I may not have cartwheeled head first onto the hardwood like Steph Curry or taken a flying knee to the ear like Klay Thompson did in the rough and tumble 5 game series with the Rockets, but in the aftermath of last Wednesday’s Western Conference clinching victory, I’ve felt sort of numb and confused. I mean for the love of Manute Bol, are the Golden State Warriors really about to play for the NBA title? This whole business with the Warriors achieving greatness has been so sudden. Like the dynasty on the diamond in SF, greatness just sort of materialized out of nowhere. One year ago the Warriors were firing a 51 win coach who had totally changed the lackadaisical culture that prevailed in Nellie’s final years and were bringing in a rookie coach who seemed destined to fail. It was the classic scenario that all Warrior fans have grown accustomed to for the better part of 40 years:
- Team makes a personnel announcement
- Fans express shock and outrage
- People break off into their personal Warrior discussion groups to vent
- Team finds itself back in the cellar
But the Firm known as Lacob, Guber, Myers & West have this game figured out. It almost seemed comical when Joe Lacob took over the team in 2010 and stated that the singular organizational goal was to win NBA titles. NBA titles? Didn’t he realize that you needed superstar players and genius coaches to achieve titles? Titles were for The Lakers, The Spurs, The Heat. Certainly not the Golden State Warriors. Golden State was synonymous with basketball anonymity, essentially a witness protection program for NBA players. Like Beach Blanket Babylon, the Warriors were exclusively a Bay Area thing. A tragicomedy played to an adoring local audience who kept coming back annually hoping that somehow, against all rational judgement, the team’s fortunes would change for the better.
Fast forward five years and the Warriors are the model franchise in the NBA, on the brink of carving out a new chapter in Bay Area sports lore and finding their place among the all time great teams in the NBA. Their 67-15 regular season record puts them in a tie for the 6th best record ever. They have the League MVP, the GM of the year and a coach who looks like a surefire bet to become a perennial coach of the year candidate. They have a new SF waterfront arena in the works. They have 123 straight sell-outs and the entire region worked into a frenzy. They play a beautiful style that is bringing fans back to the game in droves who had grown tired of watching one on one isolation basketball. Even the Warriors D-League team, The Santa Cruz Warriors, won the title this year!
All of the necessary ingredients for winning are there. I would start organizing the parade today if it weren’t for that one man from Akron, Ohio. Standing in their way is a 250 lbs basketball savant, the King of the Eastern Conference, LeBron James. Curry may be the league MVP, but LeBron will be the best player on the floor. Take a look at the Cav’s roster and ask yourself if there is another player in the league who could even lead this crew into the playoffs, let alone march right through the East with a 12-2 record? Seriously, I don’t even think Magic, Michael, Bird or Bill Russell in their prime could have pulled off what LeBron just did over the past month. LeBron’s leadership and willingness to get every man involved has dramatically changed the fortunes of this 33 win team from just a year ago and I have a strong suspicion that this could be the first of multiple championship battles over the next half decade between the two clubs.
For Round 1 between these two heavyweights, the Warriors have the superior top to bottom roster, the superior coaching staff and the home court advantage. The better team will always prevail in a 7 game series and the Warriors simply have too many weapons to lose, even to a player as great as LBJ. On any given night the Warriors will have 3 players rolling while getting key contributions from 3-4 more guys. The load will be too much for LeBron to bear when the Warriors get the ball moving with the precision of a fine Swiss watch and start knocking down 3’s. I expect the Cav’s to put up a fight and possibly drag this to a game 7, but as Curry and the W’s have demonstrated over their own remarkable 12-3 march through the mighty Western Conference, they are a gritty bunch savoring the moment and have their eyes on the prize.
Here is the Official Bulseyeview Breakdown of the match up, unofficially brought to you by Little Remedies Products: Everything they need. Nothing they don’t.
OFFENSE: In the simplest terms possible, or analytics for dummies, the team that makes the most shots wins. What will happen is Curry, Klay and Draymond will match LeBron, Kyrie and JR Smith in scoring output. Each of those combos will average close to 65 pts per game and therefore negate each other. So the that leaves Cleveland with Mozgov, Dellavedova, Thompson, James Jones and Iman Shumpert having to try and match the production of Barnes, Bogut, Iguodola, Livingston, Festus, The Brazilian Blur Leandrinho, Mo Speights and David Lee. I just don’t see it happening over 7 games.
DEFENSE: Defense wins championships. While Kawai Leonard may be the only guy in the league who can bother LeBron, the Warriors triumvirate of Draymond, Barnes and Iguodola with Bogut and Festus on the second line is the next best thing. If they can keep The King out of the paint and force him into dribbling the shot clock out and taking contested jumpers, they should be set. For Cleveland, it’s pick your poison. If they throw everybody at Curry, that will leave Klay and a wing with open looks all night. If they play Curry straight up with Dellavedova or a gimpy Irving, they just better pray that he misses.
REBOUNDING: The Cavs are a bruising physical group who get after it, with Tristan Thompson just a beast on the offensive glass, but regardless of what Charles Barkley likes to say, the Warriors also enjoy a little contact. Draymond brings that Michigan St Sparty toughness to the arena on a nightly basis and may just be the best under 6’6” rebounder since Sir Charles. If the W’s can secure the boards when LeBron launches a 20 something footer at the end of a 24 clock and limit the Cavs possessions, they will be in the drivers seat.
Final Thoughts: There will be moments when the Warriors look rushed and miss quick shots early in the possession or make their customary careless turnovers, giving the Cavs life, but with Coach Kerr and his staff guiding them through those moments I don’t think this team can lose over 7 games. There it’s decided, Warriors are the 2015 NBA Champions!