2018 NBA Finals Preview By: Peter Snyder

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Stop me if you have heard this before. The Cavaliers and Warriors are playing in the NBA Finals. Chances are, if you physically could you would stop me because this is the fourth consecutive year that these two have squared off in the Finals. The underlying question of if this so-called “rivalry” is good or bad for the NBA has quickly surfaced. Some people are fascinated by the idea of parody and seeing different teams compete each years and others find the building of a rivalry over the years intriguing. Whatever your opinion may be one thing is clear, these teams earned the right to be here and deserve and incredible amount of respect. There journeys however were not all peaches and cream. We will start with the Cavilers path where it took a king like performance and a whole lot of grit to punch their ticket to the final ensemble.

The Cavs entered the playoffs as the 4th overall seed and in the first round were matched up with the Indiana Pacers who were led by All Star, Victor Oladipo. Coming into the playoffs, Lebron James was in route to make his eight consecutive NBA Finals and was trying to continue his path as the greatest player of all time. That being said, he knew that if he were going to get to that point, he would have to go to extreme lengths as this was perhaps, the weakest team he has ever played with. If you eliminated Lebron, this team would not even sniff the playoffs and would perhaps finish with one of the worst records in the league. Game one of the ECFR did not go as planned for the Cavs as they dropped game one at home, by the score of 98-90. The Cavs would bounce back in a big way and thanks to a 46 point performance from the king, the series was now tied up at 1-1. The rest of the series would go back and forth and it seemed like when the Pacers would pull, the Cavs would pull right back, not giving and inch. The series went the distance and the Cavs survived by the skin of their teeth, winning game 7 by the score of 105-101. Lebron James scored 45 points on the night and it was clear that it would take a lot more than a few punches to knock the king out. In the Eastern Conference Semi Finals, the Cavaliers would get paired up with what most people thought would be their match, the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors were the top seed in the eastern conference and were considered to be the favorites to come out of the east.

What would transpire in the ECSF can only be described as mind-blowing. After coming back in big fashion to steal game one, the Cavaliers took the next three, sweeping the series. Lebron continued his dominance in the playoffs and even dropped in a buzzer beater in-game 3. The Cavs were now just 4 wins away from heading to their fourth straight NBA finals and for Lebron, his eighth in a row. Standing in their way was a gritty team from Boston who was filled with youth and had a coach who was masterful at his craft. The Celtics were the last team from the eastern conference to be Lebron James in a series and they were hungry to beat the streak once again. The first two games of the series were all Boston and to be frank, it was looking like a sweep was on our hands. Boston won the first two games by 38 combined points and were in the driver’s seat, up 2-0 in the series. We soon found out however, that the Boston Celtic team that plays in Boston is a lot different from the one that plays on the road. They look seemingly lost in Cleveland in the blink of an eye, the series was heading back to Boston, knotted up a 2 games a piece. Along with the Celtics playing poorly on the road, Lebron James was seemingly invisible at home. After dropping game 5 in Boston, the King knew he was facing adversity and needed to step up in a big way. He did just that, dropping 46 points in game 6 and for the second time in this years playoffs, the Cavs were headed to a decisive game seven. This time however, they would need to get the job done on the road and defeat a team that had not lost in the playoffs at home, all postseason. They also had to defeat a team that in the history of their franchise, had never dropped a series when taking a 2-0 lead. Everything was facing against the Cavilers and only one man in the world could overcome such significant odds. That man was Lebron James. In game seven, James played all 48 minutes of the ball game, scored 35 points, brought down 15 rebounds, and had 9 assist on the night. The man had done it. He had went into Boston as a heavy underdog and had pulled off the unimaginable. The Cavs had won games seven by the score of 87-79 and were headed back to the NBA Finals. The Cavs who have been underdogs throughout the playoffs, now face their biggest challenge. They are faced by beating one of the greatest teams of all time, the Golden State Warriors. A series win for the Cavs would be one of the greatest upsets in not only basketball history, but in the history of sports. There is no telling of this feat is even possible but one thing is for sure, if the king is healthy and is playing in ever game the Cavs have a fighting chance and that is all you can ask for.

As for the Warriors their path to the finals was a tied less strenuous. The Golden State Warriors headed into this years playoffs as the defending world champions and the number two seed in the Western Conference. In the first round, the Warriors were paired up with the scrappy San Antonio Spurs.. Although the Warriors would be without with Steph Curry who was sidelined due to an ankle injury, they were still heavily favored and were not expected to drop a game. After a dominating performance in-game one by Klay Thompson and a game two show put on by Kevin Durant, dub city had found themselves in commanding position, leading 2-0 in the series. After winning game 3 in seemingly easy fashion, the Warriors found themselves in a place they were not used to in recent years, the losing side of the scoreboard. The Warriors bounced back from their game 4 loss however and took the series in five.

In the second round of the playoffs, the Warriors would face the New Orleans Pelicans who were fresh off an upset series win against the Trail Blazers and were feeling as confident as ever. This confidence would quickly be shot down after being defeated by the Warriors in the first two games of the series. The Pelicans knew they needed an answer and got it in a big way from Anthony Davis who’s 33 point performance helped the Pelicans take game three and full the series to 2-1. In game 4, the Warriors had enough of the cat and mouse games and flat-out embarrassed the Pelicans in front of their home fans. They had won the game by the score of 118-92 and knew that they had the series in hand. The Warriors once again ended the series in five and were headed to the WCF where they would face the number one seed in the west, the Houston Rockets. This matchup was one that had been anticipated for most of the season and fans knew that the Rockets were the only team that had a legitimate chance of slaying the beast. The beginning of the series did not disappoint as game one was an instant classic. The Rocket faithful was rocking and made it an uncomfortable place to play for the Warriors the entire night. The Warriors however, seemed to feed off of the noise and with Curry now back and in full force, the dubs began to seem unstoppable. They pulled away late and came away with a 119-106 game one win.

Game two was a different story as the Houston Rockets bounced back and thanks to James Hardens assertive performance, the series was tied up at 1 and was heading out west. Now at the time, game 3 might as well have been the Rockets death sentence. They got absolutely annihilated by the resilient Warriors and the Rockets were embarrassed as they lost game 3 by 41 points. The Warriors were now well on their way to their 4th straight finals appearance and it had seemed that they were not going to lose another game for the rest of the postseason. The Rockets had other plans however. Coming into game 4, the Warriors had won 16 straight home playoff games and were seemingly untouchable at Oracle Arena. In a game that people had penciled in before it even started, was quickly flipped on its head and heading into the fourth quarter, the Rockets were locked un and had a real shot to beat the streak. As the fourth quarter winded down, the Rockets defense became suffocated and the more stops they got, the quitter the crowd got. It was a perfect recipe to a big time upset. The Rockets had went into Oakland and had shocked the world. They had hung on for a 95-92 win and were now heading back home with the series tied up at 2. This was perhaps the greatest momentum shift in the history of playoff basketball as we saw a team go from getting beat by 41 just a game before, to winning on the road and taking command of a series. The Rockets took game 5 of the series at home and were now just one game away from beating the almighty Warriors who earlier in the series looked untouchable. The Warriors would respond and after winning game 6 at home by the score of 115-86 , we were heading to game 7. Winner goes to the final, loser goes home. Game 7 was a story of streaks. It seemed like when the Rockets got hot, the Warriors would get a tad hotter 5 minutes after. The key stretch of the game was when the rockets missed 27 consecutive three balls, leaving a window wide open for the Warriors to take the series. The saying live by the three and die by the three had never been more true in this sense as the Rockets literally died by the three ball. Steph Curry caught fire in the third and after a furious finish to the game, the Warriors hung on to win game 7 by the score of 101-92 and were headed to the finals for the fourth straight time. The Warriors now come into the finals as heavy favorites and if they play their brand of basketball and stay healthy, they will repeat as will champions and cement their already forming dynasty.

As for the matchup goes for this series, I think the analysis is pretty simple, If Warriors coach Steve Kerr draws up a proper way to contain Lebron James and if the Warriors just play Warriors basketball, they are going to win these finals. They are the better team and by a wide margin. They are the better shooting team, they are more athletic, they are better defensively and the list could go on for years. That being said, the Cavaliers have the best player in the world and that could play a major role in these finals. It is going to have to if the Cavs have any chance. Realistically speaking, for the Cavs to win this series, Lebron is going to have to average around 40 points a game, 10 assists and 10 boards. As far-fetched as that sounds, if anybody is going to do it and if anybody is capable of it, it is Lebron James. If he were to accomplish this feat, the discussion of “Who is the best of all time?” would have to be thrown in the trash. This would be the greatest accomplishment by any single athlete in sports history and seeing if he can pull this off, will be fascinating. To conclude, I will make my official prediction along with picking the NBA Finals MVP. I hope you guys enjoyed this piece and hope you enjoy watching the NBA Finals!

Petes Prediction: Warriors in 6

Finals MVP: Kevin Durant

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