The Cleveland Cavaliers will face off with the Golden State Warriors on Thursday night in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season. The Cavaliers are the defending champions while the Warriors are coming off the leagues best regular season record and they are a perfect 12-0 in the playoffs thus far. Both teams were clearly the class of their respective conferences and despite the long Vegas odds against the Cavaliers this should be a fantastic series.
Keys for the Cav's
Health of Lebron James
Lebron has been injury free thus far but he is the only player in the series that completely controls his teams fate. The Cav's could lose Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love and still win the series. The Warriors could lose Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and still become world champions but one injury to Lebron immediately ends the Cavalier's chances of success.
Decide on a playing rotation
Irving, J.R Smith, James, Love and Tristan Thompson will likely start while Deron Williams and Kyle Korver are certain to get minutes. After that Coach Tyron Lue will have to decide amongst veterans Richard Jefferson, Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert. Frye was the odd man out in the Eastern Conference Finals and it remains to be seen how the finals rotations will go
Commitment to defense
The Warriors have an unprecedented offensive attack that often results in long three point shots. Cleveland will need to find a way to both contest these shots as well as getting the rebound, eliminating second chance points. They will need to keep a body on Warriors all star Draymond Green who excels at positional rebounding. On film you will see some defensive possessions from Cleveland where players look completely lost defensively and find themselves standing around as opposed to scrambling and rotating. The Cav's won game 7 last season by shutting the Warriors out over the last 3 minutes. They will need to maintain that level of intensity.
Keys for the Warriors
The Warriors rarely play in the post and most of the offense is predicated on driving the ball to the basket or ball movement that results in jump shots. Oftentimes wide open and at other times contested. With Green's versatility and ability to play center the Warriors can put 5 shooters on the court whenever they choose. When they are making their shots they are unbeatable. However poor outside shooting could derail the train with ease. The ability to spread the court with outside shooting open up the lane for their drives and enhances the fast break game.
Green is arguably the most versatile defender of all time. He allows the team to play big or small. He is the team's vocal leader. Sometimes his antics get in the way like last season when he missed a Finals game due to being suspended. He is easily the Warriors most indispensable player and his presence is a necessity if the Warriors are going to win the series.
The most overlooked aspect of the Warriors is that they play championship level defense regardless as to who the opponent is. They disguise coverages and play team defense as good as any team in the league. While their explosive offense can often overshadow their excellent defense they will need to be able to stop the worlds best basketball player who is surrounded by his best supporting cast ever in order to win a championship.