In the Eastern Conference Finals, everyone thought the Cavs were going to sweep the Celtics. We told you otherwise. Maybe we got lucky, but we’re going to press our luck: The Warriors will sweep the Cavaliers. I said it on The Herd this week, and I’ll elaborate here:
1. Cleveland, defensively, will have it much harder than the 2016 Finals. Last year in the Finals, LeBron was able to freelance much more, playing off Draymond Green and then on the pick-and-roll, LeBron was able to bottle up Stephen Curry from raining threes or driving. This year? LeBron will have to cling to Kevin Durant. That puts Kevin Love on Draymond Green, and the idea of Love-on-Curry 10-20 times in a game is much different than one moment at the end of Game 7. In the 2016 Finals, the Cavs dared Harrison Barnes to beat them, and he could not: He shot 35 percent from the field, including a 2-for-22 stretch in pivotal Games 5 and 6 – when LeBron flipped the series and Draymond was suspended for a game – and 31 percent on 3-pointers. The only player the Cavs can dare to beat them is Draymond Green, a clutch player who had 32-15-9 in Game 7, and is shooting 47 percent on 3-pointers in these playoffs.
2. LeBron will Finally Face Premier Defenders. In the 2nd round, LeBron spun the ball at Serge Ibaka, then drilled a 3-pointer in his face. In the ECF, LeBron disrespected helpless Kelly Olynyk, and drove to the hoop at will. The Warriors have four defenders to throw at LeBron.
Maybe the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green; 2015 Finals MVP Andre Iguodala; Kevin Durant, who is having the best shot-blocking season of his career; and Klay Thompson, a 6-foot-7 guard who will mostly defend Kyrie Irving. LeBron will have a difficult time driving and finishing when JaVale McGee is in the game – certainly more difficult than anything he’s faced in these playoffs.
3. The Big 4 Haven’t Lost Since February 4th. Even if you’re not impressed with Golden State’s playoff run in the West, consider this – the Big 4, when healthy, have played 16 games together dating back almost four months. They are 16-0, with the last loss coming in Sacramento on February 4th. The group is unbelievably dominant.
And this stat is almost difficult to believe – the Warriors have won 27 straight games when Klay Thompson dresses … by an average of 16 points.
4. Revenge. No stats to back this one up, but when you win 73 regular season games, then lose a 3-1 lead in the Finals, you’re going to hear about it. For 11 straight months. Nobody talks about the record-setting regular season, or the fact that the the Warriors beat the Bulls record for most wins in a 3-season span. Athletes are on their phones all the time now, and Golden State players are inundated daily with a drumbeat of 3-1.