Well, it’s deja vu all over again. For the fourth consecutive year, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the NBA Finals. Both teams had to endure a challenging, 7-game series in the conference finals. In fact, both the Warriors and Cavs should consider themselves just a little lucky to have survived. Nevertheless, we have the Finals matchup most anticipated all season.
Golden State won the title over Cleveland in both 2015 and 2017, while the Cavaliers got their long-awaited title over the Warriors in 2016. The Warriors managed to wrap up last year’s series in just five games, which should have the Cavaliers in search of an NBA title with a side of redemption. However, the Warriors have opened as heavy favorites to take home the title, leaving the Cavaliers, at least in the eyes of many, with a steep mountain to climb if they’re going to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Everyone who saw the Eastern Conference Finals knows that LeBron James almost single-handedly saved the Cavs. Cleveland is accustomed to leaning on him to carry the team, but in Games 6 and 7, he went above and beyond anything he’s ever done before. James barely left the floor in Game 6 and then played every minute in Game 7, scoring 46 and 35 points, respectively. But that was against the Celtics, and James will need some help if the Cavs will have a chance to beat the Warriors.
Cleveland’s supporting cast is questionable at best, and to make matters worse, there is uncertainty surrounding the health of Kevin Love, the team’s second-leading scorer. Love missed Game 7 because of a concussion and there’s no guarantee he’ll be out of the NBA’s concussion protocol by Thursday’s series opener against Golden State. It’s unclear when Love will be cleared to play, making it a distinct possibility that he misses multiple games in the series. Even if he does return, it could be difficult for Love to make an impact in the series after his absence.
With James barely able to get the Cavs past the Celtics and Love’s status up in the air, Cleveland’s role players have to be at their best. Jeff Green, who will likely start in Love’s place, and Tristan Thompson have to rebound the ball. J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver need to provide the Cavs with reliable shooting threats from the outside. George Hill must also be more consistent after an up-and-down series against the Celtics.
If those players don’t show up, the Cavaliers could get blown out on any given night against the Warriors. Cleveland’s supporting cast needs to do enough to keep them close in the 4th quarter with the hope that James can take over the game and lead the Cavs to a win.