The THRILLogy Continues: Cavaliers-Warriors Part III

On June 4, 2015, the Golden State Warriors played the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, with the Warriors looking to put a storybook ending to their odds-defying season. On June 16, 2015, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers played Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals, with the Warriors winning the game and the NBA Finals that year. June 2, 2016, they met for the 2nd consecutive Finals. This one came down to 7 games, with Cleveland winning their first NBA Finals ever, and bringing the city of Cleveland their first championship in a professional sport in 52 years. On June 1, 2017, they will meet again for the 3rd straight year, the first time in NBA history that the same two teams have played each other three consecutive years. Here is some history of the last 2 NBA Finals, and my prediction for who wins it this year:

The History of the THRILLogy

2015: The Golden State Warriors had a league-best 67-15 record, while the Cleveland Cavaliers returned to the playoffs with a 53-29 record in LeBron James’s first year back with the team since leaving for the Miami Heat in 2010. The teams split their season series 1 game apiece, and had an easy path to the NBA Finals. The Warriors won the Finals in 6 games despite LeBron nearly averaging a triple-double in large part due to the fact that Cleveland’s second star, Kyrie Irving, injured his knee in overtime in Game 1, making the Warriors job on defense easy, having one less guy to worry about, since Kevin Love had gotten injured earlier in the playoffs (both would be out for the rest of the playoffs). This win showed the versatility of the Warriors, as league-MVP Stephen Curry had a rough series, but guys like Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala stepped up (Iggy was the Finals MVP). This also showed that LeBron James, as inhuman as he played that series (averaging 35.8 points per game, 13.3 rebounds per game, and 8.8 assists per game), could not lead the team alone, and if the Cavs were healthy, they could win again if they made it back.

2016: Golden State played even better in the regular season, finishing with a 73-9 record, the best regular season record ever (most wins in a regular season). Stephen Curry averaged 30.1 points per game, 6.7 assists, and 2.1 steals per game on his way to winning back-to-back MVPs, and becoming the first player ever to win the league MVP unanimously. LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love combined to score an average of 61 points per game to lead their team. Both teams strolled through their conferences, and met again in the Finals. As we know, Golden State blew a 3-1 lead, and the rest is history.

This Year

Cleveland and Golden State started off well, and the Warriors continued it, as they got Kevin Durant in free agency on July 4th. Cleveland ended the season after the All-Star Break with a losing record, and people began to doubt them. The Warriors went 12-0 on their way to the Finals, and Cleveland went 12-1. Now, they meet again and are much better teams. This is the toughest test of LeBron James’ career, but with him on the team, LeBron can easily make this a series. James will outplay Durant, Kyrie will outplay Curry, Tristan Thompson will outplay Zaza Pachulia, and Kevin Love will outplay Draymond Green. So it comes down to Klay Thompson vs. JR Smith, and the benches. The Cavaliers bench has a lot more versatility than the Warriors bench, by acquiring Kyle Korver and Deron Williams in February, and on the Warriors side Klay has been very erratic. Last year, the Cavaliers left guys like Harrison Barnes open on shots to be able to play other guys on defense. This year, that guy will be Klay, as he is only shooting 36%. In the end, LeBron outplaying Durant is the biggest part of the reason that I believe Cleveland will repeat. Cleveland in 7. LeBron is the MVP, possibly the GOAT, and KD goes from potential all-time great to a guy who is a superstar with no credentials who made a weak move to leave the OKC Thunder to go to Golden State, the team that prevented him from going to the NBA Finals last year.

 

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Western Conference Finals: Can Anyone Beat Golden State?

The Golden State Warriors have been nothing short of golden this year, but my hatred towards the team and towards all its players not named Steph Curry, JaVale McGee, or Kevin Durant, lives on. Golden State has gone 8-0 so far to start the playoffs, and play a blue-collared juggernaut team in the San Antonio Spurs, who are coming off back-to-back 6 game series. Here is what I believe will happen in order for the Spurs to be able to beat Golden State, and why it may or may not happen.

How San Antonio Can Beat Golden State

Start Jonathan Simmons to Limit Steph Curry

The Spurs started Jonathan Simmons in Game 6 of their last series against the Rockets to limit James Harden. Simmons did just that, and also added 18 points in 31 minutes of play. Simmons is a 6’6” rookie out of Houston who can score, defend, and handle the ball, and last year, he paid $150 to just to try out for the D-League. Now, he is starting in the NBA Playoffs, and against a team with so much offensive firepower like Golden State, that should only continue. Steph Curry, however, has been shooting just under 47% these playoffs, and has been a matchup nightmare these playoffs, as he is averaging 3 turnovers a game, compared to Harden averaging 5.4, so Simmons will have his hands full.

Note: James Harden went 1-5 and had 6 turnovers when guarded by Simmons in Games 5 and 6. 

Keep The Warriors Fans Out of the Game

Oracle Arena, the home of the Warriors, is one of the loudest stadiums in the entire NBA, and probably the hardest to play in. San Antonio, led by head coach Greg Popovich, figured out a way to move the ball against the Rockets in the last series to keep the crowd out of the game. The Warriors, however, have been playing great defense this season, limiting the ball movement of teams and forcing players into bad shots. The Spurs run a lot of pick-and-roll, off-the-ball movement to free guys up, but Golden State has been limiting that all season. San Antonio will have to get players open quickly, not use up too much shot clock, and get quick baskets.

Kawhi Leonard Has to be Fresh and Healthy

The biggest advantage the Warriors will have is that they can attack Kawhi Leonard all they want knowing he won’t be as healthy as he normally is, meaning Kevin Durant could get some very easy baskets off of him. The key will be to have Coach Popovich utilize the bench well enough to the point where Kawhi can get his rest, and the Warriors don’t explode and go on a game-clinching scoring outburst like they are capable of. Leonard has been everything the Spurs could’ve hoped for in these playoffs, averaging 27.7 ppg, 7.7 rpg, and 4.7 apg. The teamwork will be key if the Spurs want to have any chance of winning the series. The only problem for the Spurs is that Kawhi isn’t unstoppable like LeBron James, especially when he isn’t healthy.

The Verdict

Many people who know me know that since the season started, I said the Spurs would beat Golden State in the Western Conference Finals, but after weighing in the stats, the wins and losses, the things I said the Spurs will have to do in order to win, and everything in between, I had to ask myself some important questions. Will the Spurs get swept? No. Can they win the series? Yes, and the reasons above prove how and why they can win, but the only problem is that Golden State knows how to win, even when Steph is limited, when the fans are out of the fame, and the opposing teams’ best player is on fire. If the Spurs win, it has to go to 7 games, but this series will be over in 6, with Golden State winning in 6.

Stats from:

http://stats.nba.com/leaders

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2017/05/jonathan-simmons-spurs-nba-playoffs-starter-kawhi-leonard-150-pay-d-league-tryout-story-rockets-game-6

 

The MLB Season: The Season After 1 Month, and What More to Expect

The MLB season has been extremely exciting for the fans, as there is plenty of new talent taking over the league, and new rivalries that have emerged. Here is what I have seen this season, and what I expect throughout the rest of the season:

Boston-Baltimore is Must-Watch TV
Whether or not you are a fan of any of these team, you cannot miss when these teams play. The last 6 matchups have all had nasty endings and controversy. It all started April 23rd, when Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes hit Orioles 3B Manny Machado, and Barnes was ejected. The next series between these teams started on May 1st, and Adam Jones received racial taunts directed towards him. The next day, the Red Sox fans gave Jones a standing ovation, but in the end, the feud just will not stop. The Orioles are currently 2nd in the AL East and 2nd in the AL, overall, while the Red Sox are 3rd in the AL East, and 8th in the AL, overall. No matter what, this is must-see TV, with a lot of controversy, brawls, and scoring, this rivalry has it all. They next play Boston on June 1st, in Baltimore.

Aaron Judge is Not Just Your Average Rookie

Aaron Judge is an MLB player. Aaron Judge plays for the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge should not be an MLB player. Aaron Judge is a 6’7”, 282 lbs, and is the starting rightfielder for the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge is the MLB’s next big thing who defies all stereotypes of baseball players, particularly size-wise. As of the last study done on MLB players (2010), most MLB players are between 69 and 74 inches in height (Judge is 79), and weight between 167.3 and 190.9 lbs. Judge’s numbers have been phenomenal, batting .337, has 13 HRs and 27 RBIs. These are the numbers that have helped the ‘Bronx Bombers’ come back to Earth after the last few years and their disappointment throughout.

The Washington Nationals are the NL’s Best Team

The Nationals have the most complete roster in all of baseball right now, as Bryce Harper is no longer alone, it seems. The pitching has finally been worked out evenly by Manager Dusty Baker, the infielders (Trea Turner, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Anthony Rendon) have all become reliable hitters game-in and game-out, and the outfielders (Harper, Michael Taylor, and Jayson Werth). At 20-9, they hold the MLB’s best record, and that will continue. They were the team I predicted to be better than the Chicago Cubs, and be the favorites for the World Series, and that has held true so far. As long as the team stays healthy and resilient, as it has been all year long, they will be World Series champions.