Sunday, June 4, 2017

NBA Finals -- as expected

It could probably be fairly said that, so far, the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have gone as expected.

Two home games for GS, and two wins. As the heavy favorites going in, this was supposed to happen, although the margins of victory were a bit of an eye-opener. Twenty two and nineteen points in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Not exactly close calls. Far closer to blow-outs.

One could surmise that these results are a bit demoralizing for Lebron James and the Cavaliers. After all, King James was his usual model of excellence in Game 2, putting up a triple-double, while his star teammates Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love each contributed 20 points or so. But they still got drubbed. That's likely because the remainder of their team was basically shut down by the Warrior defense.

Make no mistake. While the high-flying and high scoring Warriors can definitely put the ball in the hoop, they also play terrific team defense.

Former two-time league MVP Steph Curry put up a triple-double of his own, but was vastly overshadowed by the magnificent play of teammate Kevin Durant, including a whopping five blocked shots.

So now the series moves to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4. A couple different scenarios are possible. If GS waltzes into Cleveland and takes Game 3, consider the series over. No way is anybody beating that team four straight, despite what happened in last year's Finals. Remember, GS was up 3-1 and blew it. They got complacent, as they've been prone to do on certain occasions, and it cost them dearly. Don't for a minute think they've forgotten that.

Or maybe Cleveland regroups and wins Game 3. That would come as little surprise either. Still business as usual. If Cleveland wins Game 4 as well, it's definitely series on and things get interesting, to say the least. In a best two-out-of-three, anything can happen, especially if an injury to a key player pops up. You never know.

Yet most knowledgeable basketball people (which I do not profess to be) think Golden State will win at least one of the next two games in Cleveland. It's not like the Cavs are unbeatable at home and if the Warriors get it going in either -- look out.

For that matter, a sweep isn't totally out of the question. If the Warriors stay focused and play up to their capabilities, as good as Cleveland is, Golden State is better. The addition of the above-mentioned Kevin Durant last year has taken them from terrific to formidable. His presence on the Warriors can't be overstated.

Last year, the Warriors were noted for the "splash brothers" -- Curry and Klay Thompson, with Draymond Green doing the dirty work. Though Curry remains front and center, when's the last time you heard Thompson's name bandied about by the talking heads? Though he remains the same terrific player, he's been relegated to option three or four. This is a luxury no other team -- including Cleveland -- enjoys.

But just for the sake of argument -- what would happen if the Cavaliers came storming back and won the Finals like they did last year? Nobody seems to have even mentioned the possibility -- but it certainly exists.

No doubt, Lebron James would be exalted to God-like status. Any and all comparisons of who was the better player between him and Michael Jordan would be quashed. James would clearly assume the throne, and likely rightfully so.

But what of Golden State? After adding Durant, they were supposed to be a "super" team, and waltz to a championship. If they get knocked off in the Finals -- again -- what's THEIR next move?

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