Posted on May 26, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Historically, sequels rarely come even remotely close to being as good as the original. Jokes typically need more than a change in location to work again, and action plots just aren’t as cool when you’ve already seen them. It’s kind of hard to generate suspense when everyone knows what the outcome is going to be.
But occasionally a sequel can work; even multiple sequels. Rocky II was awesome; so was Rocky III. The Fast and Furious series has gotten better with each addition to the franchise. Could the same be true for the NBA Finals?
The networks will certainly be hoping so with the Golden State Warriors, and Cleveland Cavaliers set to face off for the third straight year in the NBA Finals.
Like every good sequel, this one needs a tagline of its own. When the two teams first played back in 2015, the Cavaliers were forced to play without Kevin Love for the entire series and had Kyrie Irving for only one game. Last season, the Golden State Warriors were forced to play with a gimpy Steph Curry.
So—how about, Cavaliers-Warriors III: This Time They’re Healthy.
Golden State earned its third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals with a dominant 12-0 run through the best the Western Conference had to offer. Yes, had Kawhi Leonard not been injured the Western Conference Finals may have gone differently. But he was—and they didn’t.
Cleveland had one small hiccup during its run, an unexpected loss to the Boston Celtics in what was a rare bad performance from LeBron James during a playoff game. Whether he was sick does not matter. He played poorly. They lost.
But it was only one game, and the Cavaliers rebounded with a pair of impressive blowouts to close out the series. Yeah, it would have been cooler had both teams swept their way into the NBA Finals. But at least the two teams fans wanted most made it.
Now—who is going to win?
And The Favorite Is…
The odds are favoring the Golden State Warriors so far. Westgate has the Warriors at -260 (-260 means you need to bet $260 to win $100), and the Cavaliers at +220. That means if you bet $100 on the Warriors to win you will only win $38.46 and if you place $100 on the Cavs, you will win $220 (ESPN).
It’s not hard to see why the Warriors are favored. Like the Cavs, they had their moments during the regular season when they struggled. But they recovered and went on to win 15 of their last 16 games before the playoffs. Add in the postseason, and the have only lost once in their last 28 games! Most were won in dominant fashion, too.
But last year the Warriors were dominant for the entire season having won a single-season record 73 games—and yet the Cavaliers still won. So, who cares if the Warriors swept their playoff opponents and have won 27 of their last 28 basketball games? The Cavs still have LeBron James. Kyrie Irving is playing better than ever lately, and Kevin Love has been deadly from three-point range during the postseason.
Yes, the Warriors have played some great basketball, but so have the Cavaliers. So—what’s to say this Warriors team is going to be able to finish the job that last year’s team couldn’t.
Kevin Durant—that’s what.
The Warriors are a great team without Durant, but by adding him, they protect themselves from the possibility of bad nights by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Curry and Thompson do the bulk of their damage from long range. While Durant can hit a three-pointer as well, he gives the Warriors an inside scoring threat that they lacked last season.
Wait—didn’t Draymond Green do that for the Warriors before Durant? Green is good enough on offense that defenses can’t ignore him, but his primary contribution is as a defender. Durant gives the Warriors a guy that score from just about anywhere on the court. With him, when Steph Curry and/or Klay Thompson go cold, the Warriors can get away with feeding Durant down low until the Splash Brothers heat back up again.
So–How’s It Going To Play Out?
Okay—so the Warriors added another weapon. Why does that make them the favorite? While Cleveland’s defense has played much better in the postseason, it still isn’t very good. Yes, they steamrolled the competition. But that is more because no one had a defense that could slow down the Cavs or an offense that could keep up with them
Indiana gave the Cavs a good fight but didn’t have enough offense to keep up. Toronto’s shooters are notoriously hot and cold. As for Boston’s—the one night the Celtics offense woke up and multiple guys were making shots, Boston won. They just couldn’t sustain the offense in subsequent games.
But in the NBA Finals, the Cavaliers will be facing an opponent that can sustain that offense for multiple games.
The problem with picking the Warriors, however, is that shooters are going to have bad nights. Klay Thompson has had plenty in the postseason this year. Steph Curry had plenty last year in the playoffs and during Golden State’s rough patch in the regular season. Kevin Durant is not immune from bad games either. If the Cavaliers can get him frustrated, he’ll start to force shots, and miss more than he makes.
But will all three of Golden State’s heroes have an off-night or nights? Odds on that happening have to be stiff—which makes it hard to pick against the Warriors. Cleveland could make it interesting at times, but they don’t have the same firepower as the Warriors or the defense to stop them. Look for Golden State to sweep the Cavs.