by Matt Ward on Friday, June 5th, 2015
Could we have asked for a better matchup in the NBA Finals? In a league studded with superstars, the basketball gods rewarded the world with the two biggest ones— LeBron James and Stephen Curry— pitted against each other. And, not to mention, the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are two of the most fun teams to watch in recent years. On one side, we have the super villain, LeBron, whose freakish athleticism and unwavering confidence invoke both fear and awe in fans and opponents. Supporting him is a cast of characters featuring the ever-entertaining Kyrie Irving and mercurial high volume scorer J.R. Smith. On the other side is the lovable, slick-shooting, baby-faced Steph Curry backed up by fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson, who will come back from injury in Game 1, and defensive menace Draymond Green. While there are almost infinite story lines to this matchup, here are the most important ones:
After gaining championship experience in Miami, will LeBron finally be able carry a team on his own to an NBA title? This was the reason he left Cleveland in the first place, was it not? There was simply not enough support around him during his first stint with the Cavs to bring home a title, so he teamed up with two other superstars to get the first few titles under his belt. Now, it’s time for LeBron to prove that the experience paid off, and he is able to lead a young team to a championship. Sure, he has his own “big three,” but Kyrie Irving is no Dwyane Wade and Kevin Love is out with a shoulder injury. This is truly LeBron’s team, meaning the Cavs season goes as LeBron goes.
Can Steph Curry’s historic shooting postseason continue into the Finals? The Baby-Faced Assassin has been magical during Golden State’s playoff run. This postseason, he has averaged 29.2 ppg while shooting a ridiculous 43.7% from behind the arc and dishing out 6.4 assists. The red-hot Curry now faces a tenacious Cavaliers defense that has only permitted opponents an NBA-low 28.1% of their three pointers during the playoffs. Yet somehow Curry seems to shoot better and create more opportunities for teammates when opposing defenses contest him more. Expect Curry to find a way to continue embarrassing opponents, whether by hitting threes, drawing defenders, and feeding open teammates. However, Curry will need more support from his sidekicks than LeBron will if the Warriors want to win a Championship.
Will Draymond Green be able to slow down LeBron? I phrase it this way because, as LeBron said himself, there’s no way to stop LeBron. You can only hope to contain him. Kawhi Leonard did a fantastic job limiting LeBron in the Finals last season. I see a lot of similarities between Leonard and Green, both in physicality and playing style. If the Warriors want to repeat the Spurs’ success from last season, then Draymond Green must frustrate LeBron just as Kawhi did. This is the matchup that could determine the fate of the Finals.
Green will be able to limit LeBron just enough to frustrate the entire Cavs offense. As I said before, the team will only go as far as LeBron can take them, and I think they stop here. Green’s defense combined with the Splash Brothers taking over offensively will be too much for the inexperienced Cleveland team to handle, and you can guess my prediction: Warriors in 7.
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