EHC NBA Finals Preview

The Golden State Warriors are a hauntingly unguardable monster that strolled to an NBA regular season record of 73-9.  Steph Curry had probably the greatest offensive season ever while their suffocating defense held a pillow over their opponents' faces until they stopped fighting and accepted their end.

They are demoralizingly good from 3. They are surgically precise with ball movement on offense. They defend like mad men. They are cocky as hell. They stretch and bend the rules. They’re a bit dirty. They are universally loved nationally. They already hate the Cavs, as evidence by Draymond Green responding “they suck” when asked about the Finals match-up last year.

There’s a very good chance the Cavs get run off the court while the Warriors shimmy, stare-down, and dance their way to another championship. There’s a very good chance every article you read will praise them endlessly. There’s a very good chance Cavs fans will be poked and prodded until a few idiots can be coaxed into responding – at which point those responses will be paraded around as further proof of those Neanderthals in that sad sack Mistake by the Lake that deserve what they get.

This is a match-up of a team that manufactures heartbreak playing against a city with a warehouse full of miserable sports moments already. You don’t need a crystal ball to forecast The Shot, The Fumble, and The Drive adding a new buddy named The 3 by the time this series is over.

And yet, here come the Cavs.

A team that has been weathered by scrutiny from all angles has suddenly stormed into the playoffs, washing opponents away an unstoppable offense. Built on an amorphous scoring attack (Love & Frye! Love at the 5! Kyrie & LeBron at the rim! 3 point bukkake!), the Cavs have created a monster of their own with an offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions) of 116.2 in the playoffs. That's better than the Warriors (109.8) have been in the playoffs, or in the regular season (112.5), or in last year’s playoffs (106.4), or in last year’s regular season (109.7).

Golden State provides a match-up disaster that will put the Cavs’ defense in a number of bad positions, and Kevin Love in even more embarrassing Vines. But it might not matter. The Cavs might just have the offensive firepower to withstand. And win. The scorching hot shooting of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson can’t be stopped, but can it be fought with wave after wave of options on offense? The Warriors boast a good defense (5th in the NBA, 100.9 DefRtg in the regular season), but we just watched the Cavs team decimate a Hawks team that boasted the 2nd best DefRtg (98.8) in the NBA this season.

The Warriors are giving up the 3rd most second-chance points (opponents points off of offensive rebounds) and 4th most points off of fast breaks in the playoffs - while the Cavs are the 2nd best rebounding team and scoring the 2nd most points of turnovers in the playoffs.  Maybe the recipe isn't to beat them with defense, but by creating extra possessions and easy buckets. 

The Warriors’ quest for 73 wins also wasn’t without cost. National hero Stephen Curry is still nursing a knee injury that forced him to miss games earlier in the playoffs, and the tax that (plus a tough series with Oklahoma City) has put on the Warriors will only become more obvious as they try to match a shootout with Cleveland. 
Can Igoudala defend LeBron?  We saw that last year. Can Draymond at center put the Cavs in tough match-ups defensively? Definitely. Can Steph single-handedly turn close games into blowouts? Of course.  But it's up to the Cavs to force those guys to put the mileage on and do that consistently.

The Warriors are favorites to win this series.  By a lot.  Things could go very poorly - and this is Cleveland, so they could go even worse than that.

But this is also the best Cavs team of all time.  A team that can not only match one of the best scoring teams of all time, but beat it.  A team that, somehow, has become as cohesive and close as any team in the league.  A team with one of the 5 greatest players of all time at its helm.

And LeBron James is oddly at peace - comfortable and confident - in a way that maybe we've never Witnessed before.
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