Avid NBA fans around the world must be experiencing a Déjà vu of the 2015 Finals. The Golden State Warriors, overcoming a tough series against the Oklahoma City Thunder will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA finals. A rematch of 2015, this clash will not be the same as last time. The Splash Brothers have led the Warriors to a record breaking season while Cleveland are set to face the Warriors with a healthy Big 3.
The Warriors, who finished with an NBA best 73-9, will have home court advantage. It is the first time since the 2008 NBA finals that both teams seeded number one will face off. This will be a sixth straight NBA Finals appearance for LeBron James, a feat that has not been matched since the 60s, the era of the legendary Celtics dynasty.
Cleveland had a fairly easy road to the NBA finals. Sweeping the Pistons and Hawks in the first 2 rounds, they took the first 2 games against Toronto in the Eastern Finals. Toronto managed to take the next couple of games before the Cavaliers rallied to win the series 4-2. This time, the Cavaliers have a Big 3 who look healthy. Love and Irving shook off the long term injuries they suffered in the 2015 playoffs. The Cavaliers defence has been good, but their offence has been phenomenal. In 3 of their 12 playoff games, they scored over 20 3-point field goals. Their main supporting players to the Big 3, J.R. Smith, Dellavedova, Shumpert and Thompson, ensure that the second unit can match the opposition as the Big 3 get their minutes on the bench. LeBron James has had a phenomenal post season and for the first time in his career has scored 30 points in a playoff game. As a team, their field goal percentage has been great at around 45%-50% in the playoffs. Their 3-point accuracy is also at around 40% over the playoffs, putting them at par with the Warriors. Their downside though, is the ability to cope with the Warriors’ small line up, and they can easily get exposed in the paint.
The Warriors entered the playoffs with the hopes of putting on a show that would live up to their performance in the regular season. Despite losing Curry for a couple of weeks, they brushed aside Houston and Portland 4-1 in each series. Against the Thunder, they faced stern opposition. They would rally from 3-1 down, to take the series in the 7th game. It is the first time since the 2002 Western Conference Finals that a game 7 was needed in the West. The Splash Brothers are the biggest threat to the Cavaliers. They have been lethal from beyond the arc. They aren’t the only ones. The rest of the team too are capable of knocking down 3s as well. Draymond Green has developed into a brilliant, all-round player for the team. Their ball movement and pace are excellent and they can provide for each other. The biggest danger to the Cavaliers would be allowing Golden State to get into their groove. They will punish from beyond the arc. Their biggest weakness against the Cavaliers is their rebounding. The Cavaliers can easily defeat the Warriors in the battle of the boards, which could allow them to create more shooting opportunities.
Mentally, the Warriors will have an edge. Firstly, they know the taste of a Championship success against this team. In their 2 regular season meetings, the Warriors comfortably beat the Cavaliers. However, they have to be wary of the Big 3. It will be down to the wire, but the Warriors should be able to retain their NBA title, taking the series 4-3.