How will the Cavaliers defend Stephen Curry? Is Kyrie Irving healthy enough to force the Warriors to use Klay Thompson on him?
Kurt Helin and Jenna Corrado these questions – and how the answers affect other matchups in the NBA Finals.
Finally, the NBA Finals are about to tip off.
And we got the matchup most people wanted to see — Golden State vs. Cleveland. LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry. The best player vs. the best team.
It’s prediction time. Here are the calls from the PBT staff.
Kurt Helin: Warriors in six.
Maybe there is a path for the Cavaliers to the title, but their margin for error is gone. Their defense has been better these playoffs but no team has truly tested them and made them move laterally yet (the Hawks only did it for short spurts). That is about to change, and I’m not sure the Cavaliers pass that test. The key for Golden State is their depth — they can keep throwing fresh defenders at LeBron James in the form of Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, and even Klay Thompson for short spurts. Nobody stops LeBron, but they will make him take more jumpers. Will he get enough help from a hobbled Kyrie Irving and friends? I don’t see it.
Brett Pollakoff: Cavaliers in six.
Cleveland is almost a 2-1 underdog to win the series in the eyes of oddsmakers, and with good reason. The Warriors have been dominant in the largest sample size possible, winning 67 games during the regular season, cruising through what was supposed to be a difficult Western Conference in the playoffs, and doing it with the league’s best defense and perhaps its greatest shooter of all time. But I really like the way the Cavaliers have come together this postseason. They seem to be peaking at just the right time, and I believe they have the personnel to challenge the Warriors in every way possible, with LeBron James ultimately being the difference.
Dan Feldman: Warriors in six.
Sean Highkin: Warriors in five.
Assuming Klay Thompson is good to go, the Warriors have a significant health advantage over the Cavaliers. They’re also one of a small handful of teams that actually has the personnel to effectively guard LeBron James. The Cavs have no idea whether Kyrie Irving is going to be healthy, and even if he is, who do they hide him on defensively? There isn’t a weak link in the Warriors’ starting five offensively, and it’s tough to see the Cavs’ defense keeping up its strong performance against an offensive attack this much better than anyone they played in the first three rounds.
There has been no shortage of updates on Kyrie Irving’s injuries during the playoffs.
Are you tired of hearing about Irving’s health?
Warriors center Andrew Bogut sounds like he is.
“There’s probably 15 guys on this team that’s carrying an injury right now,” Bogut told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “There are probably 15 guys on their team that’s carrying an injury. We’re (Warriors) not going to release everything. You don’t want to release some stuff. [Injures] are a part of the game. If you get to this point in the season, you’re going to have tendinitis, arthritis and contusions. You’re going to have your body hurting.”
“I don’t know what it does for them [in Cavaliers talking about it all the time] or what they’re trying to do with it,” Bogut said. “We’re not really worried about it. We’ve got guys banged up; they’ve got guys banged up. We’ll be ready to go.”
Bogut is probably correct that all players are dealing with at least some bumps and bruises at this point.
But Irving missed two games in the conference finals. His injuries rise to another level.
Plus, he’s a huge factor in his team’s success – which differentiates him from the Warriors’ Marreese Speights, who has also missed playoff games. Irving’s health
So, yes, it’s a tired topic. But if you’re analyzing the NBA Finals, it’s also an important one.
I appreciate the Cavaliers – and it’s been David Blatt more than Irving – openly addressing it.
The average patient could have had open heart surgery, been released from the hospital and been back home during this break in the NBA Finals. It’s been that long.
What is with that break? The NBA has been locked in for a June 4 start since before the season started, but when it became clear that both conference Finals were going to end quickly pressure mounted on the NBA to act and move the Finals’ start date up. It didn’t.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was on the Rich Eisen radio show and explained why.
“Truth be told, we did have that conversation about potentially moving up, and Susie would know this, some years ago we used to have a built in move up. If both Conference Finals series didn’t go longer than five games, we would’ve moved up two days. So, under that scenario, we would have started (Tuesday) rather than Thursday night. So certainly when the East finished, and we saw that there was a chance that the West could finish with five games or fewer, we had that discussion. So…for Disney, ABC/ESP, it is difficult to move on short notice given they have other scheduled programming, but it wasn’t just an ABC issue…As you know, we’re broadcast in over two hundred countries, so then we’re dealing with broadcasters all around the world who have preset broadcast windows. So, then it creates enormous issues for them. On top of that, we have roughly a thousand credentialed media who come to the finals, many of them from outside of the United States who, well of course they don’t know exactly what city they’re going to be in, they fly into New York or L.A. depending where they’re coming from and then fly from there; and then there’s the hotels and other issues.
“So…for Disney, ABC/ESPN, it is difficult to move on short notice given they have other scheduled programming, but it wasn’t just an ABC issue… As you know, we’re broadcast in over two hundred countries, so then we’re dealing with broadcasters all around the world who have preset broadcast windows. So, then it creates enormous issues for them. On top of that, we have roughly a thousand credentialed media who come to the finals, many of them from outside of the United States who, well of course they don’t know exactly what city they’re going to be in, they fly into New York or L.A. depending where they’re coming from and then fly from there; and then there’s the hotels and other issues. So, you know ultimately there was a reason why we locked in the date and we decided to stick by it.
“And lastly I’ll say especially when there’s no doubt that there’s some players that will be benefitted from the rest, I’m always reluctant mid-course to change a rule and so everyone knew going into these playoffs, all the teams, exactly when the finals would start. They knew if the conference finals series ended earlier, they would have that much rest coming up. So it felt strange, even though we had the conversation with ABC and ESPN and said, “If we wanted to, could we,” we talked to the buildings to see if they were available, but ultimately we decided we had made this decision a few years ago to lock it in, let’s stick with it. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it will lead to better competition, because players on both teams need the rest.”
It will lead to a rusty first quarter/first half. After all the build up to these Finals, the start may not be pretty.
Still, this break was too long. The NBA has the Finals everyone wanted to see, and they stalled out the momentum. Now they need to get it back.