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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