5 on 5: 2016 NBA Finals Preview

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By Stefan Anderson and Jazmine August

The match we’ve all been anticipating. The clash of the two best teams and arguably players in the world. After a devastating Finals loss in 6 games, The Cavs find themselves back in position to snatch the trophy from the defending Champion Golden State Warriors. Let the games begin.

What are the respective teams’ advantages and disadvantages?

SA: For Cleveland, I believe their shooters like J.R. Smith, Channing Frye, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving gives the help that was desperately needed in last year’s finals. Knocking down 42% of their shots from the field allows the penetration of LeBron James keeps the Warriors defense honest.

On the other hand those same players are vulnerable on defense to the Warriors constant Pick and Roll matchups. Among the work 2-man lineups in the postseason, Cleveland has eight of the bottom ten two man lineups in point differential. As well their best lineup featuring Irving-Smith-James-Love and Thompson has a -8 point differential.

For the Warriors, their shooting and pace that led to them 73 wins and an astonishing 3-1 comeback over the Oklahoma City Thunder, is simply a nightmare for any team. The death lineup (Curry-Thompson-Barnes-Iguodala-Green) can be what propels them to consecutive championships or can derail their story book season. The lineup relies heavy on switching on everything, which end up with situations with Stephen Curry guarding Lebron James, which will force defenders to help and can cause havoc with Cleveland shooting just over 43% from behind the arc.

JA: The Warriors advantage is their ability to score faster than any team I’ve ever seen score in all my years of watching basketball. They have arguably the two best shooters in the league in Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They move the ball so effortlessly. This advantage is both a gift and a curse. When the Warriors aren’t raining threes they look like a one-trick pony. Their lack of versatility is what makes them most vulnerable.

What supporting cast is more important the team’s success? Why?

SA: Cleveland supporting cast is needed more, especially when Golden State bench’s is +14 in points per game. So if Klay, Draymond or even Barnes has a bad game someone off of their deep bench can find a way to replace some of that scoring. But Cleveland is complete a different team if Irving and Love do not show up for the Cavs. In games that Cleveland lost this season, the two combined for +31.8 +/- in wins and -28.7 in losses.

JA: The Cavs hands down. Without a good to great performance from the likes of JR Smith, Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson, it will be nearly impossible to succeed against the Warriors.

Who’s the X-Factor in the series for each team?

SA: For Cleveland it has to be Kevin Love, he will be needed to help spread the floor allow Irving and James the driving lanes needed to attack the Dubs best players on the defensive end. Also, Love will be forced to play center if Cleveland decides to downsize and matchup with GS’s Death Lineup. The UCLA product is notoriously known his lackluster defense and has been criticized for his awareness of the moment but has come alive if Cleveland has a chance of securing their franchises first title.

For Golden State, Harrison Barnes has to play a large role. Whether he has to come off the bench or start, his minutes are valuable. When Barnes gives effective minutes when he’s knocking down his shot from behind the arc and crashing the glass, the Warriors are a different team shooting 40% from 3 and at least a 45% percent of grabbing rebounds. In a game where each possession will be critical, Barnes has to prove he is worth a max contract worthy in the 2016 Finals.

JA: The X-Factor for the Cavs is a tie to me between K. Love and Lebron James. If Kevin Love can average somewhere between 18-20 pts a game, he will make a huge impact on his team’s success. Andre Igoudala is an X-Factor once again for the Warriors. The Finals MVP ability to contain James and limit his effectiveness in the paint could alter the game for the Warriors.

A Championship means more to what team? Why?

SA: LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since his arrival two seasons ago, he left his empire on South Beach to bring the championship to hometown. To lose three straight finals and drop to a 29 % finals winning percentage will not tarnish the King’s legacy but will haunt him for forever. Ultimately, it will lead to another unwanted exit from the Land.

JA: I think both teams are hungry and motivated by different factors. However, I believe a championship is more important to Cleveland. If the Cavaliers are able to overcome the GSW, they will have ended a 50 year drought of championships in the city of Cleveland and will adjust the crown atop LeBron’s head as the King of the league.

We both agree that Warriors and Cavs have two different styles of play. Which teams style hurts the opposing team more?

SA: “We’re not going to slow the ball down and be at ease. We’re going to push the pace, try to get easy baskets early in transition but make sure we’re taking good shots.” said Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue.  Cleveland’s ability to dictate the pace of the game put them ahead 2-1 in GSW-CLE Part I, but ultimately they birthed the Death Ball lineup, where Golden State’s overwhelmed them. Cleveland trying to downsizing and playing into a shootout will ultimately take them out again this year. Therefore the Cavs have to own the pace in order have a chance to overthrow the defending champs.

JA: Throughout the course of the playoffs the Cavaliers have been able to beat opponents both with their 3pt shooting and their ability to get points in the paint from there leading scorers. If both facets of the Cavs game is clicking they are virtually unbeatable.

Overall Prediction:

SA: I am going with the Warriors in 7 tough fought games. The reason why in the past two seasons, there was six teams defeat the Warriors at the Oracle Arena, Cleveland happens to be one of those teams. So they have the ability to do so again and Golden State went to Cleveland closed the Cavs, so they both know how to win on each other floors. But I know that either team wants to be closed out on their home floor, which would lead to epic game 7. But the Warriors are 12-1 following a loss which propel to the conclusion their magical season.

JA: I think this series will make up for the lack of competitive games outside of The Thunder and GSW series and moments of the Portland/GSW series. I see no huge blowouts. These teams are pretty evenly matched. From star power to scoring ability this should be a high scoring, intense and emotional series. I believe that Lebron will play his best basketball in this series and the of murmurs “he is now #2 to Chef Curry?” will be silenced. Kyrie will be consistent, closing the games when needed and Kevin Love will give the Cavs solid games. Look for Channing Frye or J.R. To have a big game as well. The drought will be over Cleveland. Cavs in 6.

Jazmine August is a Starting Point alum and now has ventured on to her own self titled site, http://www.IamJazAugust.com and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @IamJazAugust.

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