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NBA Finals Preview

Credit: USA Today

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NBA Finals Preview 2017

The NBA Finals began last Thursday night between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.  This is the third year in a row the two teams have matched up in the finals, with the Warriors winning in 2015, and the Cavs winning in 2016.  Unlike, the past two years when the teams faced off, both teams are at full strength and have reloaded their rosters.  The Warriors have added superstar forward Kevin Durant, while the Cavs revamped their bench with the acquisitions of Deron Williams and Kyle Korver.

Let’s take a look at all of the factors and storylines heading into the finals:

Superstar vs. Superstar

For the first time in years, we have an NBA Finals where the consensus top 2 players in the world face off against one another, Kevin Durant vs LeBron James.  Having already met in the Finals before in 2012, when Durant was with the Thunder and James on the Heat, James came out not only with the series win, but with title of being Durant’s kryptonite. One could believe that is certainly true looking at the head to head matchup between the two, as James is 18-5 against Durant, regular season and postseason.  

Going into depth of this projected statement, one could say, yes Durant has not been successful in the win column against James, but statistically he has done very well.  In 2012, when the two faced off in the Finals, Durant averaged 30.6 ppg, on 54% shooting, and in the regular season they both have almost identical numbers.  Fast forward to the 2017 playoffs, James has been playing some of the best basketball in his career.

Averaging career highs in points per games, field goal percentage, and 3-point percentage. Looking very much at the peak of his prime, while also strengthening the argument that he’s the best to ever play. When the two go to battle Thursday night, it will be the very best going to head to head, each with a chip on the shoulder, one chasing the Jordan shadow, and the other looking to get his first ring.

Steph Curry vs. Kyrie Irving

The point guard matchup everyone is dying to see this Finals is Steph Curry against Kyrie Irving.  Irving who hit the step back go-ahead bucket on Curry in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last year, has been thriving through the 2017 playoffs, coming on hot as of late in the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics scoring 42 points in game 4.  Curry, who is also hot as of late is averaging a career high in point per game throughout the 2017 playoffs, and had another stellar regular season, but has a lot to prove in these 2017 Finals.  In the first matchup between the Warriors and Cavs in the 2015 NBA Finals, the two-time MVP performed rather mediocrely and did not win Finals MVP.  In 2016 Finals, things got even worse for Curry as he shot under 50% for the final 5 games and did not look like himself in Game 7. Redemption would be the word used for Curry in these Finals, because that’s exactly what he is looking for.  Irving on the other hand strived in the 2016 Finals, having three straight games of 30+ points and willing his team to victory alongside James in Game 7.  Irving has gotten the best of Curry in the Finals, but look for that to change this Finals, as Curry has last year’s finals in the back of his mind, and he’s fully healthy this year.

Harrison Barnes, Yes Harrison Barnes

Many people are probably wondering why on heavens earth is the mentioning of the name Harrison Barnes being said on a 2017 Finals preview. Well if many forget Barnes played for the Warriors in 2015-2016, before signing with the Dallas Mavericks this past off-season.  He is important to the previews of these Finals because he was awful in last year’s Finals. Barnes shot a whopping 5-32 (15%) from the field in the final 3 games of that series, in which the Warriors lost all three. You won’t find many teams winning with their starting 3-man shooting so poorly.  Replace him with a superstar like Kevin Durant, and things might be much different this time come around.

Keys to the series:

Rebounding

In last year’s Finals the Cavs owned the glass, outrebounding the Warriors by 28 for the whole series, which led them to getting second chance opportunities and kick out threes that killed the Warriors defense.  Look for this to be a key for this series as well, as Golden State will have to find a way to keep Cleveland’s best rebounder Tristian Thompson off the glass.

One on One Basketball

The Cavs own two of the best isolations players in the NBA in James and Irving. In the postseason alone James has 89 isolation possessions, 1.20 points per possession on 61% effective field goal percentage, while Irving has 87 isolation possessions, 1.24 points per possessions and 63.3% effective field goal percentage.  Compare this to the Warriors duo of Durant and Curry, the Cavs have 134 more possessions of Iso ball.  If the Warriors want to win, they must be able to find willing defenders who can slow down James and Irving.

Draymond Green

The heart and soul of the Warriors, Draymond Green, is shooting an astounding 47% from 3 and has a true shooting percentage of 64% in this year’s playoffs, all career highs.  If he can keep this tremendous shooting going, expect the Cavs to have trouble with rotations on defense, having to guard 5 offensive players on the court, who are all lethal 3 point shooters.

Mike Brown

Interim Coach Mike Brown will most likely be coaching the Finals for the Warriors, as Head Coach Steve Kerr is recovering from back surgery.  This is not much of a key to the series yet because the Warriors have been successful with him at the helm so far, but what happens if they lose a couple of games, do the players start to lose faith in their coach?

 

And finally, my prediction…

The Warriors will win the 2017 NBA Finals.