The time has come. On June 1st at 9 PM, the Cleveland Cavaliers will travel west to face off against the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors are heavily favored to win the title but the Cavs could be the opponent to spoil their anticipated champagne showers. Why do the Cavs have the best chance to defeat the most talented team ever assembled? Here are the reasons:
- New Acquisitions
Over the course of the season, the Cavs acquired Derrick Williams, Deron Williams, and Kyle Korver (Andrew Bogut was also a major addition but his season was ended in literally 2 minutes so I guess it wasn’t meant to be). I doubt that Derrick Williams will play major minutes in the Finals, but if the Cavs should play him, he is a versatile, athletic forward who has the ability to shoot the ball and spread the floor. Now, Kyle Korver will be a major component for the Cavs. Since he will most likely be a liability to Cleveland on defense, Korver will have to sink just about every single three-point shot he attempts. If Korver is able to consistently be a threat from the perimeter, he will force the Warrior’s defense to stay at home which will help Kyrie and LeBron do what they do best. Deron Williams is obviously the other primary ballhandler which will help take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron. With Deron, he will need to be aggressive when the opportunity presents itself (like he was vs. BOS in Game 5) and not defer immediately to LeBron or Kyrie; it will make the Cavs’ offensive attack not solely based on isolation play which can become oversaturated and predictable.
- Cleveland vs. The World
The core of this 73-win Warriors team still remains intact with the addition of the league’s second-best player, Kevin Durant. Logically, if the Warriors team, prior to KD, was up 3-1 in a series they eventually lost, then surely this year’s Warriors superteam will be destined to win now with KD coming to save the day. However, the beautiful thing about sports is the unpredictability and drastic shift of momentum from game-to-game. Right now, everyone is counting the Cavs out and giving them no chance. Surely, the players are aware of this and will be intrigued to silence all the doubters. During interviews with the media, LeBron and the Cavs are innately-trained to be humble, acknowledge and praise the extraordinary talents of the Warriors. But, from a competitor’s standpoint behind closed doors, the Cavs don’t find the Warriors intimidating at all. At the end of the day, the Warriors have home-court advantage but the Cavs are the defending champs.
- Kyrie “Uncle Drew” Irving
He’s already deemed the best ballhandler to ever play this game. And, without question, he has proven that he is the go-to guy during critical moments in the game (“The Shot” in game 7 vs. Warriors during 2016 Finals, the 42-point performance in game 4 vs. Celtics during 2017 ECF). Since game 1 of the 2015 NBA Finals and the entirety of last year’s NBA Finals, Kyrie has proven to be a far better asset and leader to his team than Steph Curry. In last year’s finals, Kyrie averaged 28 points per game while shooting 48 percent from the field. On the other hand, Curry averaged only 22 points per game while shooting only 42 percent from the field. With Kyrie on the floor, the Warriors have to worry about an explosive-scoring guard who is very capable of taking and making any shot, anywhere, at any time. LeBron put it best when he stated: “He [Kyrie] was born to perform and make big plays during key moments in the game.”
- LeBron “The King” James
LeBron is the best player in the game. He just passed The G.O.A.T, Michael Jordan, to become the leading scorer in NBA playoff history. Just to add, LeBron needs to make only 2 three’s to pass Reggie Miller and become the second-leading three-point scorer in NBA playoff history. And, I almost forgot! This finals appearance in 2017 will be LeBron’s 7th in a row! So, LeBron is used to this stage. However, this will be LeBron’s biggest challenge thus far in his career. KD is licking his chops, in the west, waiting to carry out his revenge after getting swept by LeBron in the 2012 NBA Finals. KD is obviously one of the best/unique scorers this league has ever seen. LeBron and the Cavs will have to try and contain KD and the Warriors’ high-octane offense to the best of their ability. If everyone plays their role and remains fundamentally-sound defensively to create more offensive possessions, then there’s no doubt that LeBron can and will find gaps in the defense in order to exploit the Warriors from the inside-out.
Without a doubt, this will be one of the most anticipated matchups in the history of sports. The series between these two juggernauts is tied 1-1 and this third meeting at the grand stage could potentially be the conclusion to an amazing rivalry. Players on both sides are healthy so the matchups are very promising ensuring an ultra-competitive series. Like ESPN analyst, Stephen A. Smith, declared: “THERE ARE NO EXCUSES!” Players’ legacies will be on the line. Who will rise to the top and be the cream of the crop?