The NBA Finals that the majority of the country anticipated, expected and needed to see is now here. All of the talk about the 2014-15 Warriors not being tested is gone with their remarkable run this season, but at the end of the day Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love did miss the Finals last year. When Irving was on the court in game one he looked like he was going to score at will. A lot of talk before the Finals has been about how Irving has no chance of guarding Curry this series, but just as big of a factor in this matchup will be whether or not Curry can stop Irving. In terms of options to ease both of these players as defenders, it will be interesting to watch the rotations of Iman Shumpert, Matt Dellavedova, and Shaun Livingston. All of them will have their advantages against the star point guards on defense.
This, however, is where the Warriors take their slight advantages. Livingston is so versatile he can play in multiple lineups, and positions. They can keep Curry on the court with Livingston and Klay Thompson, giving them two of the longer, better defensive guards on the league together with Curry, roaming around. The way they can get away with this is if the Cavaliers want to play Shumpert or Dellavedova, which will be needed to slow down Curry, those are matchups that Curry can handle easily on the other side of the ball.
The Cavs then have to decide whether to suffer on defense, by playing Irving and JR Smith together, or to suffer on offense with Shumpert or Dellavedova with either. The Cavs may try to run small lineups so that they can keep Smith and Shumpert on the court together, but it still gives a slight edge to the Warriors.
The biggest edge for the Cavaliers is obviously the fact that they have LeBron James. While Andre Iguodala made some major plays on defense in crunch time against Kevin Durant, there is no doubt Durant was winning that battle for the majority of the series. Going from seven games of grinding and running with the former MVP to going to a somehow superior opponent will take its toll on Iguodala. Harrison Barnes is going to have to prove he is worth a max deal by bumping and grinding with James for a decent part of this series.
While James will be able to defend Iguodala and Barnes, the biggest mismatch defensively for the Cavs may be who will guard Draymond Green. The Warriors are so good at forcing you to do what you do not want do, and the Cavs do not want Kevin Love stepping out to the three point line to defend Green in iso type situations. Guess, what? The Warriors are going to force Love to step out and defend Green. Green can back him down, can beat him off the dribble, he is really just a better version of Love at this point. The Cavs only real option in their main lineup would be to throw Tristan Thompson on Green. Still, that puts Love under the basket banging and fighting with Andrew Bogut who will not hesitate to put him on the floor.
It makes it tough to play Kevin Love in this series and that is a big problem. The Cavaliers are going to be forced to run a lineup of Irving, Smith, Shumpert, James and Thompson to beat the Warriors. Shumpert will have to be playing great defense on Curry or they will be at a big disadvantage, and that lineup is still not as long or big as the different ones that they saw in the Thunder series.
The other problem is that the Warriors have about five different lineups that they can use to counter that one. That lineup plays into the Warriors style, and it is like climbing into the web for the spider to eat you.
There are really only two ways that this series can be won by the Cavaliers. The first is that James plays an even better series than last year, averages a triple double over this seven game span and makes the greatest run you will ever see. The other is that Kevin Love re-emerges as a top ten player on both sides of the floor, something he may have never been.
For the Warriors, the greater question is how will they do it this time? Will Klay Thompson go berserk and set a record again? Will Curry dagger them the way he did late in game six and seven against the Thunder? Will the depth just slowly kill them over a course of the series? Personally this feels like a big series for Draymond Green.
At the end of the day the Warriors are loaded favorites and they should be able to get this done. If they start blowing out the Cavs early James may call off the dogs, which he has done in the playoffs before, and this will go 5 at max. Still, something tells me that James has every intention of pushing the Warriors back to the brink and back to the Oracle for a game 7.
At that point the Warriors being the better team should win. Steph Curry is more than likely going to win the NBA Finals MVP this year barring a major event, like Klay Thompson setting a record, or Green averaging a triple double. If the Cavs are going to win the championship James is going to win the MVP, and his odds payout greater than the Cavaliers, so if you like the Cavaliers to win this series the smart bet to make is for James to win MVP.
Warriors in 7
Steph Curry Finals MVP