For the most casual basketball fans, we always knew this is what we were going to get to this point. The Cleveland Cavaliers were always the huge favorites to win the Eastern Conference, while the Golden State Warriors were always the huge favorites to win the Western Conference. We've seen this twice before in the past, but this might be the most interesting of the three matchups between these two giants.
What's different this year? Clearly, the answer is Kevin Durant.
Durant was a thorn in the side of the Warriors last year. While he was with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Durant helped push the Dubs to seven games in the Western Conference Finals. Did that take enough out of Golden State to run it out of gas for the NBA Finals? Consider the fact that the Warriors were up 3-1 going back to Oakland for Game 5, and they still lost the championship series. Of course, Golden State could have just as easily won Game 7 as it lost Game 7 had a few moments gone the other direction, but clearly, this team wasn't as good in the postseason as it was in the regular season.
With Durant in Oakland, the Warriors have only had to play the minimum 12 games in the postseason. There's no excuse to be tired at this point, especially since the addition of Durant has taken all of the pressure off of the rest of the superstars on this team. None of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green or Durant are playing even 35 minutes per game here in the second season, and no one else on the roster has played even 15 minutes per game aside from Andre Iguodala, averaging 25 minutes per game.
Curry is averaging 28.6 points, 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game, while Durant is shooting 55.6 percent and is averaging 25.2 points per game. The scary thing for the Cavaliers here is that the Dubs are 12-0 in the second season without getting anything whatsoever out of Thompson. Sure, he's averaging 14.4 points per game, but he's shooting just 38.3 percent and 36.4 percent from downtown. The offense could get incredibly scary if Thompson can start knocking down 40+ percent of his threes like both Durant, Curry and Green.
The formula to get the Cavaliers to the Finals this year has largely been exactly the same as in the past two seasons. LeBron James takes over. Everyone else gets out of his way.
The numbers for LeBron are out of this world. He's averaging 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. He's shooting 56.6 percent from the field and 42.1 percent from beyond the arc, and the only knock on him is 3.9 turnovers per game. But then again, when the ball is in your hands on seemingly every possession, you can get away with some turnovers. James has been on the court an average of just under 41 minutes per game in this postseason, and the amount of meaningful minutes he has sat in the 13 games in the playoffs is virtually nil.
The Warriors have opened up as -260 favorites to win the NBA championship for the second time in the last three seasons.
The winner of this series has closed things out on the road in each of the last two seasons.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals is on Thursday night. Cleveland will have had a full week off before getting back on the court. Golden State will have been off for a whopping 10 days.
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