2016 NBA Finals Preview: Can the Cavs Stop a Golden State Repeat?
The 2016 NBA Finals are set: the Golden State Warriors will face the Cleveland Cavaliers in a rematch of the 2015 finals. Here’s a preview of what to expect:
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
How They Got Here: Spearheaded by the incredible play of repeat league-MVP Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors compiled the best season in NBA history, notching a record-setting 73 wins against just 9 losses.
Golden State beat the Houston Rockets, 4–1, in the first round of the NBA playoffs, and then bested the Portland Trail Blazers in five games in the second round. The Warriors then rallied from a 3–1 deficit to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder in seven games for the Western Conference title.
Led by LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers (57–25) were the best team in the Eastern Conference the entire season. They built off their regular season success by sweeping the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, before defeating the Toronto Raptors in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
History: The defending champion Warriors are making their sixth NBA Finals appearance, and fifth since the franchise moved to the Bay Area from Philadelphia in 1962. They won NBA titles in 1956, 1975 and 2015.
The Cavaliers are making their second consecutive NBA Finals appearance, and third-overall (2007). Cleveland has never won an NBA title.
Head-to-Head: Golden State won both games the teams played during the regular season, including a 132-98 demolition on January 18 in Cleveland.
Golden State: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Andrew Bogut
Cleveland: Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson
Why Golden State Will Repeat
The Other Big Three: The Warriors big three of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green must play the NBA Finals at their speed and using their now-legendary jump-shooting assault to extend the Cavs’ defense.
Lean On the Bench: While Golden State’s superstars get the hype, their bench was instrumental in allowing the Warriors to rally past the Thunder in the Western Conference finals. Harrison Barnes, Sean Livingston and Anderson Varejao all provide depth that Cleveland won’t be able to match.
Embrace Destiny: There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the Warriors to cap off their historic season with a second consecutive NBA title. Golden State has responded like champions. They only need to trust that they are the better team, and let their play deliver the championship.
Why Cleveland Will Win Its First Title
Control the Tempo: The Cavaliers can’t run with the Warriors, so they must find a way to keep Curry, Thompson and Green from shooting at a high percentage and inflating the score. Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert will be key off the bench. They have to play meaningful plus-minutes for Cleveland to win.
Let LeBron Lead: Appearing in his sixth consecutive NBA Finals, LeBron James is still the most dominant player in basketball. He’ll have more help in this year’s finals with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, but James must lead his team and seize the opportunity to bring a title to Cleveland.
Play in the Present: The Cavaliers need to get their minds right and recognize that it’s 2016, not 2015 (or the regular season). If they allow the Warriors to seize momentum, this could easily be a sweep. Instead, the Cavs must steal one of the first two games in Oakland to be competitive.
2016 NBA Finals Schedule & TV Times
Game 1: Thursday, June 2 at Golden State | 9 p.m. (ET) on ABC
Game 2: Sunday, June 5 at Golden State | 8 p.m. (ET), ABC
Game 3: Wednesday, June 8 at Cleveland, 9 p.m.(ET), ABC
Game 4: Friday, June 10 at Cleveland, 9 p.m. (ET), ABC
Game 5*: Monday, June 13 at Golden State | 9 p.m. (ET), ABC
Game 6*: Thursday, June 16 at Cleveland | 9 p.m. (ET), ABC
Game 7*: Sunday, June 19 at Golden State | 8 p.m. (ET), ABC
*- if necessary