Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Cavs/Warriors III. Inevitable

The NBA playoffs have taken few, if any, surprising turns this year. The higher seeds have disposed of the lower ones, oftentimes in quick fashion.

Consider the West.

So far the Golden State Warriors have yet to lose a single game. They swept both Portland and Utah without much problem whatsoever. And then they rested while San Antonio was slugging it out with Houston for 6 games. The Spurs would prevail, but also lose the services of guard Tony Parker along the way. A big hit.

Never underestimate the genius of head coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs' way of playing basketball at the highest level, but likely few thought they could go into Golden State and push the Warriors around.

Yet that's just what they did in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. To a point. They had built almost a 30 point lead. Surprise!!  But then all-everything Kawhi Leonard went down with an ankle injury. The Warriors roared back to escape with a narrow two-point victory. Still, a win is a win.

Game 2 was the polar opposite. The Spurs were overwhelmed throughout, and would wind up losing by a whopping 36 points. A rout. A beatdown. Embarrassing even.

It's difficult to imagine the Spurs regrouping enough to be able to defeat Golden State four out of the next five games to move on to the Finals. Especially with Parker still out, Leonard playing at far less than 100% -- if he can play at all -- and Lemarcus Aldredge swooning when he had the chance to step up and be "the man". It's just not going to happen. It would surprise few if Golden State went on to sweep the depleted Spurs as well.

The East presented a similar scenario.

The Cleveland Cavaliers swept both the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, and have yet to taste defeat in the postseason.

Matched against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Finals, with the Celtics holding home court advantage, Lebron and Co. went into Beantown and promptly put a spanking on them in their opener. Again, no great surprise.

It did raise a few eyebrows when the Celtics were able to overtake the Cavaliers for the best regular season record and home court advantage through at least the Eastern Conference portion of the playoffs. But perhaps it shouldn't have.

While the Beaners were going the proverbial "balls to the wall", the Cavaliers lost a few games they might have won had they been properly motivated. Yet they decided to put it on "cruise control" of a sort, and not push their players too hard -- gas them -- before the postseason started.

Let's not forget that while Boston was slugging out a long series with the Washington Wizards, the Cavaliers were able to get over a week's rest. That's a lot.

So it should likely come as no surprise either that the Cavs were raring to go when the Eastern Conference Finals started. Might they sweep the Celtics as well? Entirely possible. If they thump them again in Game 2 on Boston's home court, it would be easy to imagine Boston being cannon fodder when they go to Cleveland for the next two games.

On a related note, no, this won't be Boston's year to win a championship. They're not quite ready yet -- but make no mistake -- they're coming and will be a force to be reckoned with soon. GM Danny Ainge has done a masterful job of rebuilding the franchise while stockpiling draft picks he has used wisely. And guess what? They just won the draft lottery and will have the #1 this year too. Then again, this year's draft doesn't have a clear-cut #1 superstud that stands out. Might Ainge swap that pick for a lower one while acquiring even MORE picks this year and next? Don't put it past him.

The Celtics are young and will continue to get better. The Cavaliers, with the exception of Kyrie Irving, are aging. Many of their players, Lebron James included, will be on the back side of their career bell curves soon, if they aren't already. They've been great since James went "back home", but it's not going to last much longer. Father Time will see to that.

In the end, there's no escaping that Cleveland and Golden State will meet in the Finals. And they might both well be undefeated in the playoffs when it starts. 12-0 versus 12-0. The cream of the East vs the cream of the West. Likely the way it should be.

But then something has to give. It seems highly unlikely that another sweep will happen -- either way.

Regardless, one of these two teams, neither of which has been losing anything lately -- is going to get beat 4 times over the course of 7 games. That's just the simple math of it.

True, Boston and San Antonio aren't exactly toast yet, and they will likely both give Cleveland and Golden State some serious competition before their series' are over. Make them at least work hard.

But barring catastrophic injuries to either the Cavs or Warriors over the next week or so, the Finals seem to be pretty much etched in stone.

Cavs/Warriors III.

And that should be quite the shoot-out......

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