Thursday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers start the last leg on the road to a possible NBA championship when they take on the Golden State Warriors in The Finals.
The Warriors, led by league MVP Stephen Curry, had the league’s best record at 67-15. They led the league in scoring at 110 points per contest, and also were the league’s best in terms of the most meaningful defensive statistic, opponents field goal percentage, holding teams to a 42.8% figure.
As a comparison, the Cavs ranked 8th in scoring at 103.1 each time they took the floor, but they were eighth worst in the NBA in defensive field goal percent, allowing their opponents to hit 45.6% from the floor.
Based on this, you would think David Blatt’s team doesn’t have a shot.
However, in the playoffs, the Warriors have dropped to 104.3 points offensively, a drop of over five points per game. Their opponents have shot relatively the same, making 43.1% of their attempts.
The Cavs’ offensive output is about the same, scoring 101.4 points, a decline of less than two points. The big difference is on defense, where Cleveland has held the Celtics, Bulls, and Hawks to 41.2% shooting, more than four points better than in the regular season.
As a matter of comparison, the wine and gold’s three opponents ranked 10th (Hawks), 13th (Celtics) and 15th (Bulls) in scoring during the 82 game schedule. In terms of field goal percentage only Atlanta (4th) was in the top 20.
But it isn’t like the Warriors stopped the Showtime Lakers in the playoffs either, as only Houston (6th) was in the top ten in scoring. New Orleans was 16th and Memphis was 20th. However, the Grizzlies and Pelicans were in the top ten in field goal percentage, while the Rockets were 20th.
The Warriors can shoot, make no mistake about that. Curry and his Splash Brother, Klay Thompson, are likely to pull up and shoot long-range three-point shots from anywhere and in any situation.
Cleveland shoots the three ball well too, but it is more likely to occur from penetration and then a kick out to a shooter spotting up.
Can the Cavs bring home a title?
It will no doubt be difficult. The Warriors seem like a finesse team, but they are solid defensively, and in Andrew Bogut, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala, they have some grit.
Golden State has the home court, so really, if the Cavaliers lose the first two games, it is no reason to panic. They have to come back to Cleveland for a chance to make it a best of three series.
Remember in 2007, the Cavs lost the first two games in the Eastern Conference finals on the road in Detroit, before roaring back to win the last four games.
The pressure is on the Warriors for at least those games. They are the favorite, and they need to keep the home court advantage as the series heads back to Cleveland.
If the Cavs can stop Curry and Thompson from going crazy, they can win the series. Yes, the Warriors have some depth, but if you can keep the Splash Brothers under 50 points for the night, you have a pretty good chance for victory.
Steve Kerr will have to figure out a way to contain LeBron James, if he double teams him, LBJ will find one of his cast of shooters from the perimeter. If Golden State plays him one on one, he might score over 40 points.
The difference for LeBron is these playoffs is his constant attacking of the basket. He is posting up more than ever in a Cavs’ uniform, making himself close to unstoppable.
It will be a great series. That’s the only prediction we are willing to make.