The 2017 NBA Finals are finally here. And no surprise…the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are set to face off an NBA-record third straight time. These behemoths come in a combined 24-1 this postseason. The Warriors have won at least 67 games each of the last three regular seasons, whereas the defending champion Cavaliers boast a league-leading 120.7 Offensive Rating these playoffs. As if that weren’t enough, the second LeBron James-Kevin Durant Finals meeting will also be a key component, among a slew of fascinating storylines. To help us preview this highly anticipated rubber series, New York Times bestselling author Brendan Bowers and Warriors World’s Andy Liu team up to provide elite insight on these historic teams.
Brendan Bowers 5:57-7:14: “I think LeBron’s in his prime right now. And I’m not saying that prime’s gonna last X number of years. I don’t know how long it’s gonna last…If I was to guess one thing [as to] why is it the prime now: I think part of [it is] getting that championship for Cleveland, breaking the six-decade streak of no championships, doing it for his hometown, completing the redemption story. I think now that that whole thing is off his back, he’s just playing basketball, and he is, I think, playing it better than he ever has despite the athleticism that he had at 22, at 23, at 24. He’s just totally dominating the game…If you go to this many NBA Finals, I would say that he knows how to manage his body from preseason to regular season to All-Star break to the playoffs. Obviously, there’s luck in there with health, but I think he’s learned something about how to manage his body for the NBA grind. He might have helped Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love with that this year too.”
BB 9:51-10:03: “They’ve got to defend to the best of their ability every game this series to have a chance. Hopefully they’re prepared enough to give that effort, but I guess we’ll see.”
BB 16:12-16:27: “The way I look at this series is the team with two of the three best players in [each] game is gonna win. So it’s gotta be LeBron or Kyrie or Kevin Love that’s in that conversation, and really I guess everyone else has to play their role.”
BB 22:57-23:30: “The Mike Brown one [storyline] is interesting. You also look at it from Mike Brown’s perspective. Mike Brown is coaching against the franchise that fired him twice. The Cavs fired him, hired him and fired him again, so that’s almost like a Disney movie…Steph-Kyrie is gonna be unbelievable, but just LeBron vs. Durant at this stage of their career[s] is probably my favorite storyline.”
Andy Liu 32:35-32:47: “The Warriors, they’ve been extremely rested unlike last year, so they’re going in a different team, obviously outside of Durant. Draymond, Steph and Klay, those guys are going in as fresh as can be.”
AL 38:18-38:33: “Steph, like LeBron, understands all the criticism and reads what everyone is saying and he absolutely understands that people think Kyrie is on the same footing as him. And I think it’s something he’s gonna go out there and prove throughout this series, that really he’s on another level.”
AL 39:44-40:25: “If you got into a fight and you knew you were better, you aren’t gonna necessarily kind of stoop down or do anything you wouldn’t want to do…you know if you swing, you’re gonna connect, you’re gonna win. But the guy that’s smaller than you is willing to drag your legs or bite you or scratch you or claw, whatever it is that they need to do. The Cavs are that guy. They’re that smaller guy that will do anything to win. They’ll run pick ‘n rolls until it doesn’t work. They’ll change their game plan up to switch their whole defensive scheme up against the Warriors. And from the Warriors side, they’re not gonna do any of that. Outside of them going down 2-1 or injuries, they’re not gonna change from where they were.”
Brendan: Cavaliers in 6
Arrogant Andy: A Warriors sweep
Analytical Andy: Warriors in 5
*Brendan’s upcoming book, LeBron James vs. the NBA, is available for preorder on Amazon.
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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod