Ahead of the historic third meet between defending NBA Champions Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, Catholic University College, Ghana Basketball Coach Michael Sumaila Nlasia breaks down what is likely to pan out in the series.
The NBA Playoffs Final is finally here! The series that makes us feel both joy and pain from the other side of the Atlantic is back. In that world of basketball are two gigantic and brawny teams. The Warriors, dubbed the ‘super team’ and the Cavaliers who have ‘The King’. Fans await the trilogy of so far another NBA final series between the duo.
Indeed, the least word to describe this is – epic. Expectations are high. Relationships will be broken; others will merge, from the moment the ball is tossed in Game 1. Nevertheless, it is all good. That is the beauty of the game. Let’s have fun!
Coming into this season, many foresaw a ‘three-peat’ of Cavaliers-Warriors finals since 2015, and that has not been far-fetched. What turned out to be one of the greatest NBA final last season saw Cleveland Cavaliers winning the chip after trailing 3-1 in the series of 7 games, at the Oracle Arena. What a game it was! The pain of losing is yet to be relieved by the Golden State Warriors, with owner, Joe Lacob, calling out the Cavaliers as the team they want to meet in the finals. To him, they have an unfinished business to settle even with the addition of former NBA MVP and four times scoring champion, Kevin Durant, to their team.
So far, we have seen no reason why this series will be nothing but exciting: Golden State “sweeping” through the entire series in the Western Conference, and Cleveland almost doing same in the Eastern Conference. Who will win this time around? Well… I do not see the champs not repeating.
WHY CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL NOT REPEAT?
Interesting and surprising as this may seem, the Cavs are the underdogs, and going into finals series, almost always, possibilities triumph probabilities. The statistics of both teams make Golden State the favourite to win. But the momentum of the competition will determine the winner since formation and organization of both teams squares up.
The Golden State Warriors have not been tested. Their matchup with the San Antonio Spurs was the first-ever Conference Finals where both teams won 60-or-more games in a season. But that team the Warriors just swept, that wasn’t the San Antonio Spurs — not the one that won 61 games, at least. The Jazz and Blazers didn’t really test the Warriors before that, either. Although there are many things to extrapolate from the Western Conference Finals with Kawhi Leonard’s injury and the series winner, the fundamental question that comes to mind is: what happens to the Warriors when momentum swings away and jinx set in the Final series?
WHO LEADS THE WAY FOR THE CAVS?
It is obviously the all-time playoff scoring leader, LeBron James! There is no way to ever really prepare for The King and his Cavaliers. At this point of his career, he has exceeded the level of physical to mental. His understanding of the game is relatively immeasurable. An interesting case study was ‘The King’ purposively making Game 3 slip to the Boston Celtics after leading 21 points in the first half of the game. The outcome of this was an awakened Kyrie Irving who led the team to a decisive victory in Game 4 with 42 points. Really, that’s a big brother picking up on a younger brother. And as time goes on in the NBA, teams do not seem to have answers to his game except on few occasions, after his 7 straight finals appearances.
Like Jordan – Pippen and Kobe – Shaq in their prime, at crunch time, it will be Durant – LeBron and Curry – Kyrie matchups. There are no doubts the latter have psychologically dominated the former from previous finals – and they know when to press the button, unlike the fluxed nature of the former when it comes to decision making.
HOW WILL THE CHAMPIONSHIP BE WON?
Defense is the recipe to win this championship. The Cavs’ defense hasn’t fully improved – and that is ominous to the opponent. In Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Cleveland annihilated Boston, winning both games by an average margin of 28.5 points — a number that doesn’t properly depict how dominant Cleveland is defensively.
The Golden State Warriors, however, move the ball better than any team in the NBA. When their offense is moving, it’s truly a beautiful thing to see. Turnovers are inevitable when you pass the ball that often, and Golden State has not merged the line between aggressive and careless for the last three years and they seem to be on the wrong side of that line right now. The Warriors were in cruise control in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, but they turned the ball over 17 times against the Spurs, turning into 24 San Antonio points. Turn the ball over against LeBron James and it could amount to even more than 24 points, a player also capable of getting your most defensive player, Draymond Green, suspended.
In the best of 6 games, starting June 1, Cavs – Dubs III Final series will bring much to be surprised about – but the certainty I have in respect to this championship is a repeated champion.
By Michael Sumaila Nlasia