Misconception: Warriors and Cavs make NBA playoffs less exciting

 

Written by Rob Werner
Photo via ESPN Images

There has been a steady dose of complaining about the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Many are saying the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are making the playoffs too predictable.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith along with many fans and sports reporters have complained that the success of Golden State and Cleveland have made it a forgone conclusion that those two teams are headed to the NBA Finals for the third season in a row making the playoffs less exciting.

However, that is false.

The Warriors and Cavaliers are making the Playoffs more exciting, not less. The idea that two amazingly well-built teams with some of the NBA’s best players could meet for a third straight year on basketball’s biggest stage should have everyone salivating in excitement.

First off, there were some great series in the Playoffs starting in the first round.

The two biggest MVP candidates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook squared off in a thrilling series in which the Beard took the glory, helping the Rockets beat down the Thunder in five games.

The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers met up in the first round and had a hard-fought series that went to a full seven games. The Jazz led by Gordon Hayward won a game seven on the road stunning Los Angeles.

The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs slugged it out in a series that featured fantastic defense by Tony Allen and Kawhi Leonard. It also produced exciting front court matchups with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol battling against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

In the East, the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls played a physical first-round series that resulted in the Celtics winning four straight games after losing the first two.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors series was highly-competitive with Toronto winning in six games.

The Atlanta Hawks gave John Wall and the Wizards a tough first test in the first round.

Even the Pacers gave LeBron James a few tough games as the seven seed in Round 1 of the Playoffs.

The first round of the Playoffs was exciting series by series.

The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards just wrapped up a fantastic seven-game series that looked like it could go either way.

Within the series fans saw two of the NBA’s best point guards face off as John Wall and Isaiah Thomas played some great basketball in the seven-game series.

John Wall saved the Wizards from elimination in Game 6 with a clutch go-ahead three-pointer to give his team a chance to win a Game 7 in Boston at the TD Garden.

Game 7 was a thriller coming down to the final minutes as Kelly Olynyk was the hero for the Celtics scoring 12 points in a three and a half-minute period of the fourth quarter to finish with 26 overall in the game.

While the Rockets and James Harden looked horrible in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, the series was competitive with the Rockets forcing the Spurs to play some great basketball to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

The Spurs and Warriors will be an entertaining matchup as long as Greg Popovich is the head coach of San Antonio because he has had the Warriors number over the majority of his career.

Yes, losing Kawhi in Game 1 over a questionable foul by Zaza Pachulia is not what the NBA fans wanted, but the highly intelligent and defensive-minded Spurs against the offensive juggernaut that is the Warriors should entertain any NBA fan.

The Celtics and the Cavs will be exciting. Watching Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics use the grit that has gotten them to this point will at least force LeBron James and the rest of Cavaliers to play a very high level of basketball.

So, yes, it looks like it will most likely be Golden State and Cleveland facing off with a chance to win the Larry O’Brien trophy for the third time in as many years, but what’s wrong with that?

NBA fans are saying that there is no point of watching the other series when it’s so obvious that the Dubs and Cavs are on a collision-course that will see them meet in a third straight NBA Finals.

What is possibly boring about seeing a trilogy of two all-time great teams battling for a second title in three seasons?

NBA fans should want to see history unfold in the shape of two all-time great teams battling yet again, driving this rivalry further.

The discussion about if LeBron James is the greatest player in the history of the NBA is rising and rising and if he could take down a superteam like Golden State, it seems that many people would crown the King and say he has passed Michael Jordan as the greatest of all-time.

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Photo via The Australian

 

Stephen Curry and Co. are looking for redemption after failing to win last year’s championship after having the greatest regular season in NBA history.

Kevin Durant would get to face off against the King! KD, who it seems like everyone called out for trying to chase a ring and hopping on the Golden State bandwagon, would get to try to win the title that has long eluded him.

Kyrie against Steph another time would be about as exciting a point guard matchup as any in the NBA today.

Listen to Fox Sport’s Colin Cowherd talk about why the Warriors and Cavs would not be bad for the NBA at all, but rather very good.

If the Warriors and Cavaliers meet in the NBA Finals for a third straight year, it will be history.

NBA fans shouldn’t be unhappy or be complaining about the predictable NBA Finals matchup. It will be the most exciting and anticipated basketball played this whole season and there isn’t anyone who should be complaining that it will be the Warriors and Cavs once again.

 

Rob Werner is a contributing writer for The JR Report. For more news follow him on twitter @robwerner28. Continue reading “Misconception: Warriors and Cavs make NBA playoffs less exciting”

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NBA Playoffs: Power Rankings (1-10)

Photo via Frank Gunn / AP

 1. Golden State Warriors

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Photo via Kyle Terada – USA Today Sports

Kevin Durant’s injury, while unfortunate, was a good thing for the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors, and Steph Curry in particular, were playing without swagger and confidence.

The main difference between the Warriors last year and this year was Curry’s play. He went from an MVP to just a great player because he was trying to integrate Durant. Once Durant went down, the Warriors rediscovered the magic that made them one of the best teams in NBA history; they won 14 straight games and 15 out of their last 16 to finish the season.

They are the most talented team in the league, and they’re hot going into the playoffs.

 2. Cleveland Cavaliers

After losing their final four games, the Cleveland Cavaliers should probably be lower in the power rankings. This is a power ranking for the playoffs, though, not the regular season. The playoffs are their own season, and you can throw records out the window. At this point in the season, we can focus on experience, talent, matchups, and chemistry.

The Cavs save themselves for the playoffs. Once the ball tips, Cleveland will have something pretty close to their A-game. Their poor play is worrisome in terms of winning a championship, but it doesn’t foretell an early exit.

They are, however, making their third straight title run (LeBron James’ seventh in a row). It might catch up to them, but I think resting their stars down the stretch will benefit the Cavs playoff run.

They’ll make the conference finals, and most likely, the NBA Finals.

3. San Antonio Spurs

Kawai Leonard
Photo via Chris Covatta/Getty Images

 

Kawhi Leonard doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Yes, the San Antonio Spurs are a great team with a ton of depth, but they don’t have Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are not what they once were. It is Leonard’s team and he is performing at an elite level.

They don’t have the star power that the Warriors and Cavs do, but their experience, Kawhi Leonard, and Popovich make them a serious threat.

4. Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics are the number one seed in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not considered “real” title contenders. They have everything that one would look for in a team, but lack the star-studded lineup needed to compete for a title.

Boston will be a great team in the future. They have a nice roster and a great coach in Brad Stevens, but they need one more piece to be a real threat to LeBron in the east.

Maybe they should be ranked higher because of their record during the regular season. They have a chance to upset Cleveland should the matchup present itself.

5. Toronto Raptors

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Photo via Tom Szczerbowski – USA Today Sports

The Toronto Raptors may not be playing their best basketball, but they have the potential to take the Cavaliers deep in a series. The injury to guard Kyle Lowry hurt their regular season record. Once Lowry returned to the lineup, they started winning games. They won 12 out of their last 14 games to finish the season.

They took a surprising loss to Milwaukee in game one, but people overreacted. They’ll bounce back and win game two, and they’ll steal a game on the road against the Bucks.

If they can get there, the Raptors have the star power to compete with Cleveland. At guard, Lowry can matchup with Kyrie Irving. DeRozan is a stud, and DeMarre Carrol can matchup with LeBron James. They have great size, too, with Jonas Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka.

A great point guard, an all-star scoring guard, and two seven-footers underneath. The Raptors have a chance to go deep in the playoffs.

6. Houston Rockets

They should probably be number three or four in these rankings, but the Rockets are in the Western Conference and don’t stand much of a chance against the top seeds. They have a shot at beating the Spurs, but they can’t beat Golden State.

They’re a good team, but they can’t play defense, and they don’t match up well against their conference’s top teams. No one should expect them to be the western conference’s representative in the NBA finals.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

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Photo via the NBA’s website

The Clippers are similar to the Rockets. They’re a good team, they’d be great in the Eastern Conference, but they’re not good enough to beat the Spurs or Warriors.

It’s disappointing for Chris Paul, who’s a great player, but has been pretty unlucky. He’s never been surrounded with enough talent to win, and he’s had to play against the Lakers, Spurs, and Warriors’ dynasties.

The Clippers do have a lot of talent, with Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, but they lack in two key areas. They don’t have an elite wing like LeBron, Kobe, Thompson or Leonard, and Griffin seems like a great regular season player, but doesn’t help the team win.

When Chris Paul gets injured, the Clippers really suffer. When Griffin is out with an injury, the Clippers do just fine.

Anything can happen in the playoffs, but the Clippers probably won’t go far.

8. Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards have a lot of potential to make noise in the playoffs with John Wall and Bradley Beal. They also have good supporting players in Otto Porter Jr., Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. They’re a good team, but they’re a star away from being true title contenders.

If they could have landed Durant, for example, they’d be as good as Cleveland. Wall is very good, but he’s not elite. His jump-shot, which is lacking, will hurt him down the stretch of games.

9. Atlanta Hawks

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Photo via John David Mercer – USA Today Sports

They’re pretty much the same team ever year; good in the regular season, but don’t have a legitimate shot at a championship. They’re stuck in limbo. The Hawks are never bad enough to get a high draft pick, but they’re never good enough to win it all.

They’ve got a shot to win a series, but anything beyond that would be a surprise.

10. Portland Trailblazers

The Trailblazers are fun to watch and they’ll put up a good effort against the Warriors, albeit exiting in the first round.

They have a good core with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, who could be elite in the future. They need to bring in another all-star, though. If not, the two will surely leave Portland to team up with other stars.

Despite their long-term contracts, players have shown the ability to force trades if they are unhappy. It is the trend in the NBA for a star player to leave their team if no help comes.


Yes, there are other teams in the playoffs, but they won’t be winning an NBA championship this year. If you have no chance (and I mean zero) at beating Golden State or Cleveland, you’re not on the list. Sorry to the:

Milwaukee Bucks

Utah Jazz

Oklahoma City Thunder

Memphis Grizzlies

Indiana Pacers

Chicago Bulls

 

 

 

The Golden State Warriors are back to championship form

Graphic via the NBA's website

The Golden State Warriors have now won five straight games.

They initially struggled after forward Kevin Durant went out with a knee injury going 2-5 in the first seven games without Durant.

Now, the Warriors are playing the basketball they did last year when they went 73-9. Stephen Curry is back in MVP form, Klay Thompson is shooting lights out and, most importantly, Golden State is blowing teams out. The games are over before the second half, just like most were last season.

Without Durant, the Warriors have found their flow. The undeniable swagger they had last seasons seems to be back. Even the bench, who is ranked third in the NBA in the last five games as opposed to 15th for the entire year, is playing with immense confidence again. The bench, confidence and Steph Curry are what made the Warriors special last season.

This season, all three of those aspects of the Warriors are easily worse. The lack of a bench makes sense because they gave up Barnes, Bogut, Barbosa, and Ezeli for Durant. People thought Durant would make up for the lack of a bench. However, no one saw the dramatic decline of Curry, as discussed by Fox Sport’s Nick Wright, and the Warriors confidence.

Recently, Curry hasn’t been scoring more points, but he is shooting the three better and has become a more efficient basketball player. The points will come with more minutes, but since they are blowing teams out, his minutes are limited.

Klay Thompson has averaged 27 points per game in the last five up from his 22.3 average for the season. He is also shooting lights out, hitting over 50% of his threes in four of the five games with the one game still being a 7-15 shooting display from range.

Draymond Green is back to playing his type of basketball. He isn’t scoring a ton, but is rebounding and assisting his teammates and has been close to getting triple doubles in most of the last five games. He is also playing physical basketball, which is no coincident that his team just got in a fight with OKC last weekend and are playing good basketball.

The three main pieces to the Warriors have found their old form. I believe they were too busy trying to get Durant to fit into the team and they forgot about making sure they are playing well and with confidence. Durant was so great that he was able to make up for the lack of confidence in the team, but they were definitely not playing up to their potential.

Now, there is no doubt the Warriors have been worse with Durant. However, the rediscovered confidence could go a long way into making the Warriors into one of the greatest teams of all time again. If they can keep their confidence when Durant gets back, adding the second best player in the world to an extremely confident bunch will be scary for other teams in the NBA.

Lastly, Curry needs to know it is his team. He doesn’t need to sacrifice for Durant, rather Durant needs to sacrifice for him. Curry needs the ball in his hand and to be the guy so he can have that swagger. Once Curry and Golden State regain that swagger, they will undeniably be the NBA champions and a difficult force to stop for years to come.

Remember these guys before Durant, let’s see them again:

The NBA lacks parity at the top

Getty Images

The NBA playoffs are unlike that of any other major American sport. At the beginning of each NBA season there is a consensus opinion of which teams will be in the finals, unlike

March Madness and the NFL.

There are obviously favorites in every sport, but I wouldn’t guarantee any one team’s appearance in the finals like I would the Warriors and the Cavs.

We have seen each of LeBron’s teams come out of the east and as of recently, the Warriors come out of the west, with the Spurs doing the same before them. In fact, since Orlando in 2009 there have been no real surprises to make it to the finals.

There are no Atlanta Falcon, Butler Bulldog, or VCU Shocker stories in the NBA; teams who are not normally title contenders that have one great season and make a legitimate run at a championship. The NBA over the past few years has had teams explode onto the scene like the Hawks, Pacers, Raptors, and Trail Blazers, yet none of these teams have had a realistic chance at winning it all. Every dynasty has to start at some point, but there just are not teams in the NBA who are good for only one playoff run or one season.

However, teams that explode onto the scene in the NFL have a realistic shot at winning the title. For example, Carolina, Atlanta, and the NY Giants are all teams who have either come close to winning or have won despite not ranking amongst the elite group of contenders like New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Denver and Seattle. Teams like Atlanta and NYG are rarely chosen, but have shown the ability to make a run at the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile in the NBA, how many times has a team won, or even made a trip to the Finals that wasn’t in the perennial conversation at the beginning of the year?

Orlando in 2009, that’s it. If you research the past NBA finals you will be pressed to find another team like Orlando until the Knicks in 1999, who were an no. 8 seed. The “cinderella” story simply doesn’t happen in the NBA, with only two exceptions in the past 18 years.

Game 5 of the 2009 NBA Finals. Lakers clinch their 15th title in an easy series over Orlando.

The NBA does a good job of having the best team in May and June later become the NBA champion, and while this rewards teams for their excellence, it makes for a lack of excitement during the regular season and early playoff rounds, because most of it doesn’t matter.

Playoff Differences

In the NFL, a team only has to win 3 or 4 games to become Super Bowl champions, yet in the NBA a team needs to win four series and 16 games. Therefore, it is far easier to be lucky in the NFL than it is in the NBA. For NBA teams, it has been an easy run for two or three teams that are considered “legit” title contenders while the rest have almost no shot to win it all.

In the NFL, it is much harder. Everyone has an idea of what will happen, but title aspirations can still come down to just one game, rather than the seven you see in the NBA. With a little luck, a team just has to be top six (or so) in the NFL to feel like they have a shot to win it all.

Just this past season all these NFL teams felt they had a realistic shot of winning the title:

New England Patriots

Pittsburgh Steelers

Dallas Cowboys

Green Bay Packers

Atlanta Falcons

Oakland Raiders

(New York Giants) – a pick by many

NBA Title Contenders:

San Antonio Spurs

Golden State Warriors

Cleveland Cavaliers

“The NBA will have a Cavs/Warriors finals for the next four years.” -Colin Cowherd

The Reason Why

In the NBA, you need two or three stars to contend for a title. One draft pick can’t truly turn around an organization unless he is a top ten player of all time, like a Michael, LeBron or Kobe. Therefore, it is unlikely to see an organization be good for just one season because a team needs so much talent to be good that it is not just going to disappear the following season. Having one All-Star in the NBA will make a borderline playoff team without any realistic chance of winning the championship.

However in the NFL, one pro bowl caliber quarterback can immediately take a team to the Super Bowl. It is also possible for quarterbacks to have one incredible season, like Cam Newton two years ago and Matt Ryan last year. It can all depend on one player, so if they get injured or have a bad year the team can really suffer, making it harder to be a perennial contender for long stretches.