots, the Warriors could be on their way to back-to-back titles.
7.) Cavs because Lebron James
Sometimes the answer is just two simple words.
Lebron James is playing at an almost unfathomable level right now and only he knows just how far he can actually take this team.
James has played in 18 games this postseason. Here’s some of his scoring numbers in those games.
He’s been a fan of scoring 40+ points as he’s put up 46, 46, 45, 44, 44, 43 and 42 so far.
He’s shot at least 50% from the field in 13-of-18 games. He’s also had a double-double in 13-of-18 games.
DON’T YOU EVER FIX YOUR MOUTH TO SAY SOMETHING BAD ABOUT LEBRON AGAIN pic.twitter.com/qLvG7JvRD4
— Shea Serrano (@SheaSerrano) May 6, 2018
But somehow that’s just the norm for Lebron James. You would think after playing an entire NBA season there might be some lay-off, but he’s actually just doing what he does in the regular season and carrying it into the playoffs. James shot 54% from the field in the regular season. His field goal percentage during the playoffs? 54%.
He’s also just staying on the court more than ever in order to make sure his team has the best chance at winning. King James averaged 41 minutes in the Conference Finals vs. the Celtics in order to help lead the Cavs to victory. Will that kind of effort be enough for the Cavs to win another championship with Lebron at the helm? There’s not many players that could take down a dynasty-in-the-making like the Warriors, but if there’s someone not to bet against, it’s Lebron James.
As Twitter user @Da_Manveer said, “Cavs will probably not but hopefully win because(Lebron James) is the greatest basketball player of all time.” And if that doesn’t sum up most of America’s feelings, I don’t know what does.
8.) Whoever Wins 4 Games First
The real answer to this question was quite obvious all along. Basketball fans around the world will be gifted another entertaining series whether the Warriors sweep, Lebron pulls off the unthinkable with a miracle series-winning shot in Game 7, Nick Young and J.R. Smith do Nick Young and J.R. Smith things, or Cedi Osman gets in a game. The 2018 NBA Finals are here so let’s enjoy this fourth installment in this series before the credits roll on another NBA season.
All stats via Basketball-Reference