2016 NBA Finals Preview: Cavs-Warriors

nba finals 2016Cavs: Eastern Conference Finals: Beat Toronto 4-2
Warriors: Western Conference Finals: Beat Oklahoma City 4-3

Season Series: Golden State won 2-0
Game 1: Cleveland at Golden State Thursday, June 2 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State Sunday, June 5 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland Wednesday, June 8 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland Friday, June 10 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Golden State Monday, June 13 (if necessary)
Game 6: Golden State at Cleveland Thursday, June 16 (if necessary)
Game 7: Cleveland at Golden State Sunday, June 19 (if necessary)

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James during a break in Game 5 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Tonight the NBA Finals rematch that has been a year in the making tips off, as the defending champion, Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers. After beginning the playoffs with a 10-0 start, the Cavs faced a little adversity in the Eastern Conference Finals by dropping two in a row in Toronto. Cleveland responded with a 38 point drubbing of the Raptors in Game 5 at the Q and a close out win in Game 6. The Warriors rallied from a 3-1 deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder to advance to the NBA Finals for the second year in a row. Last year, the Warriors beat a depleted Cavaliers team in 6 games. LeBron James was without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but he still managed to have one of the greatest NBA Finals performances of all-time averaging 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. This time King James has help as both Love and Irving are healthy and the Cavs bench is deeper. The key for the Cavaliers in this series is to play their own game and try to not replicate the Warriors playing style. The Cavs have already shown that they can hit the three ball at historic levels, but Golden State is still an elite shooting team. I expect the Cavs to not only contend with the Warriors from beyond the arc, but to also show that they can be just as dangerous when they attack the paint. LeBron James is playing in his sixth straight NBA Finals and he knows what the outcome of this series could do to his legacy. LeBron has played well throughout the playoffs, but you can tell that he has been conserving energy for this moment. I expect King James to have another historic series as he attempts to lead the Cavaliers to their first championship in franchise history.

Key Matchup

Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving drives to the basket in Game 5 of the 2016 Eastern Conference Finals. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. The two-time reigning NBA MVP, Curry battled injuries during the first two rounds of the playoffs, but he has shown up when it has mattered the most. He scored 31 and 36 points respectively in games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals. Despite putting up big numbers, Curry is taking a lot of shots to get those points. In Game 6, he shot 9-22 on field goals, but he hit crucial baskets in the finals minutes of the game to give Golden State the win. Steph is still making the jaw dropping contested three pointers that he has become known for, but he is also missing shots that he should make, which shows that his knee is not at 100%. Kyrie Irving has continued to shine during the playoffs averaging 24.3 points on 48% shooting. Last year, “Uncle Drew” fractured his kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals and was  sidelined until December 20. This year he is healthy and ready for redemption. There were times during this season where Irving was criticized for playing a one on one type game. This type of game was what Kyrie was focussed on early in his career, but over the last few months that has changed as he is focused on the bigger picture. You cannot beat Stephen Curry one on one and Kyrie knows that. Irving has shown some bright spots on defense and he will have to be on top of his game against Curry. Kyrie Irving’s success against Steph Curry will be crucial to the Cavs title hopes.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The previous three teams to make it to back to back NBA Finals after losing the previous year have won. Those teams were the San Antonio Spurs (2014), Miami Heat (2012), and the Los Angeles Lakers (2009).

Bonus Stat

LeBron James will be making his sixth straight NBA Finals appearance. James Jones has also made the Finals for the sixth straight season, but he did not play a minute in 2011 Finals with the Miami Heat.

Prediction

The Cleveland Cavaliers will win the NBA Championship in 6 games. The Cavs have quite the challenge ahead of them as the 73 win Warriors have the momentum coming off a 3-1 comeback in the Western Conference Finals. However, this Cavaliers team has become an offensive juggernaut. The Cavs are 8-0 in both the regular season and playoffs when their Big 3 of James, Love and Irving have scored 20 plus points in a game. LeBron has delivered in the Finals before and he will need Love and Irving to be at the top of their game for this series. Cleveland will also need strong contributions from starters J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson, as well as bench players Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert. The sharp shooting Warriors will go on many runs throughout the series, but the key for the Cavaliers will be to weather the storm and produce on the offensive end. The Warriors may be the popular favorite to win this series, but the Cavaliers are a team that is focussed and on a mission. LeBron said after Game 3 of the Conference Semi-Finals, “We’re a team that’s destined for greatness, and I really believe that.” King James just may be right as his Cavaliers are four wins away from delivering Cleveland its first professional sports championship in 52 years.

Views From the 216: Cavs-Raptors Eastern Conference Finals Preview

cavs-raptors

Cavs Second Round: Swept Atlanta 4-0
Raptors Second Round: Beat Miami 4-3

Season Series: Toronto won 2-1
Game 1: Toronto at Cleveland, Tuesday, May 17 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 2: Toronto at Cleveland, Thursday, May 19 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 3: Cleveland at Toronto, Saturday, May 21 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 4: Cleveland at Toronto, Monday, May 23 at 8:30 p.m.
Game 5: Toronto at Cleveland, Wednesday, May 25 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Cleveland at Toronto, Friday, May 27 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Toronto at Cleveland, Sunday, May 29 at 8:30 p.m. (if necessary)

Cavaliers point guard, Kyrie Irving. Photo Credit: Erik Drost

After steamrolling through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavaliers are back in the Eastern Conference Finals for the second straight year. The Cavs will open up the ECF tonight at the Q against the Toronto Raptors. Cleveland has dominated their opponents so far by averaging a postseason-leading 16.8 three-pointers made on 46.2% shooting. If the Cavs can keep up their impressive shooting, this could be an ugly series. Cleveland’s NBA record 25 three pointers in Game 2 against Atlanta was a thing of beauty and it shows just how dangerous this team can be. Toronto is playing in the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. The Raptors enter this series after winning their first two matchups in seven games and they are a little banged up. Toronto center, Jonas Valaciunas will not play in Game 1 and is doubtful for Game 2 with an ankle injury. Raptors forward, DeMarre Carroll also battled a wrist injury in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. The depleted Raptors will need their two All-Stars, Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan (both have played with injuries of their own) to play at a high level to make this an interesting series. The duo combined for 63 of Toronto’s 116 points in Sunday’s game 7 win over Miami, but they are shooting a combined 36 percent after the first two rounds. If the Cavs can keep Lowry and DeRozan in check, this will be a quick series.

Key Matchup

Raptors point guard, Kyle Lowry. Photo Credit: Keith Allison

The matchup to watch for in this series is between point guards, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry. This year’s Eastern Conference Finals will feature a clash between two All-Star point guards and perhaps the two best guards in the Eastern Conference. Despite Lowry’s poor shooting percentage, he has shown up when it matters the most for Toronto this postseason. He struggled is a Game 1 loss to the Heat going 3-for-13, but on Sunday during Toronto’s second straight Game 7 this postseason, he was brilliant. Lowry scored 35 points on 11 of 20 shots and added 9 assists in the series clinching win. He has been battling a right elbow injury since January and he had it drained in late March, which may explain his recent troubles. Kyrie Irving has been terrific so far this postseason leading the Cavaliers in scoring, averaging 24.4 points in eight games. Kyrie has showed a strong defensive effort so far in the playoffs by handling Detroit’s Reggie Jackson and Atlanta’s duo of Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder. Irving will have more of a challenge against Lowry as he is a tough defender, and he hit can hurt you from both inside and outside of the paint. This will be an entertaining matchup to watch and I give the advantage to Kyrie Irving. Kyrie has been on a roll so far this postseason and I think that will lead into success against Lowry.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

The Cavaliers can become the first team in NBA history to go 12-0 on its way to the Finals with a sweep of Toronto.

Prediction

The Cavs will knock off the Raptors in 5 games. The Cavaliers are coming off another week of rest and are ready to go. It has been a historic year for Canada’s only basketball franchise, but their magical run will come to an end in the Conference Finals. Unfortunately, Toronto is too injury plagued to make this the competitive series that it could be. The question for Cleveland is can they continue their historic three point shooting from the first two rounds. It’s hard for any team to shot like that, but this Cavaliers team is special and is poised for a monumental run in June. The Cavs have shown that they are a legitimate championship contender and they will prove that once again by advancing to the NBA Finals for the second straight year.