Time for a simple game as the 2016 NBA Finals get set to begin with a rematch of 2015: Chase/Fade. Here are some statements/ideas that will help recap last year’s classic series between the Warriors and Cavs while previewing this year’s series.
Dellavadova and Mozgov Make a Difference
It may be just 12 months later, but this is going to be a much different series than 2015. With Irving and Love back and several players contributing in new roles, two of last season’s major contributors figure to hardly see the floor. Mozgov scored 16+ points in four of the six NBA Finals games in 2015, including three double-doubles and a 28-point, 10-rebound game. You’ll likely remember Delly’s heroics after Irving went down, as he played big minutes and bothered Steph for a large portion on the series. These guys will barely make an impact in 2016.
Kyrie Irving Makes a Difference
Kyrie played late into Game 1 of last year’s finals before injuring his knee and missing the rest of the series. Irving had one of his best games before going down, though. Aside from posting a 23/7/6 line in 44 minutes, Irving more impressively did a fantastic job covering Curry. If he can hold his own against the MVP this time around, while thriving in the pick-and-roll game, he’s going to be a huge factor in the finals this time around.
Kevin Love Makes a Difference
Love is a different story. It doesn’t hurt to have Love back in the mix this postseason considering his ability to shoot 3-pointers — in fact Love has been a force in many of Cleveland’s playoff wins thus far — but on the defensive end this series is a horrible matchup for an already poor defender. No matter who Love defends he’s going to have a tough time, and Golden State will be sure to force him to defend pick-and-rolls. When the Warriors go small, Love almost can’t even be on the floor. If GSW makes the move to Iguodala in the starting lineup, Love may have to be demoted to a bench role.
Andre Iguodala Will Win MVP
Iggy was fantastic in 2015. Despite Steph averaging 26 points in last year’s finals, Iguodala’s 16.3 points, 5.8 boards, 4.0 assists and, more importantly, lock down defense on LeBron was truly worth of MVP honors. Iggy promises to be a huge part of this series, but if Golden State pulls through, it’s tough to see Curry not elevating his game to MVP status this time around (as he has all season). That still doesn’t mean Iguodala doesn’t see a bigger role again …
Andre Iguodala Moves Into Starting Lineup
Steve Kerr should begin the series with his usual starting five, but remember in 2015 it took being down 2-1 going into Game 4 to throw Iguodala into a starting role. As this series progresses, Iggy likely becomes more important. Eventually he’s going to have to begin the game on the floor in order to get more time covering LeBron. But even so …
Golden State’s Bench > Cleveland’s Bench
When Iguodala is coming off the bench, Golden State has a clear cut advantage when it comes to the second unit. But let’s assume Andre does move into the first unit, the Warriors can still pack more punch off the bench. Going even further, if Love winds up in an unexpected bench role, although things would be closer to even, the edge would still go to the Warriors unless Love single handedly won a game for the Cavs.
LeBron Averages a Triple-Double
Let’s not forget the type of all-time performance LeBron put on without his co-stars in 2015. Remember, the four MVP votes that weren’t for Iguodala were for LeBron on the losing end. James led both teams in every major statistical category — 35.8 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 8.8 APG. Expect LeBron to be at his best in this series, but with much more help around him, it’s best for the Cavs if he doesn’t do quite that much heavy lifting and uses some energy in an attempt to slow down the likes of Steph and/or Draymond.
Cleveland Steals a Road Game
In order to win the series a road win is an obvious requirement. But Cleveland also has to protect its home floor, where the Warriors popped the champagne when the final buzzer sounded after Game 6 last season. Games 1 and 2 went to overtime last year, with the Cavs stealing Game 2. If Cleveland can’t get one early, it might come down to a do-or-die Game 7 in the Bay, which promises to be one for the ages. One way or another, LeBron is getting a game in Oakland.
Steph Curry Will Struggle
I should have included “at times” in the statement above. Steph is going to have a couple off games by his standards as he’s typically done against elite competition. Against the Thunder it was Games 3 and 4 when he shot a combined 5-for-21 from downtown. Against Cleveland last year is was Games 2 and 4 — they key to beating the Warriors is winning the game(s) Curry doesn’t have it going. History tells us it will happen once or twice. He’s not invincible. The Cavs split those games last year. They can’t afford to drop one again.
Golden State Wins
Yup, I think the Cavs win this series. Love will help a little. Irving will help a lot. But really, those guys will just offset the jump that the Warriors made this season to become a better/historic team. It comes down to LeBron yet again. A popular argument this postseason has been that the Warriors can’t lose four games to one team after losing nine games all season. OKC was a couple turnovers away from proving that wrong. My counterargument is that I just can’t see James falling in three consecutive NBA Finals. The best player in the world, LeBron James, finds a way to get it done this time.
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