Thursday, June 4, 2015

NBA Finals Preview

I'll admit that this is the Finals I wanted to see. As fun as the Hawks were, they just didn't finish the season right. They should have been sitting guys in January to rest them for the playoffs, not because that would have kept them healthier, but because it showed long term vision and awareness compared to the rash of DNP-CDs they racked up in April and May. And the Cavs beat them. They were the best team. Atlanta had no answer for LeBron and couldn't press its advantage at point guard. 

Something tells me the Warriors will be able to do that. Steph isn't on every game, but when he is, it's incredible. He snuffed multiple Rockets/Grizzlies runs with spectacular shot making. That is going to be a problem for Cleveland - I just don't think Kyrie's knee gets better very quickly. Everything I know about tendinitis is that it's a long-term injury. Add that to the foot injury, and his already poor pick-and-roll defense, and the result is a player the Cavs will have to hide on defense. 

Problem is the Warriors have few safe harbors. Klay will shoot over him. So will Barnes. Green would bully him and you can't treat Bogut like Noah. The Dubs would be more inclined to yank Bogut and go small anyway. The bench is no better - Livingston will abuse him and Andre might offer more as a 2-way player at this point. Man, that bench. Steve Kerr can act magician with those guys. Need defense and rim protection? Ezeli. Post production to buy Green/Bogut some minutes? Lee. Perimeter defense. Ball handling from Livingston and Barbosa. A dash of shooting. Lots of switching. Meanwhile, David Blatt will turn to J.R. Smith, James Jones, and Matthew Dellavedova. Shawn Marion can't get in the game. Neither can Mike Miller. 

With those logistics, I see only one way out for Blatt: Muck the game up. Slow it down. Extend your (and their) starters. Bully them in the post with LeBron and crash the offensive boards for extra possessions in a low-possession game. 

The problem with that plan is the Warriors can play it too. Harrison Barnes showed me in the Grizzlies series that he can not only defend the post (with help), but crash the boards too. Kerr worked magic with his bench to find combinations that would work when Green got in foul trouble. David Lee had to guard Gasol, but Gasol was gassed by Game 6. Is Timofey or Tristan that worse of a matchup? And I know the Grizzlies were close in those games, really close, but so were the Warriors in their losses. And once Kerr figured out how to best the Grizzlies, it was over. I think if the two teams played 10 games now, the Grizzlies would be lucky to win 3.

That's why I think the Warriors win this series. I know Cleveland is clicking on defense and LeBron is a force the Warriors won't be able to prepare totally for. He has been the most reliable player of his generation. Getting to the Finals for the last few years has basically correlated to having LeBron on your team. He's incredible. But slowing the game also makes every Curry three that much more a dagger. Every go-go Warriors run has that much more impact on the game. And they go on runs. They will. They'll speed you up when you want to go fast and when you don't. When they're hot, nothing can stop them. And when they're not? Their defense, depth, IQ, chemistry, and confidence can beat you anyway. 

Warriors in 6

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