The NBA Conference Finals loom just ahead, with Cleveland awaiting the winner of Boston and Washington in the East and Golden State preparing for the winner of San Antonio and Houston in the West. The two goliaths have matched up in the Finals in two consecutive years already, and with their stellar performances so far in this year’s playoffs, a third matchup in the Finals would be very unsurprising.
Cleveland underwhelmed their way to the second seed in the East during the regular season, but everyone knows LeBron James is a different kind of beast come playoff time. Since activating his “Zero Dark Thirty-23” mode (he logs off social media for the season by tweeting this out when playoffs begin each year), the Cavs have yet to lose, sweeping the Pacers and Raptors.
James has silenced Cavalier critics, averaging absolutely absurd numbers with 34.4 PPG, 9 RPG, 7.1 APG, 2.1 SPG, and 1.5 BPG. Oh, and he’s doing it while shooting 56% from the field and 47% from deep. With LeBron playing at the peak of his game, both Boston and Washington would struggle to slow down Cleveland.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have been a bit inconsistent but are still putting up quality performances, and to make things worse for the Cavs’ foes, the bench has begun to step up. Midseason acquisition Kyle Korver has been draining threes along with Channing Frye, Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert, and when LeBron runs the offense with the bench players the team seems to barely skip a beat.
Cleveland has looked fantastic and barring any injuries, should be advancing to the NBA Finals. But the West is more competitive and makes for a tougher road to the finals right? The Warriors have not made it look that way so far, as they’ve dispatched Portland and Utah in four games a piece.
After setting the record for wins in a season with a 73-9 record before famously blowing their 3-1 Finals lead last year, the Warriors look poised to return for revenge. Adding Kevin Durant to your roster never hurts, and the nearly invincible Warriors of last year are even more loaded this time around.
Picking the single “key” player for Golden State is nearly impossible. With four bona fide All Stars in their starting five, a case can be made for each of them. Steph Curry is back to looking like his MVP self after struggling at times during the regular season. Kevin Durant can score whenever he wants from wherever he wants. Klay Thompson can silently drop 30 on any given night. Draymond Green can get in opponents’ heads and punish them up and down the court for 35 minutes a night.
The Warriors look to have the most complete starting five possible in NBA history right now, and their bench is no slouch either. Former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala can sub in and guard the opponents’ best player, Shaun Livingston can hop in for a few minutes and cause mismatch fits at point guard, and Javale McGee can provide quality rebounding and shot blocking when given the opportunity.
The Warriors are a well oiled machine, and are still the team to beat. Another Finals rematch looks to be on its way, and whether you love or hate the “superteam” dominated NBA right now, you’ve got to love the rivalry that is growing between Cleveland and Golden State. Turning down a seven game series between two of the best teams in NBA history just does not make sense for any true NBA fan, so sit back and relish each moment if it happens again.