The NBA Finals: A Dream Match-up

By Lamar Battle

Time to prepare for a match-up that has been in the works since the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season.

The Golden State Warriors (67-15) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) are on a collision course as they meet in the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight time, the series is tied 1-1.

This series has a number of ramifications at stake. To name a few, Cavaliers star LeBron James is sitting smack dab in the middle of a debate as to who is the G.O.A.T. ( Greatest of all time) between him and Former Chicago Bulls player Micheal Jordan.  Opinions vary as voices from all over the internet and networks take sides.

I like what Fox Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd said and I paraphrase, imagine if Micheal Jordan were McDonald’s and LeBron James were Starbucks who had just started making fries better than McDonald’s what would that mean?  In other words the one thing Micheal did better than LeBron was score but LeBron is on pace (as the All Time leader in playoff points) to surpass Micheal in that aspect too.

Warriors forward Draymond Green, so hungry for revenge and redemption (after last years defeat) more or less said that they want to crush the Cavaliers and considering the Warriors undefeated run through the 2016-17 playoffs crushing the Cavaliers is a real possibility.

One aspect rarely mentioned is the opportunity for this series to not only provide the Warriors Kevin (generally considered to be the #2 player in the world) Durant his first title but more important remove him from LeBron’s  considerable shadow.

Durant failed in his first attempt as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder to wrest the title from James but this time he returns armed with a 73 win team  at his back and the desire to beat the man (many have jokingly  referred to as his big brother).

This series represents a crossroads of sorts for both teams and the stakes are extremely high.  For LeBron it represents a chance to test his limits and put himself firmly on the path to becoming the G.O.A.T. as winning a second title against the Warriors would pretty much guarantee.

For the Warriors this represents an opportunity to prove that their 73 win season last year was no fluke and they can be one of the NBA’s great dynasties.

The psychological advantage of winning this title would be so great that a loss for either could mean the end of their hopes period.

Hollywood central casting could not have done a better job.

 

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

 

How To Beat The Golden State Warriors.

Respectful pause……..for those of you that are cracking your sides.  But how can one say outside of  maybe Tomahawk Missiles can this team be beat?  To even approach this notion we have to determine who

The Warriors Are:

A collection of parts that appear to mesh perfectly on offense and defense. It doesn’t hurt to have four All-Stars and two sure fire Hall Of Fame players on your team.

They have improved on the vaunted pace and space offense originally introduced by Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni to such a degree that their execution is almost at art form level. Without question in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant they boast the top outside shooters in the game and quite possibly in history.

The Warriors move the ball they move their bodies, they drive and dish and when it breaks down they just hand the ball to Kevin Durant to go one on one.

The Warriors front office deserves a lions share of credit for assembling a roster of players that are smart, versatile and competitive.  Those qualities show perhaps on defense more than in any other area.

The Warriors are aggressive they play the passing lanes with active hands and most importantly play on a string meaning they back each other up (help and recover) with precision over and over.

Having said all of that I’ve just about talked myself out of this piece but to beat this team the opponent should

Know Who They Are:

What does that mean?  Well to start the opponent cannot be a better version of the Warriors.  The opponent has to control the pace of the game and manage turnovers that usually come from passes to the wings and futile attempts at drive and kick-outs.

On defense the Warriors have Draymond Green, an All Defense 1st team player that is aggressive, smart and extremely mobile.  The one thing he is not is big so he has to be occupied down in the post by a player  with credible post up skills.  This approach would also serve to wear Draymond down but most importantly keep him out of the passing lanes.

The Warriors have the best team defense in the league so the opponent has to attack their players individually.  Klay Thompson is a better than average defender so skip him but in addition to posting up Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have to be attacked off the dribble.  Durant is an excellent help defender but not as mobile in one on one situations.

Forcing the Warriors into one on one situations would serve to control tempo and wear down key players down the stretch.

On defense when battling an offensive powerhouse smart teams know they cannot take away everything so they pick their poison.

The Warriors are so formidable an outside shooting team that they can drop a double digit deficit on you in mere seconds so one has to choose.  I say you stay home on Stephen Curry and most importantly Klay Thompson…..I did say stay home on Klay Thompson ? right.

Now that means that All Everything forward Kevin Durant will be allowed to roam the earth free..or whatever one on one coverage amounts to.

Providing an opponent can control pace, occupy Draymond Green, successfully shadow Steph and Klay and maintain their poise during  yeoman efforts from supporting players and an occasional 50 points from Durant then you can achieve what most can only hope for.

A close contest at the end.

 

Photo courtesy of google images

 

NBA Playoff Roundtable

A meeting basketball neo-experts (and pod cast contributors) convened to discuss some of the issues surrounding this seasons (2016-17) NBA playoffs.
Joining Lamar are Mike Brown, A.J. Campbell and Greg Powell.
Lamar: Any surprises in the playoffs thus far?
Mike:  None in terms of the teams at the top doing what they were expected to do.  I did hold out hope that the Bulls could upset the Celtics especially after jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
A.J.:  Speaking of the Bulls the Chicago Media spoke on how Bulls Vice President John Paxson was quiet regarding the future of star player Jimmy Butler during the final press conference.
Apparently that gave the impression that the Bulls may be looking to trade him and if that is the case they blew a great chance last season when his value was at it’s highest.
Greg: For a long time I thought the Bulls should have built around Butler given how he has developed into a two time All-Star but now I suspect that Jimmy will require another front line player along side him to return the Bulls to contender status.
Mike:  Most observers feel that the bottom line always comes first when it comes to the Bulls and team development and for a long time I gave them credit for astute business moves but fact is teams like San Antonio, Cleveland and now Boston have made money maintaining a winning record and culture.
Lamar:  Well at least the Bulls have been a top three team in attendance for the last 18 or so years.
Greg:  That , my friend can attributed to the Chicago fans who can be knowledgeable and loyal but also extremely naive.
Mike:  Well Jimmy may not lead the Bulls to the promised land at age 27 but he may command a 200 million dollar extension and Mr. Reinsdorf, you can take that for data !
Lamar:  I think we can all agree that the NBA title will be won by either Golden State, Cleveland or San Antonio, but who are some of the other teams making a name for themselves going forward?
A.J. :   In the east the Bulls, Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons are heading south.  On the upswing we got the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.
Greg:  I believe in Boston’s Isiah Thomas who has been playing out of his mind.  The Celtics are small but they got a lot of dogs.  Avery Bradley is really a glue guy and rookie Jalen Brown is going to be real good.
If Boston can pick up Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz in free agency they will be dangerous in the east.
Lamar:  What about the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo?  This cat is a starter on the All Star team in just his second year.
A.J. I have a theory/test for new young players and that is if a young player cannot lift his/her team at least past the first round then they are not ready and will need more seasoning prior to super-stardom..
Mike:  Well look at Micheal Jordan, It took him 7-8 years before he won his first title.
Lamar:  How about the Western Conference?
Mike:  Houston is definitely on the rise, OKC and the L.A. Clippers are a couple of moves away.  The Utah Jazz are showing great strides but they may lose their best player Haywood next season.
Greg:  The L.A. Clippers better jump on Melo before it’s too late.  They have a severely flawed roster and could probably get him now for J.J. Redick.  Paul George from the Indiana Pacers could also be available via trade.
As far as the Spurs go they got Kawhi Leonard and a bunch of old dudes. I can see improvements though from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets.
Lamar:  Who wins the Title?
A.J.:  Just like last year I am riding with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Mike:  There is still room on the Warriors bus for all of you (laughs).
Greg:  Well you all know that I am leaning towards LeBron as the G.O.A.T.
Lamar:  Interjecting, that will be different session for another time.
Greg:  Even though I rate LeBron as the best player walking the earth I find difficult to pick him over a Warriors team adding Kevin Durant (generally considered to be the 2nd best player alive) and so I have to choose the Warriors.
Lamar:  Since my beloved L.A.Lakers are not quite ready I will have to pick the team sporting the best organization in sports,  The San Antonio Spurs.