NBA Playoffs: LeBron looks for revenge in low scoring series opener
Robbie Purves | May 31, 2016
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors
- NBA Conference Finals
- Friday, June 3rd
- Tipoff: 02:00 BST
- Oracle Arena, Oakland
Warriors look for consecutive titles
The Finals rematch that so many wanted is finally here, after Golden State Warriors overcame a 3-1 disadvantage to claim their spot in this year’s final chapter.
The Cleveland Cavaliers needed just 14 games to book their place back to The Finals, sweeping their first two series in the Eastern Conference playoffs and burying the overpowered Toronto Raptors 4-2.
LeBron James is playing in his his sixth straight Finals, the last of which Cleveland lost to Golden State. However, James will now have a fully fit supporting cast, with both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love coming into to the huge clash healthy, and firing on all cylinders.
Against Oklahoma City Thunder, Warriors became only the 10th team in history to recover from a 3-1 deficit to win a series, setting up a rematch of last year’s Finals matchup. Steve Kerr’s side may have recorded the best regular season ever, but the wobble they experienced should worry them.
Time after time Steph Curry was exposed by a basic pick and roll, and the bullying defence Thunder deployed worked. Cavs have been the most dominant team in the playoffs this term and would have studied the Oakland outfit intensely.
The teams averaged a combined 199.8 over their last four meetings against each other and Coral have them at 7/4 to score under 204.
Warriors to rediscover class
Despite the recent doubts, when Warriors are on their game and the threes are falling, they are the best team in basketball.
If Golden State are to win this series and therefore back-to-back Championships, they will need to lure Cavs into a shooting match. Curry and Klay Thompson are the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history and will destroy anyone foolish enough to challenge a team built on three point shooting.
Warriors need to reclaim some of their regular season form, passing the ball relentlessly, finding wide open looks easily.
Last year’s Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, finished the OKC series strong taking on Kevin Durant. Iguodala has a knack of stopping James, in 2015 the forward helped irritate LeBron into poor shots and ultimately proved decisive as Cavs were defeated – with James’ influence kept to a minimum.
Another key player will be Draymond Green. If he fails to keep his emotions in check, he could rip apart his own team. His versatility on defence has proved valuable during the season but his kick out at Kiwi Steven Adams shows the dark side of his game. Kerr will hope he can remain cool and prove influential in the Finals.
Any doubts about fitness should be dispelled by Kerr’s regular usage of the Golden State deep bench – depth could be a huge factor in the series.
Cavaliers out for revenge
This is not the same side Cavaliers brought into The Finals last year. Cavs now bring a fully fit roster and are a better team with 12 months of development under their belts.
Tyronn Lue took over in January of this year and turned them into fast, high pressure team that trusted each other with the ball. They can come at you and attack the rim, or go long with sharpshooting from beyond the arc – seen in game five against Atlanta Hawks.
However, the key is four-time MVP James. He can exploit any weaknesses in a side on both ends of the court and this will be his six straight Finals appearance – no one knows better what is needed to win.
An interesting prospect is how Love will react at being this far in the postseason. Last year Cavs missed his spacing to stretch the defence, this mean’t LeBron was left to attack the paint without his reliable outlet. Love’s ability to consistently drain threes opens the court up and creates valuable space.
However, the problem for Cleveland is the opposition they faced en route to The Finals. They went through a similar route last campaign and opened up a 2-1 lead against Dubs before falling in six games. The competition in the East this year however, has been particularly weak and begs the question, are the wine and gold ready for the reigning champions?