The 2017 NBA Finals tip-off tonight at 6 PM (PT). It will be the beginning of the third leg of this great rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. As everyone knows, Golden State took the first NBA Finals meeting in 2015, but blew the infamous 3-1 lead to Cleveland in the 2016 NBA Finals.
This year, the finals will have a greater impact than any other in recent memory. For example, the winner gets all the glory as they will be considered the better team during this era by winning two out of three finals.
Warriors forward Kevin Durant needs to win to vindicate his move to the Bay Area. However, a loss will be very harmful for his legacy as everyone will wonder how he couldn’t win with Curry, Green, and Thompson by his side.
Lastly, LeBron James has the opportunity to put himself in a conversation with legendary Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan with a series victory. A loss will probably end any conversation revolving Jordan and James, yet a win will keep him on pace to contend with Jordan as the best ever. Doesn’t mean he will get there, but 10 straight finals appearances and six titles would put him close to Jordan.
Below is our prediction of the 2017 NBA Finals which will answer how each great’s legacy will be altered after the next few weeks.
Game 1: Golden State
With the long layoff before the game, the advantage lies with the veteran Cavaliers team. In addition, the Warriors have shown to lose their focus through stretches and there is a worry that a long layoff could further the lackadaisical approach. However, Golden State’s loss from last year will keep them highly motivated. Warriors forward Draymond Green will not let his team lapse focus for any period of time, for this series is personal to Green after he was suspended for Game 5 of last year’s NBA Finals.
The Warriors are at home and have more talent than Cleveland, with four great players versus the Cavaliers’ three. The only way Cleveland can snatch one away from their home court is with a legendary performance from James or Irving.
Nonetheless, Golden State will come out with a fiery motivation, shoot well from the field early, and close out a late victory.
Game 2: Cleveland
After losing Game 1, LeBron understands the gravity of the second game. A loss, most likely, will result in another finals’ series loss for James. Nonetheless, he has learned to have a killer instinct and will have a monster Game 2 carrying the team to victory. He will score close to 40 points with a triple-double and his side-kick Irving will hit clutch shots late to seal the deal.
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.
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.
After the Boston Celtics game one loss, there is a multitude of questions surrounding the team.
Can the Celtics solve their rebounding woes?
The Celtics were outrebounded 53-36 by the larger and more physical Chicago Bulls. Center Robin Lopez (7 rebounds) and guard Rajon Rondo (5 rebounds) crushed the Celtics on the offensive boards.
In order to take full advantage of the Bulls inability to hit the 3 ball, it is crucial for the Boston will need to rebound the ball effectively.
How can the Celtics mask their rebounding deficiencies?
Kelly Olynyk and Amir Johnson rank near the bottom of the eastern conference in rebounding rating. Therefore, the best response would be to play small-ball and have more athletic players, like guard Jaylen Brown and forward Jae Crowder, play at the four and five spots.
This move should improve their ability to track down long rebounds that are a by-product of poor three-point shooting.
Are the Celtics a regular season team?
Many NBA teams, like the Cavaliers and Spurs, have the talent to cruise through much of the regular season and then turn up their focus once the playoffs come.
The Celtics, in the Stevens’ era, bring 100 percent effort for all 82 games of the regular season.
Guard Isaiah Thomas and forward Al Horford do not get the LeBron James and Tony Parker treatment, resting when healthy.
As a result, Boston suffers from fatigue that looked to negatively impact them in game one.
It is important that the Celtics make a statement in Game two in order to prove that their 53-win season was not a fluke.
Can the Celtics find a reliable 2nd scoring option?
During the first playoff game, it became clear, in the fourth quarter, that Thomas was the only Boston player who could consistently get to the rim.
Throughout the regular season, Brad Stevens employed a “Popovich-ian” type offense where fast-paced ball movement opened up an array of looks for consistent three-point shooters like Crowder and Avery Bradley.
However, the fourth quarter in a playoff series typically relies on an isolation offense and a players ability to get to the rim or free throw line. Crowder, Horford or Marcus Smart are going to have to step up by consistently getting to the rim if the Celtics want to win.
The Bulls are built well for the playoffs and might force this series to go seven games. However, the Celtics will be better prepared to handle the emotion of Thomas’s sister’s death and it is a must-win game at home. Those two reasons will help Boston get the win in game two.
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
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
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
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
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: