By: Aaron Carter
Last year’s finals rematch between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers was epic; all seven games were played, a 3-1 deficit was overcome for the first time in the NBA Finals, a 52 title drought was broken in Cleveland, Lebron James put up historic numbers and controversial calls/suspensions were made. Who would argue against seeing this matchup again and seeing Lebron put up a finals performance like no one has ever seen before? Not me, and I hope not anyone at all (except maybe Warriors fans).
Lebron has always been mentioned in the same breath as Michael Jordan, and Lebron did everything he could to move past the GOAT (greatest of all time/Michael Jordan) in this finals. He is only the third player in NBA Finals history to record a triple-double in game seven, joining Jerry West and James Worthy. He joined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the second player ever to win Finals MVP with two different teams (the Miami Heat and the Cavaliers). Lebron also unprecedentedly led his team in every major statistical category (points/g, rebounds/g, assists/g, steals/g and blocks/g).
Honestly I wish that the NBA, although it would be very unethical and unfair, fast forward to the NBA playoffs right now. Yes this would leave out some teams sitting at the ninth or tenth spot in an unfair way, but let’s be honest: could any lower level team in either conference actually stand a chance in a seven game series against either Golden State or Cleveland? If you said yes you don’t know anything about NBA basketball. This isn’t March- upsets in the NBA playoffs are extremely rare and even when there are upsets usually they can be explained by something, unlike the NCAA Tournament. I highly doubt that any team in the NBA could legitimately win four out of seven from other of these teams, unless of course it was one of these teams beating the other.
The Boston Celtics were supposed to take the next step this year and return to the days of old (2007-2009) and challenge Lebron in the Eastern Conference every year, but that Celtics have been extremely disappointing so far; Isaiah Thomas looks like the only Celtic playing with a will to win, Al Horford has missed ten of the team’s 18 games, interior defense has shown to be a liability of this team and Brad Stevens has even had to call out his players (something uncharacteristic of a “player’s coach”). The Raptors might be the second best team in the East this year, but they essentially are the same team that lost to the Cavs in six games last year. Toronto still has the Drake factor, but besides that the Raptors still struggle to run efficient offense and shoot the ball well.
On the Western half of the NBA, the Spurs usually are the biggest challenge for the Warriors, but even they have areas that the Warriors could blatantly exploit. Kawhi Leonard, arguably a top-five player in the NBA, could eliminate Kevin Durant as a major factor if the two teams were to face off in the playoffs, but the thing is the Warriors still have the best two shooters in the NBA (Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson) along with one of the most versatile and hard-working players in the league (Draymond Green), and a decent bench (Ian Clark, Andre Iguodala, Shuan Livingston and David West). Patty Mills or Tony Parker, the Spurs’ two point guards, have no ability to guard Curry, so unless Curry gets ice cold (which he has in the past) then the Spurs have a chance to win; however, the likelihood of that happening for four out of the seven games is extremely low and almost improbable.
Aside from the Spurs, the team I think that could give the Warriors a run for their money, if healthy, is the Los Angeles Clippers. The team was on top of the Western Conference for a few weeks before the Warriors went on their massive 12 game win streak and took over first place. Chris Paul is still doing Chris Paul things, Blake Griffin has taken over consistently as the most dynamic scorer on the floor, DeAndre Jordan has shown more effort after getting a huge deal this past offseason and the Clippers also finally have a bench (Jamal Crawford, Marreese Speights, Austin Rivers, Brandon Bass and Wesley Johnson) to back up the starters, which is something the team hasn’t had in the past. If healthy, this team can shoot the ball almost as well as the Warriors, and they have a major advantage over the boys from the bay area- size. Jordan and Griffin down low will completely dominate the Warriors weak post play of Zaza Pacuhlia, Javale McGee and Anderson Varejao. If Steve Kerr decides to keep playing Green at the five during parts of the game, the Clippers can expose him down low through Jordan and Griffin and possibly win the series. However, I still think it is extremely unlikely and improbable, but it is the best shot that any team has at stopping a rematch of the Cavs and Warriors for the third consecutive year.
The rubber match between two historic teams will be possibly even epic than their last meeting. The Cavs and the Warriors, for the third consecutive year, will meet in the NBA Finals and there is nothing anyone can do about it. We might as well fast-forward to May already because three-peat here we come.