“The Three-Match” 2017 NBA Finals Preview

Photo Credit: NBA.com

Cavs: Eastern Conference Finals: Beat Boston 4-1
Warriors: Western Conference Finals: Beat San Antonio 4-0

Season Series: Split 1-1

Game 1: Cleveland at Golden State, Thursday June 1 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 2: Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday June 4 at 8:00 p.m.
Game 3: Golden State at Cleveland, Wednesday June 7 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 4: Golden State at Cleveland, Friday June 9 at 9:00 p.m.
Game 5: Cleveland at Golden State, Monday June 12 (If Necessary)
Game 6: Golden State at Cleveland, Thursday June 15 (If Necessary)
Game 7: Cleveland at Golden State, Sunday June 18 (If Necessary)

Cavaliers forward, LeBron James finishes an alley-oop from J.R. Smith during Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Tonight basketball fans finally receive the matchup they have been calling for since the Cavaliers historic comeback last June, the rubber match between the last two NBA Champions. “The Trilogy” marks the first time in NBA history that two teams have met in three consecutive NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start the postseason with a 12-0 record after a sweep of the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals after two blowout wins. The defending champs would face some adversity as they blew a 21 point lead in Game 3 to drop their first contest of the postseason. After a slow start in Game 4, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James carried the Cavs to the Finals for the third straight year by taking Games 4 and 5. In Game 5, LeBron James passed Michael Jordan to become the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring leader and he also passed Manu Ginobli for third all-time in three pointers made in the playoffs. LeBron stated last summer that he would spend the rest of his career chasing the ghost of Michael Jordan and with the numbers he has posted so far this postseason it is clear that he is ready to lead his team towards another title. The King is having his most dominant postseason to date with averages of 32.5 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists per game. With the addition of Kevin Durant, this year’s Warriors team proves to be the toughest opponent LeBron has faced in The Finals. However, with the emergence of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love playing arguably the best basketball of his career, the Cavaliers can make this an epic conclusion to a legendary trilogy.

Key Matchup

Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant (35) celebrates his basket against the Portland Trail Blazers in the fourth quarter of Game 1 of their NBA first round playoff series at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday, April 16, 2017. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

The matchup to watch for in this series is between the two star forwards, Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Kevin Durant sent shockwaves throughout the NBA  last July when he announced he would be joining the Golden State Warriors. Despite missing 19 games with a knee injury, Durant has fit nicely with the Warriors this season and he has turned them into a historically dangerous team. KD has had a stellar postseason as he is shooting 55.6 percent overall and 41.7 percent from three point territory. Last year the Cavaliers focussed defensively on Steph Curry, thus forcing the struggling Harrison Barnes to beat them. The Cavs won’t have that luxury this time especially since Durant has already had some success against them. In the two regular season meetings between these juggernauts, Durant averaged 28.5 points per game on 51.3 percent shooting. Tyronn Lue will have LeBron start off with guarding KD, but it would be asking too much of the King to use all of his defensive energy on the Warriors forward. I expect the Cavs to give Durant a variety of looks that include Kevin Love and Richard Jefferson. LeBron is 18-5 against Durant, including a 4-1 victory over KD’s Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals. This year’s Finals could finally see Durant best LeBron with the help of Golden State’s other three All-Stars. Both superstars have almost identical numbers when they face off against each other which should result in a classic Finals clash.

Lansky’s Crazy Stat

LeBron James is the only player to rank in the top ten in points (first), rebounds (seventh), and assists (third) in NBA playoff history.

Bonus Stat

The Warriors (12-0) and Cavaliers (12-1) enter the NBA Finals with the fewest combined losses of any two teams since the current playoff format began in 1984.


Kevin Love soars for a dunk on a fast break during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals May 23. Photo Credit-Jeff Lansky

Never before have two teams met in three consecutive NBA Finals and this series promises to be the heavyweight bout that fans have been dreaming of. The key for the Cavaliers in this series is to get back on defense especially on the fast break. The Warriors lead the league this postseason in fast-break points with 20.7 per game. The Cavs have improved defensively on the fast-break so far these playoffs, giving up 10.2 points per game which ranks fifth in the league. Golden State’s bread and butter is to make you pay on the fast break so is it is crucial that Cleveland plays defense. The way this strategy could swing in the Cavs favor lies with two men: Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love. Both Love and Thompson rank in the top ten for total rebounds this season with K-Love sitting third for defensive rebounds with 9 per game. TT is third for offensive rebounds with 4.2 per game. The rebounding from Cleveland’s big men will be vital in giving the Cavs second chances on offense and the potential to stops runs on defense during transitions. In addition to his rebounding skill, Kevin Love plays another crucial role in this series for the Cavs with his scoring. Last year, K-Love was seen as a weakness at times against the Warriors and his struggles showed. However this season, he has returned to the type of player he was in Minnesota. He caught fire in the Eastern Conference Finals averaging 22.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, and was a mind boggling 23 of 43 from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers do well when they can get Love going early and they will need to feed off of him during this series. You know what you will get from LeBron and Kyrie Irving, but if the Kevin Love from the Conference Finals shows up the Cavaliers will take this series. I believe the conclusion to this epic trilogy is going to be a hard-nosed, back and forth fight. Don’t expect any sweeps or 3-1 leads this time around as this is championship basketball at its finest. By sweeping through the West the Warriors have yet to face any true adversity and I think that will work in the Cavs favor.
Cavaliers in six.

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.


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.