It’s set, for the third time in a row the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will face off for the NBA crown.
This time around, the teams look a little different, but both teams come in with the memories of what it’s like to face each other in June.
Each position for both teams are strong, but who has the upper hand? Let’s take a look and break down each position.
The man that needs no introduction will be orchestrating the beautiful offense that is the Warriors. Curry has been tearing up the playoffs one game at a time, averaging 28.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game.
Things we will most likely see from Mr. Curry are amazing handles, three-pointers from the parking lot, and finishing around the rim that will leave your jaw on the floor.
His battle with the man running the offense for the Cavs will be something that every NBA fan dreams of.
Much like Curry, great handles, great shooting from three, and the ability to finish around the rim will be on display from this point guard.
If you look at his averages in the playoffs you may not be too impressed, but you have to look at his recent streak first.
In the series against the Boston Celtics, he averaged 25.8 points and 5.4 assists per game, while shooting 50 percent from the three-point line and 62 percent from the field.
Please basketball gods, give me Stephen Curry and Kyrie Irving going toe-to-toe in a seven-game series.
Advantage: This matchup is way too close to say who has the advantage. Expect to see a lot of back and forth. Each game could go either way when it comes to which player will have the better game.
Lock down defense, great shooting, and an overall beast of a two way player. This is to be expected of Klay Thompson, not only in the NBA Finals, but in his career.
He’s only averaging 14.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in the playoffs, but what he does goes beyond the stats.
Locking down the opponent’s best player is no joke with Thompson. He seems to get that done on a nightly basis and that’s going to be needed when LeBron James comes to town.
Although the stats don’t pop off the page, what he does can be seen when you watch him play.
It hasn’t been a great run for JR in the playoffs so far, only averaging 6.7 points per game, but one thing stays true about him; he loves the big moments.
Playing in the NBA Finals is the biggest moment for a player in the league and JR will have to step up if the Cavs are going to win back-to-back titles.
His defense has gotten better, but his shooting isn’t there yet.
Advantage: The Warriors’ have the advantage here. It’s the battle of the shooters at SG, but Klay’s defense and ability to be consistent on both ends is what separates them from each other.
This position is going to be huge in determining who takes home the trophy.
First year with the Warriors and Kevin Durant is back in the NBA Finals.
With everyone trying to figure out how it would even be possible to integrate Durant into this offense, it’s been solved. The offense looks more dangerous than ever and Durant has been a huge part in that.
You should expect to see Durant continue to put up quality shots in the Finals and he has a great chance of winning Finals MVP.
The King versus Durant. Just like the matchup between Kyrie and Stephen, this is a dream for NBA fans.
James is having a monster playoff run and the Cavs will need every bit of it to take down the NBA’s hottest team.
He’s been in beast mode, averaging 32.3 points, 8 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per game in the playoffs.
His most recent accomplishment was passing Michael Jordan for number one all-time in career playoff points with 5,995
Advantage: This matchup is another one that is way too close to call. Both of these guys are capable of putting their team on their back and bringing home a title.
It’s splitting hairs, but LeBron could get the advantage for the recent tear he has been on in the playoffs.
Three things are certain; Draymond Green doesn’t like the Cavs, the Cavs don’t like Draymond Green, and Draymond Green is going to bring everything he has to this series.
If you don’t think he’s excited to take on the Cavs, give this a listen.
Can't wait for the NBA Finals.
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) May 26, 2017
He has typical Draymond Green numbers so far in the post-season, averaging 13.9 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 7.2 assists per game.
Love has been averaging a double-double in the playoffs so far and his numbers have been even more impressive as of late.
Overall, he’s averaging 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in the playoffs, but in the Eastern Conference Finals he averaged 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds per game.
Advantage: This will be a really fun matchup to watch. Two stretch fours with toughness, grit, and the ability to shoot and pass at a high level.
Love has been the more impressive player recently, but Green has the ability to step up and dominate a series.
Love by a hair on this win.
Zaza Pachulia has brought a toughness to the Warriors that they need. He also has a great ability to rebound the ball on both ends.
He’s another player that his stats aren’t going to jump off the page, but what he does still goes a long way.
He didn’t play in game three or four against the Spurs due to injury, but he is likely going to play in game one of the NBA Finals.
Talk about rebounding and Tristan Thompson’s name comes up. The dude lives, eats, breathes rebounding and his numbers reflect that.
He’s averaging 9.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs, but that doesn’t reflect the constant battling he does around the rim that wears own the opposing team’s big men.
Pachulia versus Thompson is going to full of grit, hard nosed defense, and a ton of rebounding.
Advantage: Both of these guys are tough, but Thompson has the advantage here. They will both be keys in getting missed shots and also keeping possessions alive on the glass.
You can’t just base the Finals off of these matchups, but they play the biggest role. The benches from both teams will play a significant role in deciding who will be crowned the NBA’s champion.
The first game will take place June 1 in Oakland at 8 pm CT on ABC.
Steph Curry Talks LeBron James Trash Talking During Game 1 of NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is gearing up, along with his team, to defend their 2018 NBA Championship, their 2nd in a row and 3rd in 4 years, when the 2018-2019 regular season kicks off this fall, but he is still discussing the 2018 NBA Finals.
Curry specifically is discussing his shock as the trash talk from then Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, which threw Curry off.
Curry and James’ relationship is seemingly in an odd place. James was “like a mentor” to Curry when curry was in college playing at Davidson, but things seem a bit icy now as Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers (James is now on the Los Angeles Lakers) met in some heated battles in the NBA Finals over the past couple of years.
Despite the shift in their relationship, Curry was still caught of guard by James’ approach, particularly in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“It was never going to spill over to that” Curry said, during an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Shiller).
“But it was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.
“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’
“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”
The rift goes a bit deeper than that, and a book from The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, entitled ‘Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry’, it is elaborated, highlighting a 2016 Halloween Party thrown by James that featured a dummy of Steph Curry that was on the floor, forcing guests to step over it.
Now that the two are in the same division, thanks to James’ signing with the Lakers, betting websites will have a field day this season when the two teams take the court, and James continues his mission to topple the juggernaut Warriors.
Cavs’ Tristan Thompson Allegedly Punched Warriors’ Draymond Green at Night Club
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Golden State Warriors’ forward Draymond Green apparently took their on-court beef off the court as the two allegedly had an altercation at a Los Angeles night club.
According to online gossip site Bossip, Green had approached Thompson to apologize for what happened after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but Thompson wasn’t interested.
When Green persisted, Thompson punched Green.
Green and Thompson got into it numerous times throughout the Finals, with Green even insulting Thompson as Thompson attempted to shake his hand following the infamous Game 4.
Here is more from The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre:
Draymond Green was not the aggressor, he was trying to make peace. Tristan felt embarrassed by the end of the Finals diss moment and just unloaded. Couple players i spoke here in LA/on social media went with, “about time”
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) July 31, 2018
Kevin Love Signs Extension With the Cavs
Kevin Love surprised the Twitter GMs and signed a 4 year, $120 million extension to stay in Cleveland. The full value of the deal will wash out to 5 years and about $145 million, around $10 million below his max for an extension. This clearly signals that Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers want to remain competitive in the wake of LeBron James’ exodus.
The initial reaction across the NBA landscape was that Cleveland would look to tear the roster down to the studs and start over. The Cavs owe their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta if it falls outside of the top 10, so trading Kevin Love would’ve not only helped clear their books, but also almost guaranteed that they keep their pick. Bringing him back into the fold makes that much more precarious. The roster now contains a mixed bag of inconsistent youth and holdovers from the most recent LeBron era that won’t take kindly to a middling team not in the championship conversation. The Cavs seem to be split between two paths.
But that’s not forever. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, “Cleveland is still projecting to have close to $70M in cap space during the summer of 2020 to reshape the roster.” The Cavs can get off of George Hill, JR Smith and Kyle Korver for less than $10 million after this season. That leaves only Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson as expiring contracts in the following season to free the Cavs of all their (current) bad money. Cleveland is never going to be a free agent destination without LeBron, but keeping Kevin Love makes them a much more attractive option for free agents, and they’ll have plenty of money to play with.
If that doesn’t pan out, Cleveland can still trade Love in the future. This extension makes him a cost-controlled asset, giving other teams more certainty. Yes, it’s more years and more money but Kevin Love is still an All-Star. Making him the focal point of the offense should allow him to put up big numbers and recoup some of the market value he’s lost while playing a diminished role alongside LeBron. In the coming years, all the ghastly cap-spike deals will be coming off teams’ books, opening lots of cap space around the league. There are only so many stars available and some teams will inevitably strike out. Combine that with some pressure from ownership to win now and Kevin Love can be a very desirable option.
Even with the extension the Cavs are far from a playoff lock. Their second best player may very well be a rookie. So perhaps an injury or a few strategically placed DNPs could allow them to keep their pick. Either way, Love wanted to stay in Cleveland. That’s a nice change for a city that doesn’t have a lot of experience with that. The goalposts for success have changed, but after years of watching this team trudge through the doldrums of the regular season, this young, talented team could be a lot of fun for fans to watch night in and night out.
Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24
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