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5 Burning Questions Cavs Need to Answer Heading Into 4th Straight Finals vs. Warriors
- Updated: May 30, 2018
For the fourth time in four seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will face off against one another in the NBA Finals.
Over the past four seasons, these two teams and the stars that play for them have come to know each other very well.
In 2015, the Warriors earned their first championship in 40 years when they managed to defeat LeBron James and a badly injured Cavs roster. The following year, James and Kyrie Irving played the heroes in one of the most improbable series comebacks against one of the most dominant teams in NBA history.
Last season, the Warriors benefited from Kevin Durant signing in the offseason and barely broke a sweat on their way to a second championship in three years. Now, only time will tell if the Cavs can swing the pendulum back in their favor or if the Warriors will cement their place in history as one of the NBA’s true dynasties.
Some factors in this series will be quite similar to those in the past three years. Other aspects will be entirely different. While the Warriors come into the series as the heavy favorites, the games are played for a reason.
Here are five questions worth asking heading into the 2018 NBA Finals:
1. Will Kevin Love be healthy?
This is quite simple. With Irving leaving the Cavaliers last summer, Love is the only All-Star caliber player aside from James on the roster. In Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals versus the Boston Celtics, Love suffered a nasty blow to the head. He was subsequently put into the NBA’s concussion protocol and ruled out for Game 7 of the conference finals. The Cavs were able to overcome the All-Star forward’s absence in the Game 7 against the Celtics. In the Finals, however, Love will be badly needed.
Despite having an up-and-down year, Love still averaged 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this regular season. He played especially well during the four-game sweep of the No. 1-seeded Toronto Raptors earlier in the playoffs, averaging 20.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.
If he is fully healthy, Love could serve as a second scoring option for the Cavs. He could also help stretch the court and work to give James more opportunities to drive to the basket for easy buckets. Perhaps most importantly, Love has some of the most championship experience on the Cavs’ roster aside from James. He has been there before and knows what it takes to win. Whether or not that will be enough to give Cleveland a chance remains to be seen.
2. How much does LeBron have left in the tank?
This is perhaps the biggest factor that will dictate whether or not the Cavs have any semblance of hope in defeating the Warriors. James has been playing a jaw-dropping amount of minutes in the playoffs and that certainly will not change now that he has advanced to his eighth straight Finals.
In Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals, fans and experts alike scratched their heads when it appeared that three-time NBA champ was struggling with fatigue near the end of the game. Some wondered if it spelled doom for the Cavs against the upstart Celtics. James responded by averaging 40.5 points, 13.0 rebounds, 9.0 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game in 47.5 minutes over the final two matchups of the series. It’s probably impossible for James to maintain that kind of production against the Warriors, but if he can come close, the Cavs might have a chance.
3. Will Stephen Curry struggle from deep?
Durant may be the most physically talented player on the Warriors’ roster, but there is no doubt who the leader of that team is on and off the court. Golden State goes as Curry goes, and if he struggles as he has in several games so far this offseason, the Cavs would certainly benefit.
In three games in the Western Conference finals, Curry shot at or below 25.0 percent from beyond the three-point line. He still finished with double-digit point totals in all three of those matchups, but the Houston Rockets won two out of the three games. The Warriors’ ability to shoot from deep is what makes them so dangerous. Even if Curry struggles, Durant or Klay Thompson can pick up the slack. Still, there is a noticeable difference in the energy that the Warriors possess when the two-time MVP is clicking. If he is not, the Cavs may be able to take advantage of it and turn the tide.
4. Will the Cavs’ role players show up?
It’s no secret that the stars of this series are at center stage. While Irving is no longer a part of this rivalry, the Cavs have several valuable role players in his stead.
To win this series, Cleveland is going to need all the help it can get from players like Jeff Green, Tristan Thompson, George Hill, J.R. Smith, and Kyle Korver. In each of the Cavs’ four wins in the Eastern Conference finals, at least two of the previously mentioned members of the Cavs’ roster finished with double-digit point totals. Cleveland will need that and more to have a shot at beating the Warriors.
5. Can the Cavs learn from the Warriors-Rockets series?
While the Warriors made it out of the Western Conference finals after an epic seven-game series, the Rockets did succeed in exposing a crack in Golden State’s seemingly invincible armor. Houston’s defensive strategy was to predominantly try and force the Warriors into an iso-heavy offense.
While Curry and Durant can create on their own at will, the rest of the Warriors’ roster thrives when the ball moves early and often. If the Cavs can make sure to stay in front of their men on the defensive side and reduce the Warriors’ ability to score in transition, they could turn the speed of the game to their advantage.
Additionally, the Cavs could also draw on their experience against the Warriors in past Finals series by working to try and rattle Draymond Green. He is as emotional on the court as he is versatile, and if James and company can get inside his head it could spell trouble for the Warriors.