SportsProf

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Friday, June 03, 2016

Cleveland Rocks or Cleveland Bricks?

A few thoughts:

1.  Because neither Steph Curry nor Klay Thompson hammer at people physically the way LeBron James or Russell Westbrook do, I suspect that many fans believe that the Warriors are a soft, finesse team.  As Kobe Bryant said the other day in an interview on ESPN Radio, both Curry and Thompson are "stone-cold killers."  For what it's worth, the NBA is becoming an outside game, which values finesse over the ability to toss the ball into the low blocks to a big man with a big rear end who can back in and put the ball off the backboard into the basket.  That big man is healthy, but having guys who can hit the three consistently is now the recipe to winning titles.

2. The Cavs are healthier and deeper than last year.  They need to show that depth more in Game Two than they did in Game 1.  Some believe that the Cavs will change their game plan and will win Game Two.  Somehow I don't think that the lapses that the Warriors demonstrated in the OKC series will recur in this one.  Last night, the Warriors had six players score in double figures.  They also have two guys who can harass LeBron James enough to make him work for everything.  LBJ had a pretty good night last night, but the Cavs bench was AWOL and for large parts so was Kyrie Irving.

3.  While I didn't post it here, I told others that I thought the Warriors would win the series in five games.  That's not because I think Cleveland is bad or worse than the Spurs or Thunder.  The Cavs are a very good basketball team.  That also takes into account the strong will and wish of LeBron to bring a title to Cleveland.  It's just that I think that the Warriors woke up and hit their stride both in the last five minutes of Game 6 against the Thunder and in Game 7 of that series.  They realized that they had to dig a little deeper.  Thompson led that effort in the fourth quarter of Game 6, and the team did a much better job as a whole in Game 7.  The Warriors are primed.  Instead of having a grueling series against the Thunder exhaust them, it sharpened their skills.  In contrast, the Cavs hardly had the challenges in the East that the teams in the West faced.  That showed in Game 1 last night.

4.  The James-Love-Irving troika is an impressive three.  While different, I'm not sure that it's as impressive as the Curry-Thompson-Green three.  It's hard to argue against the comment that James is the best player in the game.  But Love disappeared in the Eastern finals in the games in Toronto and Irving, while very good, also can be inconsistent enough that a very good team can exploit his inconsistencies.  Curry, when healthy, is at the pinnacle of the game, and Thompson almost singlehandedly in the fourth quarter of Game 6 against the Thunder saved the Warriors' playoff season.  Green is volative and voluble, a lightning rod for attention and stress, a player you want on your team but hate playing against, the type of catalyst who can combust your engine or, when he misfires, combust your team's chances with bad moments.  Based on last year in the playoffs and this year's regular season, I'll take the Warriors' troika.

5.  Of course, it's not just about three players.  The Warriors' bench outscored the Cavs' bench 42-10 last night.   That cannot continue if the Cavs are to win the championship.

6.  The series is far from over.  They say in soccer that the second goal in a game is the most important one.  Well, the second game in a series might be the most important one.  Sunday night's result will go a long way in telling us the type of series we are going to witness.

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