The Cleveland Cavaliers march into the 2017 NBA Finals as the underdog. The defending champions aren’t taking the underdog label, well, lying down.
What’s the saying? Let sleeping dogs lie? One of the sleeping dogs with the Cavaliers, forward Kevin Love, is already awake. Per ESPN, Love thinks the underdog label is “funny”.
Is Love right? Are the defending champions ready to battle one of the most gifted professional basketball teams to ever be assembled? How is Kyrie, K-Love, and LeBron going to handle the Splash Brothers and Kevin Durant?
If you haven’t done so already, make sure to read my article on the Golden State Warriors before reading this piece. In this piece, not only do I present the Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals preview, but I also predict the winner of the 2017 NBA Finals.
Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals Preview
Cleveland Cavaliers Offense
The Cavaliers have one of the best offenses in the NBA. Cleveland averages 110.3 points per game. That ranks fourth in the league. The Cavaliers shoot 47% from the field. That ranks fifth in the NBA. They shoot 38.4% from three. That ranks second in the NBA from behind the arc.
Cleveland’s top scorer is LeBron James. The King averages 26.4 points per game. He also leads the Cavaliers in assists per game at 8.7. Kyrie Irving averages 25.2 points and 5.8 assists while Kevin Love averages 19 points and 2 assists per.
The Cavaliers shoot better than Golden State from the three-point line. As amazing as that sounds, it’s true! Granted, the Cavs only shoot .1% better than Golden State, but, hey, a higher-ranking is a higher-ranking, right? Where does the .1% come into play? Golden State has plenty of three-point shooters: Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant can all consistently bury the three.
The Cavaliers have a three-point specialist in Kyle Korver. The fact that Kyrie Irving, LeBron, K-Love, and even J.R. Smith can also bury the three may account for the .1% advantage. All four of those players can also drive to the hoop while underrated Tristan Thompson is great on the blocks.
The Cavaliers offense is nothing to laugh at. It can play with the Warriors.
Cleveland Cavaliers Defense
The Cavaliers defense doesn’t appear all that great. On paper, the D is ranked twentieth in points allowed per game at 20.7. It’s ranked sixteenth in field goal percentage allowed, 45.8%. Opponents average 36.1% from behind the arc versus the Cavaliers’ D.
LeBron averages 1.2 steals per game. The Cavaliers rank twentieth in the NBA in defensive rebounds per with 44.2.
None of the defensive stats imply that Cleveland has any shot of stopping Golden State’s scorers. Based on the Cavaliers’ defensive stats, the Warriors should go buck wild on the court starting this Thursday. I mean, if the Cavs allow any team in the NBA to shoot over 36% from behind the arc, what are the Splash Brothers going to shoot?
But, then, you realize that Cleveland is the type of team that turns it on in the playoffs. LeBron, Love, and Kyrie have been in the NBA for a while. They’re not going to ratchet up the defensive pressure until they must.
In 13 games during the NBA Playoffs, the Cavaliers held their opponents to less than 100 points in 3 of the games. They kept their opponents to 105 points or less in 6 of the 13 games. Not a single opponent in all 13 games scored 115 points, which is what Golden State averages, versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Don’t let the stats fool you. The Cavaliers have a great defense.
Cleveland Cavaliers Intangibles
Golden State has two intangible players, Draymond Green, and Andre Igoudala. Cleveland has two intangible players as well: Kyle Korver, and Tristan Thompson.
Korver is a three-point shooting master. Depending on the situation, Korver plays 10 to 20 minutes per game. He only averages 10 points per. But, on any given night, he can drop close to 20. The great thing about Korver is that he’s not afraid to take the open shot. He could be Cleveland’s answer to Steve Kerr with the Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s, a three-point shooter that buries it when his team needs him to bury it.
Tristan Thompson is the Cavaliers’ Mr. Do Everything. He doesn’t have the breadth of skills that Golden State’s Draymond Green has. But, he can man the middle, play tough defense, and force his opponent into bad fouls on the offensive end. Thompson is undersized, underrated, and often forgotten. LeBron knows this, which is why in many games the King has no problem leaning on Thompson.
Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Playoffs So Far
The Cavaliers are 12 and 13 during the NBA Playoffs. In their lone loss, LeBron had arguably the worst game of his NBA career. He only scored 11 points, only dished 6 assists, only grabbed 6 boards, and he also had 6 turnovers to 1 steal.
Other than that game, James has scored 30 points or more in every other Cleveland playoff game save for Game 2 versus Indiana in Round 1. In that battle, the King’s stat line was 25 points, 7 assists, 10 boards, and 4 blocks.
As to be expected, both Kyrie and K-Love have been terrific in the playoffs as well. Irving had 2 double-double games versus Toronto. He scored 24 with 10 assists in one game. He scored 22 with 11 assists in another game.
Love has recorded 7 double-doubles in points and rebounds in the 13 Cleveland playoff games. He recorded a double-double in all 5 games against the Boston Celtics in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals: 32 and 12, 21 and 12, 28 and 10, 17 and 17, and 15 and 11.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors NBA Finals Prediction
If you’re not excited about the 2017 NBA Finals, you’re not a real basketball fan. This should be one of the most competitive, exciting NBA Finals of all time.
From the West, you’ve got the Splash Brothers, Kyle Thompson and Steph Curry, along with Kevin Durant. From the East, you’ve got the King and His Court: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. It’s impossible to determine who wins the series, these teams are so evenly matched!
Not really. Yes, I know that Golden State is around a -260 favorite to beat Cleveland. But, I’m not sold on Golden State. The one game for either team that defines this NBA Finals for me is Golden State’s comeback win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.
To me, there is no other game that means as much. Think about it. Before Zaza Pachulia stepped on Kawhi Leonard’s foot, twisting Kawhi’s already hurting ankle, the Spurs were up by 23 points. Kawhi had scored 26 points in less than 25 minutes played.
That’s my issue with backing the Golden State Warriors in this NBA Finals
First of all, if Golden State gave up 26 points to Kawhi in less than 25 minutes, what are LeBron, Kyrie, and Love going to do?
And that’s not the only reason I like the Cavaliers. When I think of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, I think of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. LeBron is every bit as good of a player as MJ. In some ways, I believe he’s better. Notice how I didn’t write about Cavaliers’ coach Tyronn Lue? It’s because LeBron is the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron wills the Cavaliers to victory. He’s got 2 Scottie Pippens on his squad with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. LeBron, like MJ with the Bulls, is the reason the Cavaliers win championships.
Furthermore, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals because LeBron won’t allow them to lose. And I think the King does something special during this series.
Finally, I like Cleveland to beat Golden State in 6 games.
NBA Finals Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers over Golden State Warriors 4 games to 2