For the third consecutive year, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will face off in the National Basketball Association finals. With the Cavaliers losing only one game and the Warriors going undefeated, the two super teams steamrolled through their respective conferences in what appeared to be an inevitable and exciting finale to the NBA playoffs.

Daniel Wang: Cavaliers in 7

Despite ending the regular season with a less than spectacular showing, the Cavaliers seem to have recovered their mojo during the playoffs, posting the best offensive and defensive rating in the Eastern Conference by scoring 116.8 points per game while allowing only 104.6. As always, they are led by the Big Three, Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love, which averages a whopping 74.2 points per game in the playoffs. On the other side of the Finals, the Warriors will possibly be without the reigning NBA Coach of the Year in Steve Kerr. In addition, the lesser half of the Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson, has been a shell of his usually scorching self in recent games, posting a mere 14.4 points game while shooting an abysmal 38.3% in the postseason.

According to ESPN, Cavalier coach Tyronn Lue stated that the Boston Celtics offense is “harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.” Both the Celtic and Warrior offenses involve a lot of ball and player movement, intended to force the defense to adjust frequently. During the playoffs, the Celtics and the Warriors made the most passes with 312.4 and 300.9 respectively. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the third-ranked Cavalier defense had little trouble shutting down the Celtic ball movement during the Eastern Conference Finals, and will be well-prepared for the frenetic passing led by Stephen Curry.

Even after losing Irving and Love to injury in 2015, Lebron James single-handedly pushed the Warriors to six games before going down heroically. In 2016, the two returned from injury and the Cavaliers took down the Warriors despite being down 3-1 to Golden State. With all of the Big Three healthy and Curry prone to a certain chronic syndrome called blowing-a-3-1-lead-itis, the Cavaliers are ready to repeat as this year’s’ NBA champions in what will be a close seven game series.

Julian Lee: Warriors in 6

At first glance, the 2017 NBA Finals seems like a Goliath v. Goliath contest, a matchup between two basketball juggernauts with no evident weaknesses. But if we look more closely, the cracks in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ armor appear–cracks big enough to ensure a Golden State victory.

Both teams brushed aside their respective conferences with consummate ease. However, while the Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start the postseason 12-0, the Cavs dropped a home game to the Boston Celtics, whose best player in that game was none other than the mighty…Marcus Smart. If a third-year defensive player who averaged a pitiful 36% from the field in the regular season could take Cleveland to the cleaners for 27 points and 7 assists, then imagine the havoc which the potent duo of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry would wreak on the Cavs defense.

One only needs to look back to January to see an example of the Warriors’ dominance over the Cavs: in their last meeting, Golden State shredded LeBron and co. to the tune of 126 points, garnering a final winning margin of 37 points. The Warriors’ first-ranked defense has a plethora of defenders to throw at the Cavaliers’ scorers: Andre Iguodala is perhaps the best LeBron-stopper alive, while the athletic guards Klay Thompson and even Shaun Livingston will pester Kyrie Irving all over the floor with their long arms. On the other hand, Irving’s and Kevin Love’s defensive games have more holes than Swiss cheese, and against a team offense like Golden State’s, there will be nowhere for them to hide.

If the Cavaliers’ postseason were a report card, it would say: “Good, but could do better.” The Cavs have coasted through a weak East without hitting full stride–the Warriors will be a rude awakening, and they’ll go down 4-2.

 

[Ben Buysse]

Watch the NBA Finals on Eleven Sports, ELTA TV, or Videoland.

Game 1: June 2nd at 9 AM

Game 2: June 5th at 8 AM

Game 3: June 8th at 9 AM

Game 4: June 10th at 9 AM

Game 5 (if necessary): June 13th at 9 AM

Game 6 (if necessary): June 16th at 9 AM

Game 7 (if necessary): June 19th at 8 AM

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