NBA Finals Preview: Golden State vs. Cleveland

Backstory

The first series was fascinating. The second was a spectacle. The third settled a score. However, three meetings were not enough for the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, who will meet for the fourth consecutive time in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors dominated the West playoffs by not dropping a single postseason game in their conference a season ago, but this year has been more of a challenge for them, as they lost five games and went to a Game 7 against Houston in the conference finals.

After going 12-1 on their way to the Finals last year, the Cavaliers needed two Game 7s and a Herculean effort from Lebron James just to reach the Finals this year.

The difference maker

Kevin Durant.

The Cavaliers had no answer for Finals MVP last year, who averaged 35.2 points while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 47.8 percent from the 3-point line.

The good news for the Cavs is that his numbers have been slightly lower this postseason, averaging 29 points-per-game while shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 32.8 percent from behind the arc.

The bad news for Cleveland is that he has one of the best supporting casts in NBA history surrounding him and by no means is 29 points-per-game anything to laugh at.

The matchup to watch

Durant versus James.

While Andre Iguodala is known for his elite defense on Lebron James, Durant was the player who primarily defended James in the regular season, guarding him for 77 possessions total and allowing 11.5 points-per-game. Lebron shot 50 percent when guarded by Durant, but only 16.7 percent from the 3-point line.

During the season, the Cavs and Warriors faced each other twice, and in both games, Cleveland had Jae Crowder defending Durant. Now that Jae Crowder is gone, it will be interesting to see how much James will guard Durant and how much energy he will have to exert on the defensive side of the court.

Prediction

Lebron James will continue to be remarkable in the Finals, but as he’s seen before the Warriors can withstand his production as long as the rest of their roster outplays the rest of the Cavs.

The fact of the matter is that this Cleveland team is the worst of the last four Cavaliers teams. The Warriors are too deep in talent, and if the Cavs can somehow figure out how to slow down Durant, there are just too many other weapons at the Warriors disposal. This should not be a long series.

Warriors in five.

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