#NBAFinals2016: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

Will their rematch produce the same result?
(Image from: cleveland.com)

Season Series:  Warriors 2-0

How the CAVS got here: The Cavs had an easier path to the Finals. They won their first 10 playoff games before losing 2 straight versus the tough and resilient Toronto Raptors. They were barely tested during the first two rounds as they swept Detroit and Atlanta while cruising to a 12-2 mark with 9 of their wins coming in double digits. 

How the CAVS will win: The Cavs are actually a decent three-point shooting team. They were 2nd during the regular season in threes made while being top 5 in shooting percentage. During the playoffs, the Cavs have overtaken the Warriors in the three-point shooting department because guys like JR Smith and Channing Frye have been deadly from long distance. Actually, even LBJ is shooting better during the playoffs. Aside from threes, the Cavs also thrive running in transition and they utilize Kevin Love's ability to throw a wonderful outlet pass to the wing players. On defense, the Cavs are one of the best teams in the NBA. They finished the regular season 4th best in points allowed while 9th in shooting percentage. 

X-Factor for CAVS: Channing Frye was acquired by Cleveland so that they can play more small ball and adding a tall shooter who can stretch the floor is always a good idea, regardless of how much a defensive liability he is. Anyway, Frye has repaid the Cavs in the playoffs with his red hot shooting from downtown by making 57.8% of his attempts and making 2 threes per game while only logging 15.7 minutes. His presence allows the Cavs to rest or bench Love while not sacrificing too much offensively.   


How the DUBS got here: The Warriors endured a tougher route to reach the finals again but that's due to a stronger and more competitive Western conference. They almost lost to OKC after being down 1-3 but they fought back and won in 7 games. During the first 2 rounds, Steph Curry did not play in 6 games while nursing various lower body injuries. Still, the Warriors were pretty good during that span since they went 4-2 without Curry.

How the DUBS will win: It ain't a secret that the Dubs rely on the three-ball because they have the best shooting backcourt in the NBA (and maybe in league history). Aside from the Splash Brothers, they also have others who are capable of hitting long jumpers. Only Bogut and Ezeli are considered non-shooters on this team. Now, the Warriors make a lot of threes because they get a bunch of open looks due to their ball movement and set plays. They are very unselfish and their team assists reflect that. For both regular season and the playoffs, the Warriors led the league in assists. They get good shots often and their spacing allows them to have lanes available for drives to the paint. Moreover, the Dubs continue to lead the NBA in scoring due to their fast-pace and their love for the three.  

X-Factor for DUBS: Harrison Barnes continues to start most of the games ahead of Andre Iguodala. That has allowed Coach Steve Kerr to to play last year’s Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala off the bench. Additionally, Barnes also provides another body with 6 fouls who can try to defend LeBron James. Moreover, Barnes is their 4th best scorer during the playoffs and he is a better shooter than Iggy, so his defender needs to respect his jumper more compared to Iguodala.


Key Match-up: 
Kevin Love vs. Draymond Green. A couple of years ago, Love was considered one of the top PFs. Heck, LBJ asked Cleveland to trade Andrew Wiggins so that he can play with Love. Meanwhile, Draymond Green was just another player. Now, the same cannot be said because Green is definitely a much better player than Love. Green is an excellent playmaker and better defender than Love. Green was an All-Star this season while Love sometimes becomes an afterthought. Cleveland needs K-Love to exert maximum effort, especially on the defensive end and on rebounding. If Green dominates Love on both ends of the floor, then the Cavs have no chance in this series.

What will PROBABLY happen: There will be a lot of threes attempted and a lot of running in transition. The tempo and pace will be fast which favors the Warriors because they have a deeper bench and they have guys who can hit jumpers with their eyes closed. The Dubs will run a lot of pick and rolls/pops that involve Curry to free him up or set up other shooters. As for the Cavs, expect LBJ or Kyrie Irving to pursue isolation plays every now and then. This strategy might work for Kyrie if he is able to get Curry to defend or foul him. The Cavs can also play more small ball now, so that is ideal for LBJ because if the Dubs have no rim protector, LBJ will have no problems attacking the paint where he is virtually unstoppable.

Prediction: The Cavs are healthier and have a stronger bench this season. LBJ is leading the way, as usual, with 24.6 points on 54.6% shooting, to go along with 8.6 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.2 steals. James was able to win 2 games on his own last year and he should have enough help to double their win total from last season. Hence, I think the Cavs will win in 6 games to avenge their loss last year and bring the city of Cleveland their first NBA title. Enjoy the Finals! Cavs in 6.



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