The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers Rivalry
The rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers has continued to heat up since the finish of the 2016 NBA Finals. This past Monday was the most recent matchup between the two super teams resulting in a blowout from the Warriors over the Cavaliers. With much to come in their rivalry and encounters, the anticipation grows to watch the rematch of the two teams in the 2017 NBA Finals. What’s been going on in the meanwhile and how does each team stack up against each other?
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The legacy of the historic 73-9 Golden State Warriors was tarnished by their complete fallout when they blew a 3-1 lead to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2016 NBA Finals this past summer. Their downfall has been cycled throughout everyone’s newsfeeds and whether or not you follow the game, you’ve seen that the sensation of the Warriors has simply transpired into a meme. In their first game against each other in the 2016-2017 season, the Cavaliers managed to sneak a one point win against the Warriors on Christmas day in a controversial ending surrounding Richard Jefferson and Kevin Durant. Luckily for the Warriors, Stephen Curry and company managed to strike revenge against LeBron James’ Cavaliers when they blew them out by 35 points on Monday January 16th, 2017. From a one point win to a thirty five point blowout, what does this mean for the newfound rivalry? How exactly do these two teams matchup? And what is to be expected of their future clashes?
Breaking news from the match on Monday mostly consisted of Draymond Green’s ongoing conflict with superstar LeBron James. Their clashes begun most notably in Game Five of the 2016 NBA Finals when James stepped directly over Green sparking much bad blood between the two. Once again this past game, Green and James found themselves in physical conflict when James received a flagrant one foul from Green while running the fast-break. Although it appears that James may have exaggerated the contact, Green certainly fouled him in an unnecessary manner, shoving James to the ground. The altercation can be seen in the video below.
James has continually denied there being a rivalry between the two, even commenting that he “doesn’t look at the games as a rivalry”. On the contrary, Green has said that “there is definitely a rivalry”. Green’s statement appears to be supported by his intensive energy when playing against them and the Halloween party the Cavaliers team threw in which they mocked several stars of the Warriors, not exactly something that would be seen from a team who thinks little of the other. Most NBA fans have already predicted a finals repeat between the two as they have been defined as the best teams of their respective conference. With their ever growing rivalry, the addition of Kevin Durant and the aftermath of the 3-1 lead loss, the rematch has become highly anticipated since the very beginning of the season. Recent history and ongoing conflict only adds fuel to the fire between the two.
After losing Andrew Bogut in the offseason, it became very apparent that the Warriors would experience major problems in the paint with the lack of a rim protecting big man. Most teams including the Cavaliers have attempted to expose this weakness by relentlessly attacking the basket, specifically acrobatic Kyrie Irving and freight train LeBron James. However, in their most recent game, drives to the hoop by James were met with the merciless hands of Kevin Durant, spiking the ball back. The block which can be seen in the video below put a stamp on the game and cemented the Warriors win.
James struggled throughout the entire game, making a mere six of eighteen from the field while turning the ball over a game high six times. Although, the biggest issue concerning James appeared to be his persistent and passive play. James rarely attacked the basket and instead chose a pass first mentality even when it wasn’t appropriate to. When guarded by Durant, James finished with an astonishing shooting performance of zero of five. If Kevin Durant can continue to make James struggle, the heroics in the 2016 NBA Finals of James may no longer be seen and can be a key component as to covering the major hole in their defensive scheme. Kyrie Irving found the same lack of success when shooting the basketball and ended on six of nineteen shooting which amounts to a 31.6% field goal percentage. Like James, Kyrie was unable to effectively penetrate the basket and was also met by the hands of his opponent. On the other hand, Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson all had a very efficient night whether it be offensively or defensively. As the saying goes, Green “messed around” and got a triple double. All this success was found without the strong performance of their reigning MVP, Stephen Curry as he shot a relatively low percentage of 35% (7/20 shooting) and further struggled with three turnovers.
Based on their previous and only two matchups this season, it becomes difficult to predict the future outcome of their games especially when considering this is only the regular season. Should Stephen Curry find his rhythm once again when playing the Cavaliers with the combined success of his teammates, the Warriors will find no problems with their rivals. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the opposing team has arguably the best player in the world capable of carrying a considerable amount of his team’s load, at least if he plays aggressively. In the 2016 NBA Finals, James led his team in all major categories, the first player to do so in any finals in NBA history. To beat the refined Warriors, it would the cumulative effort of the entire Cavaliers squad which is something their front office has worked towards. Kyle Korver, the three point sharpshooter formerly on the Atlanta Hawks was dealt to the Cavaliers in early January. Ideally, the effect of his addition will be that he provides steady and consistent scoring off the bench, specifically from the three point line which is an area the Cavaliers will certainly need help in to match the Warrior’s arsenal. A video of LeBron James’ reaction to Kyle Korver being added to the team can be seen below.
In my personal overview, I think that just as James has done before, he will once again peak against the Warriors at the highest level and will find an aggressive level of play to punish the Warriors’ relatively weak rim protection. I otherwise believe that with Kevin Love’s recent improved and all star level play alongside with Kyrie Irving’s driving abilities and Tristan Thompson’s rebounding skills that they will be able to overpower the offensive firepower of the Warriors. However, if the Warriors find themselves on a hot night, it will be near to impossible to stop the oncoming barrage. The Warrior’s defense cannot also be underrated. While rim protection is not their strong suit, their premier perimeter and help defense (mostly credited to Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) cannot be overlooked as the Warrior’s defense even ranks at number one in the league at the moment. My final prediction: (should they meet as anticipated in the finals again) the Cleveland Cavaliers win 4-2 with LeBron James winning finals MVP.