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2016/17 NBA Finals Predictions

The NBA finals are back!

For the third straight year, it’s the Golden State Warriors and defending champions – the Cleveland Cavaliers. The third episode of the Warriors-Cavaliers trilogy kicks off tonight and has basketball fans believing that this could be one of the most-anticipated championship clashes in sports history. On one side, you have the “super team” Golden State Warriors, led by Stephen Curry and his new teammate, arguably the second best player on the planet, Kevin Durant. On the other side, the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the best player on the planet, LeBron James, who is making his seventh(!) consecutive appearance in the NBA Finals. The Warriors became the first NBA team in history to start the playoffs 12-0 this year after sweeping the first three rounds, whilst the Cavaliers only suffered one loss on its path back to the NBA’s biggest stage.

How the Cavs can win…Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game Five

LeBron James.

Need I say anything more?

Okay, I guess I probably should…

If the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to have a shot at winning this series, they need LeBron James to play out of his mind. There is absolutely no discussion that LeBron James is the greatest player in the NBA, it’s not even close. He has already cemented his legacy as the second greatest player of all-time behind Michael Jordan. The Cavs are going to need LeBron to perform at his highest level,  possibly play 45+ minutes per game whilst playing high intensity defence and being ball dominant.

However, it will not be enough for the Cavs if only LeBron plays at his highest possible level. They need to get maximum production from all-stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Kyrie Irving is capable of exploiting Steph Curry on defence, as we saw in last year’s series. If Kyrie and LeBron run the pick-and-roll to perfection with Kevin Love out on the 3-point line and Tristan Thompson ready to pounce on offensive rebounds, the Cavs could put up high-scoring games against the Warriors.

One thing is for sure… If the Cavaliers are going to have a chance in this series, they must player better defence themselves. The Golden State Warriors have too many snipers out on the 3-point line for LeBron James to guard by himself, they are going to need guys like J.R. Smith, Kevin Love and basically anyone who is on the floor not guarding Zaza Pachulia/JaVale McGee to guard the perimeter.

The Cavs need to be aggressive. If they attack the paint, draw fouls and get key players into foul trouble then they could potentially mess up the flow of Golden State’s offence.

How the Warriors can win…GSW

If the Golden State Warriors play like they have all season long, the Cavs will struggle to contain them. They do not to play isolation ball in that one guy doesn’t have to be the hero. The Warriors are like a well-oiled machine, when they move the ball and set screens for shooters, they are going to get the shots that they want as they are simply too talented. In particular, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant can go ISO whenever they want and are able to get their own shot; but that isn’t what has got them to this point.

In last year’s NBA finals, the Warriors meltdown was significantly due to their poor shooting. In particular Harrison Barnes, who shot poorly throughout the series. As we all know, the Warriors replaced him with Kevin Durant… just a bit of an upgrade. We all expect to see LeBron James guarding Kevin Durant, which will be an awesome matchup (both guys average 29ppg against each other). Klay Thompson may be guarded by Kyle Korver at times, who very much struggles on the defensive side of the ball. This could be a huge series for Klay.

Interim coach Mike Brown needs to stick with Kerr’s gameplan. The vast majority of Warriors different lineups are difficult to defend; when they play small-ball, five-out lineups that sacrifice a full-time rim protector in favour of five players who can bury three-pointers, they become a nightmare to defend. The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t want Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson guarding the 3-point line (even though both have improved their perimeter defence).

Avoiding injury and suspension is an obvious one, but it has to be included. If Steph Curry was at 100% health, Draymond Green didn’t get himself suspended and Andrew Bogut didn’t go down, the Warriors would have won the series last year.

My Prediction…STEPH CHAMP

I do not like how the Cleveland Cavaliers have looked defensively all season long. They have been in the bottom half of defensive efficiency since the start of the regular season. Many people believed the Cavs would be able to ‘flick the switch’ on defence; however they have been unable to fully accomplish this against Eastern Conference playoff teams. One thing that stuck out to me whilst watching the Cavaliers on defence – they struggled against to defend the Boston Celtics when they had no number one option scorer. The Cavs didn’t know who to double-team, they struggled to guard switches off pick-and-rolls and most importantly, they struggled to guard the 3-point shot. The Celtics missed a lot of wide open shots… with the Golden State Warriors having two of the best shooters of all-time in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, don’t expect them to miss. They have a great passer of the ball in Draymond Green, I expect the ball to be in his hands quite a lot in the half-court. Draymond is an excellent passer and will be able to find Steph, Klay and Kevin Durant coming off screens, allowing them to exploit potential mismatches. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that Kevin Durant is 6’11 and can get his own shot whenever he wants it.

I believe that LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will all have excellent, highly efficient games, which will enable them to win tonight in Game 1 and then again in Game 3 at Cleveland, however these are the only two games I expect Cleveland to win.

I think the Golden State Warriors have too much on the offensive side of the ball for the Cavaliers to contain and they will win the series in 6 games.

Final Prediction…

Golden State Warriors in 6.

Betting Tips

Finals MVP – Klay Thompson 28/1

Top Series Scorer – Stephen Curry 4/1

Series Correct Score – Cavs in Seven 10/1

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