The Cleveland Cavaliers have advanced to the NBA Finals, their second consecutive trip, as well as LeBron’s sixth straight NBA Finals appearance. The Western Conference Finals are still up for grabs while the Thunder lead their series with the record-setting Warriors at 3-2. I dissect both scenarios in whom the Cavaliers could be potentially matched up against, and I’ll let you know who to pull for.
The Golden State Warriors, led by the first ever unanimous NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry, set a NBA best with 73 wins in a single season. The Warriors are the first team to only lose a single digit amount of games, besting the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. The Warriors have trail blazed a new era in basketball, focusing more on the 3-point shot with guys like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson most notably. Golden State’s offense put together 114.9 points per game, a league best. Aside from the “Splash Bros” duo, the Mario and Luigi of Golden State, we’ve seen players like Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and more step up. We shouldn’t fail to mention Draymond Green either, who was voted to the NBA’s All-Pro second team, with me personally feeling he got snubbed out of a first team vote, but that’s just one man’s opinion. What isn’t an opinion is the Warriors are a record-setting and historical squad, but would be disappointed with anything but a ring.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are perhaps the dark horses of the NBA playoffs, never expected to be in this position, but yet knocked off the San Antonio Spurs, a team that was the Vegas favorite to win it all at one point this postseason. The Thunder surprisingly have a lot of similarities to last year’s Golden State squad that won the NBA Championship. Oklahoma City has a deep team and two stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook who are threats to each score 30 a night minimum. The Warriors last year won the title with rookie head coach Steve Kerr, while Thunder coach Billy Donovan has this team in the Western Conference Finals and one win away from the NBA Finals itself. While Golden State’s led the league in scoring this season, the Oklahoma City Thunder are second in putting points on the board with 110.2 points a game. As you can see, anything Golden State has done, the Oklahoma City Thunder have answered back louder and bolder, the only team to really challenge the defending champions all season long.
Now if you’re in the NBA Finals, you obviously have a preference as to whom you play. If you’re a Cavaliers fan, I believe you want the Oklahoma City Thunder to win this series and advance to the Finals, for simple matters really.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have had two matchups with the Thunder this season, taking both games, including a 115-92 win at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Though not to discredit Oklahoma City’s postseason so far which has been remarkable, they simply don’t match up well with Cleveland, and they don’t have a team built to win the NBA Finals. I also bring up the fact that the only team LeBron has a winning record against in the Finals is the Thunder, a 2012 championship with the Miami Heat, owning the series in 5 games. With the similarities that Cleveland has with that 2012 Miami Heat championship team, they like their chances against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Perhaps this Thunder team is more developed than four years ago, but my educated guess is LeBron and company would be able to squeeze 4 wins out before the Thunder ever could.
The team that Cleveland doesn’t want to match up against is Golden State, making a sequel to last year’s NBA Finals. The Warriors, in my mind, seemed to be destined to win back-to-back championships, especially when they became the first team ever to reach 73 wins. If Golden State can win the next two games, they’ll make it to the Finals and I’ll believe their toughest test is behind them, likely taking a Cavaliers series in 6 games. Golden State shoots the ball better, averaging over 10 points more than Cleveland did this season, and they’re shooting a lower percentage from the floor, including from beyond the arc. The statistic categories that has given Oklahoma City a chance, it becomes totally a lopsided affair if Golden State’s matched up against the Cavaliers. The Warriors have met the Cavaliers twice this year, a 6-point win at home and then a 132-98 victory in Cleveland… Ouch! Clearly, a Warriors matchup won’t bode well for Cleveland.
Anything can happen in the playoffs, but it’s clear what respective outcomes the Finals should favor in the hypothetical situations. If you’re betting men and women, take this into account. If you don’t like to bet and just care to bandwagon, you can use this too.
Who do you think has the better chance to beat Cleveland? Let me know in the comments down below if that’s Golden State or Oklahoma City.