So here we are after three rounds of best-of-seven series and yes, we are getting the Cavs vs the Warriors for the 4th time in a row. That said, things are different as the teams are different, especially the Cavs. So with that in mind we’ll take a look at some of the major storylines as we head into the 2018 NBA Finals.
1. Kevin Love’s return from a concussion
Kevin Love was knocked out of game 6 with a concussion and then missed game 7. He should be back for the start of the NBA Finals, but returning from a concussion is always a weird thing. Love is going to have to play well for the Cavs to have a chance here as his ability to shoot helps counter the shooting from the Warriors. However, if he takes a game or two to get back into the rhythm then it’s a lost cause. He needs to have a strong game 1, assuming there are no setbacks over the next couple of days. Speaking of injuries…
2. Andre Iguodala’s health
Andre Iguodala is currently nursing an injured left knee. He recently got a second opinion, but still missed games 4-7 of the Western Conference Finals after banging his knee with James Harden in game 3. I know people like to downplay these roleplayers for Golden State, but Iggy is vital for this team. His ability to defend multiple positions allows them to run that death lineup. He’s also way more of an offensive threat than Kevon Looney or Jordan Bell. Going against the Cavs, Iggy will be someone who will spend time defending LeBron, giving Durant some rest to play on the offensive side of the ball.
3. Dynasty talk
We’re about to see another true dynasty- assuming the Warriors win. Getting to 4 Finals in a row, but now winning 3 of the 4, with essentially the same group (I know Durant joined, but essentially the same group) would be the first dynasty since the early 2000s perhaps? The Lakers won 3 titles in a row from 2000-02, the Spurs won 4 in 7 years. Let’s say the Warriors win here. They have to be discussed as the best team and 4-year run we’ve seen.
4. LeBron as a massive underdog
I know it’s a bit weird to talk about, but LeBron is a massive underdog in this series. That says a whole lot about the Cavs more than it does the Warriors though honestly. So with the best player in the world as a massive underdog, how does he attack? Will he sit back in game 1 or quarter 1 trying to get his teammates involved and then take over? Does he look to attack right off the bat? Playing with a whole lot pressure could lead to a completely different sort of game for LeBron.
5.Draymond’s mental game
There’s no doubt Draymond Green is a good basketball player. Despite him not shooting the ball well from three, he’s still a unique player that can bring defenders out, pass and defend multiple positions. That said, he’s also a bit of a lunatic. We saw him in Game 7 ready to go off on his teammates. We saw him in Game 1 almost get kicked out of the game after getting a technical 90 seconds into the game. Will he be able to keep it under control and not throw a game or a pivotal moment because of that?
6. What JR Smith shows up?
Against the Raptors, JR Smith looked like an All-NBA player and a guy who you could have on your team to win a title. Then against the Celtics, JR looked like he was going to be the reason the Cavs lost the series. Similar to Draymond, it’s all about the mental aspect for JR. He needs to be locked in and not forcing stuff. He’s a catch and shoot guy right now or a quick dribble into a move and shot. He has to knock down those shots and stay home defensively. He can’t gamble and he can’t do anything like shove a guy in the back. He’s going to have to stay on someone like Klay and run off screens. I actually think JR is one of the 5 most important players in this series.
7. The Warriors 3rd quarter explosions
It’s something we saw all throughout the Western Conference Finals and now something to keep an eye on during the NBA Finals. Can the Cavs slow the Warriors down in the 3rd quarter, especially if they have a lead or it’s a close game? The Warriors were able to advance to the NBA Finals thanks to those 3rd quarter runs in Game 6 and 7. The problem is you never know where it’s going to come from. Last night we saw Curry go off in the 3rd quarter and start doing that thing where he’s walking down the court before the ball is even close to the rim after shooting. Some days it’s Durant. Some days it’s Klay. The Cavs will have to figure out a way to slow that down and make them work for shots during 3rd quarter possessions. There typically aren’t a bunch of adjustments made at halftime, so it’s just something more mental.