My NBA Finals prediction may seem like chalk looking in from the outside – I’m picking the Warriors in six games – but it’s how we get there that matters just as much. So with that said, here are some fun predictions I have as we head into one of the most hyped up Finals in years:
— Both teams will win a road game
Now obviously Golden State has to if they’re going to win in six, but the Cavs winning in the Oracle is a tough accomplishment. LeBron’s experience is going to be enough to steal Game 1 or 2 while the Warriors are still getting their legs under them. LeBron’s been here plenty of times.
But once the Splash Brothers get rolling, they will take at least one game at the Q, simply because they’re the better team (and if the Cavs get one on the road GSW’s going to have to win two in Cleveland to take the series in six games … but let’s call this a loose prediction, Warriors in seven is close enough). Bottom line is this: these teams are a combine 24-5 in the postseason … winning a game for either team in any building is not going to come easy.
— We will see small-ball vs. the bigs
We know what the starting lineups look like, and they’re pretty even in size. But as the games roll on we already know we’re going to see some interesting matchups (along with a slew of guys try their luck on LeBron and Steph).
We’re going to see both teams go small and both teams go big against each other in order to matchup. But what I’m most looking forward to is the potential of seeing the Warrior’s famous small-ball lineup against the Cavs going big. This would have to happen with Kyrie Irving on the bench (which we could see often with him still banged up).
What that would look like? Curry-Klay-Iguodala-Barnes-Green vs. LeBron-JR Smith-Shumpert-T. Thompson-Mozgov. Now THIS would be fun – and gives LeBron the chance to cover Curry without size mismatches elsewhere on the floor. What the hell would happen? Who knows … Let’s find out, please!
— JR Smith will win a game
JR is loving life right about now as one of LBJ’s fearless sidekicks. That fearlessness, along with his ability to get scorching hot from downtown, is going to wind up playing a big factor in the series.
He’s going to get hot again one game like he did in Game 1 vs. Atlanta (28 points, 8-for-12 3-pointers). When he does, the Cavs aren’t going to lose. LeBron is too good to waste a performance like that from a member of his supporting cast.
— Oh, also, JR Smith will lose a game
Live by JR, die by JR. Ok, so this one is a little harsh. He might not LOSE a game himself, but don’t expect the following game after he gets hot to be a good one … this is just classic JR Smith.
— Draymond Green is going to have to be the primary defender on LeBron
The Warriors can try and start Harrison Barnes on King James if they wish, but I don’t see it going well. Andre Iguodala could be rushing off the bench quickly to spell Barnes and play some tougher D on ‘Bron. Iggy is a nice option, and will definitely see a lot of time on him. But when it comes down to it, Green has to be the primary defender on LeBron. He’s just the only one strong enough to do anything with him.
There are two keys here. 1. Is he strong/quick enough to slow James down to the point that he at least bothers him? 2. Will Barnes or Iguodala be able to cover Thompson (of any PF) that the Cavs have out there? Or will GSW have to match with size?
— Kyrie Irving won’t be healthy
There’s not much I can say about this one. I just don’t believe he’s healthy, or the type of player that’s good at playing hurt. He’ll be out there, but as long as he remains at 50-60 percent like we’re hearing, he’s only going to have one or two good games (and that assumes he doesn’t miss any games). This is extremely costly to the Cavs. If they could have anything close to a stalemate between he and Steph at the PG position that would be a HUGE advantage.
— The Slash Brothers MUST splash
So we’ll wind down with a couple of obvious ones. The dubs have gotten ragged on a little bit for being a jump shooting team (which traditionally don’t win championships). They’re also the first team since the 1991 Bulls to have zero players with Finals experience on they’re roster, so there’s a lot working against them. That Bulls team did dethrone the Showtime Lakers, though.
If the Warriors are going to dethrone the King, Steph and Klay need to be on top of their games. I’m not too worried about Curry. He’s just so casual about netting difficult/impossible shots at this point that I trust him to keep it up. Thompson worries me a bit, though, and he’s crucial to the Warriors’ success. A guy like Green can still manage a good game on a poor shooting night. There’s only one way for Klay to be effective, and that’s to knock down a bunch of shots.
— It comes down to the Warriors response to LeBron continuously applying pressure
LeBron just feels like he’s past his days of having bad Finals games. I don’t believe he’ll have one in this series (and it helps that Oakland is cooler than Texas … no need to worry about cramps). With that said, I also feel the Warriors still win despite LeBron keeping the pressure on them every single game.
So how does Golden State fight off LeBron if he’s at his best in each game? Depth.
If we’re drafting players in this series (and Kyrie is counted as being a shell of himself), then here’s how it would likely go: 1. LeBron 2. Steph 3. Klay 4. Draymond … not a good start for the Cavs. The fifth pick is where we start debating Kyrie vs. guys like Bogut, Barnes and Iguodala. JR Smith can be a great player for one game, but he’s not consistent.
I’m scared about my pick because I’m scared that LeBron has a level that the Warriors can’t even reach collectively due to experience on this stage. Anyone picking the Warriors should be scared.
But give me Steph Curry double fisting the O’rien trophy and MVP trophy at the Oracle when the Game 6 horn sounds … Gulp.
Hit me up on Twitter and make fun of me when I’m wrong: @julianedlow