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16 Bold Predictions For 2016

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

A new year is upon us and there will be many great sports events that will happen. Some will be expected like the Super Bowl, college football championship game and the college basketball national championship game. But there are also things that happen that catch us all off guard. It’s easy to predict things that will happen, but it is not as easy to predict the unpredictable events that can happen. But with that being said, let me take my shot at it. Without further ado, here are my 16 predictions for 2016

  1. The Alabama Crimson Tide will win the National title

Clemson is a worthy opponent for Alabama in the National Title game. They are solid in each facet of the game and can make some explosive plays. But versus Alabama, the game will be won or lost in the trenches. Alabama is a physical football team and they have dominated teams up front for majority of the season. Clemson is a physical bunch as well and they will not wilt when facing the Crimson Tide. But eventually the physical play and the explosiveness of the Alabama front seven will get to the Tigers.

  1. The Golden State Warriors will not win the NBA title this season

The Warriors are again having a great season. And of course they will be a factor in the West this year. But let’s not forget that there are some other teams that can get it going and potentially knock them off. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs are talented enough to give the Warriors fits. And this season, one of those teams jumps up and gets the job done, ending the Warriors’ season prematurely.

  1. Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke will not make the NCAA Final Four this year

All three teams are very deep and talented. But in this year’s college basketball, each team has some flaws going with them. Of course North Carolina is the most talented of them all and they are shooting the basketball well this year. But eventually the shooting will fall back to earth and they will have to win a game with defense. That will be where they fall. As far as Kentucky, they have been pushed around more in the post than usual. And even though they are talented, that shortcoming will leave them hamstrung in March. And as far as Duke, they may have their tough guy, forward Amile Jefferson, back before the season is over. But they still don’t have enough scoring from inside that will scare someone. And that will be something that eventually catches up to them.

  1. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series

This past year, the Cubs went further than anyone thought they would. And heading into this season, the expectations are they will go even further. Some may wilt under those type of goals, but this team may just thrive under them. And with the additions they have made this offseason, the Cubs will finally make it back to the World Series and will win one, breaking the supposed curse that was placed upon them.

  1. The Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are sitting on top of the football world right now, sporting the best record in the NFL at 14-1. But that is not the ultimate goal for them. The thing that they are striving to get is the Lombardi Trophy. And for the Panthers, plenty keep speaking on all the reasons this team cannot win the Lombardi Trophy. Well, Cam and the boys have been listening and they will use that as extra motivation to go to the first Super Bowl for Carolina since 2003. And instead of coming up short like they did against the Patriots the last time they were there, the Panthers will seize the day and win their first Lombardi Trophy.

  1. Steph Curry will win another MVP

Curry was in another world last year. He averaged 24 points per game and eight assists last season while locking up the MVP trophy. And just when it was thought he could not get any better, he shows up this season and is putting up better shooting, scoring and rebounding numbers across the board. He has gone from another world to another stratosphere and there is no doubting that he is the best player in the NBA right now. And with the record the Warriors are currently sporting, he will be the MVP again. As much as some want to give this award to LeBron, it just will not happen again.

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers will swing and miss in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes

The talk around Philly is they are in tank mode once again. And the object of their affection this year seems to be LSU forward Ben Simmons. The Australian forward can do everything on the floor and that combination of size and skill has every NFL scout hoping Christmas comes in June for them. It would seem the perfect storm would have Philly getting the first overall pick this year in the draft. But unfortunately, it will not be for them this year either. The 76ers will get the second or third pick, not the first. And with that, they can kiss goodbye to Ben Simmons ever wearing a Philadelphia uniform.

  1. The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs next season

Head coach Gus Bradley is building something in Jacksonville. He has a quarterback in place in Blake Bortles, a reliable tight end in Julius Thomas, two young receivers that are making it happen in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson and running back TJ Yeldon. Defensively, the Jags have taken a step forward this year and will more than likely add a pass rusher next season. That combination of things along with the state of the AFC South could have them either winning the division or making the playoffs as a wildcard.

  1. The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs next season

The team showed growth this season. Derek Carr showed even more improvement this season. And with the weapons he has offensively, the offense should do nothing but get better next season. And defensively, they have a standout player in Khalil Mack. If they are able to add more defensive backfield help, this team will definitely be ready to make the playoffs next year. The Silver and Black will be back next year.

  1. DeMarcus Cousins will not be a member of the Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus is a very talented player. Unfortunately, he has not been able to wrangle his temper on the court. And with the surroundings in the city of Sacramento, it may not be the place for him to have success and mature as a player. So with that being said, Cousins will be out of Sacramento this offseason. Boston would be one place that has assets to trade for him. But there will be plenty that will be vying for his services. Only time will tell, but he will be playing in another city come next basketball season.

  1. Kevin Durant will re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Much has been said of where Durant will land next year. There have been rumors floated out there of him landing in everywhere from Golden State to Washington next year. But in the end, the prevailing thought is he will end up staying in Oklahoma City. The chemistry he and Westbrook have is something that he will not find anywhere else. And if they can get some consistent scoring from a third option, then this team will be able to make that magical run like they did when they met LeBron’s Miami team in the NBA Finals.

  1. Peyton Manning will not retire.

It was looking like he would be done at the end of the season last year. But instead of doing so, he decided to come back this season. Needless to say, this has not been the most memorable of seasons for him as a starter this year. And despite the thoughts that he will be retiring at the end of the season (and by looking at him right now, he should), he will more than likely try to play yet another season in the NFL. The question now is where he will play because it surely won’t be in Denver next year.

  1. Hue Jackson and Teryl Austin will get head coaching jobs this offseason in the NFL

Both have been excellent coordinators and Jackson never really got a shot when he was in Oakland. Jackson has been very solid as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Austin has been excellent as the defensive coordinator in Detroit. Both are definitely qualified and you are hearing their names mentioned over and over again in coaching searches. It will only be a matter of time before both become head coaches. And this offseason is the perfect time for both to become head coaches in the NFL.

  1. Luke Walton will be named the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

Unexpectedly, Luke Walton has been the interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Some may have expected the Warriors to not do so well without their leader, but Walton has led the team very well in his absence. And he has done so well that he will garner some head coaching looks around the NBA. One place that will be looking for a head coach soon will be the Los Angeles Lakers. With his experience with the organization as a player and his familiarity with the team, he would be a perfect fit for them and their young team.

  1. The Kansas City Royals will not make the playoffs this upcoming season

I know this is something that Kansas City fans will not want to hear, but it could definitely happen. The Royals just won the title, so there is always that moment of relaxation knowing you have achieved your goal. And the Royals will be fighting that all season long as they try to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome that as they miss the playoffs this upcoming season.

  1. Fans will continue to show no chill on social media

As time has gone on, keyboard courage has grown more and more amongst fans of sports. You can see on social media all the people that continue to call people out knowing they will never meet them in real life. Unfortunately, this is not going anywhere and there will be more of it to come. A thing I have proposed is that things would change if people had to attach their employer to the things that they say. I bet the fear of losing their job would change the things that people say.

The new year brings some new things and also some new happenings as well. It will be interesting to see if these sixteen things happen or if these thoughts going flying in the wind.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

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It’s Steph Curry’s World. We’re Just Living In It

(photo courtesy of International Business Times)

(photo courtesy of International Business Times)

Many NBA fans have talked about who is the best player in the NBA. One particular name has been synonymous with that title over the years: LeBron James. He is one of the most electrifying players in the NBA. During the last five seasons, James has appeared in each NBA Finals, losing three and winning two. There have been many others that have had popularity in the NBA, but none have reached the level of success over the years that LeBron has. It seemed like every season he would continue to be the man that many felt carried this title. But this year, it seems there has been a change at the top. LeBron is still having a great season to start. He is averaging 27 points, 7 rebounds and six assists a game so far and is doing his part to keep this team in the hunt while they wait on point guard Kyrie Irving to return. And by the end of the season, LeBron will be mentioned in the MVP talk. But there is someone else that is capturing the attention and imagination of many these days. His name is Steph Curry.

The Warriors were a solid team the last few years, getting better and better with each passing season. But last year, they took a big step forward. Golden State was the best team in basketball last season and none other than Steph Curry was the ringleader of their surge to the title. Many thought that he and the Warriors may have some slippage this season due to a championship hangover. But instead of having a hangover, they have made this season a “remember me” one so far. They felt that many discredited their championship and set out to make the league beg for mercy. The Warriors are now sitting at 11-0 and have been handling opponents with ease. And no player has been more impressive than Curry on their run to start the season. To give you an example, he has had more 20 point quarters this season than the all other NBA players combined. He is in a zone that many have not ever seen before. And if you touch him, you may just get singed because he is on fire at all times.

Curry has insane handles when on the court. It’s almost like he has it on a string while he lulls opponents to sleep. And lots of times, he has some defenders checking their ankles after he has put a mean crossover on them. Sometimes he uses his handles to get to the rim or set up his own shot. And other times, he uses his handles to get other guys on his team an easy look at the basket. Whether he is making his own spectacular move to score or to assist, it is all captivating for us to watch. But along with the handles, he has the prettiest shot in the NBA. When watching him shoot, it’s almost like every shot looks like it’s going in. Curry was a marksman last season, shooting 44 % from the field and 44% from the three-point line. But this season, he has taken it up a notch. He is shooting a career-best 52% from the field, including 45% from the three-point line. The handles he has are magnified because of what he can do shooting the ball. People talk about unguardable players, but Curry has truly made himself a player that no one knows how to slow down. And with the weapons around him, you cannot really funnel the ball out of his hands.

With Curry as the driving force, the Warriors are must-see television. LeBron used to be the unquestioned best player in the NBA, but not anymore. Curry is definitely playing at a higher level than anyone right now including LeBron. The King may be the most indispensable player on his team, but there is no doubting that Chef Curry is cooking up a brew for the whole league this year. It will be fun to see what he does next.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

Answers To The Early Season Struggles Of Klay Thompson

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The Golden State Warriors came into this season hungry. They won the title last season, but they felt they were disrespected by the talk in the media heading into this season. There was the usage of the word “luck” with them and they took exception to it. Some of the comments were potentially taken out of context by them because, as ESPN NBA analyst says “You have to be lucky to win a title.” But some of the comments were aimed at not giving the credit they felt they deserved. And with a tough Western Conference, they are not the team that everyone is picking to win the title again this year. Beginning the season, it looked like they picked up where they left off. Steph Curry was being a wizard with the basketball and Draymond Green is being his usual self on the court. And even with center Andrew Bogut missing some time with a concussion, backup big man Festus Ezeli has stepped in and held his own. With the rate they are putting up points, some might say they are ripe for another title. The play on both ends despite their head coach missing (Steve Kerr is still recovering from offseason back surgery) has been engulfing each and every opponent. But while the record indicates they are at the top of the league, they still have one issue that has come up to start the year. The issue is not with the team as a whole, but with one player that seems to not have found his rhythm.

Klay Thompson is an extremely talented player. He came into the NBA back in 2011 with the reputation of just being a shooter. And over time, he has developed his game to where he can do a multitude of different things on the court along with defending his position. Some consider him the best shooting guard in the NBA. And last season, he had the best year of his career. He shot career-highs in three-point percentage and shooting percentage overall on his way to averaging a career-high 21.7 points per game. The shooting of Thompson combined with Steph Curry made the Splash Brothers, as they are nicknamed, the best backcourt in the NBA. This season, many wondered what they could do for an encore. Well, Steph has definitely came out on fire to start the year. He has already put up a 50 point game and we aren’t even a month into the season. But if you take a look at Klay Thompson, he seems to be having some issues getting going this year. He is shooting a career-low 36% from the three-point line and is shooting the worst he has in his entire career. And to match that, he is turning the ball over the most he has over his career. His average has dropped 7 points to 14.5 points per game so far.

One thing that could be hindering Thompson’s shot is his shot selection. When watching a few of his games, he is shooting some shots that are highly contested. In the offense that Golden State runs, he does not have to shoot those type of shots at all. Steph Curry could easily create a wide-open shot for him. But instead, he goes out and takes some shots that are seemingly ill-advised or not the best option. Because of that, he misses the shot. Last season, he was hitting those types of shots, but that does not mean those were good shots to take. And this year those shots are biting him. But other than the shot selection, it seems like Thompson is a little off-balance when shooting. Of course some of his shots are fadeaways, but the ones that aren’t have to be concerning. When he goes up to shoot the basketball, it just seems like he has a lean one way or the other. As a result, the trajectory of the basketball is thrown off and his shot is not the perfect, smooth shot it was last season. Both things mentioned are things that can be correctable with focus and repetition. But as of right now, those things are causing some issues.

As far as his turnovers this year, it seems like Thompson is trying a little too much when it comes to being a complete player. He has not been horrible with the ball, but he can try to do too much at times. And as a result, that can get him into trouble. For Thompson to get that in order, he may want to slow down and process the court just a little bit better. Golden State likes to move fast on offense, but it defeats the purpose of doing so if he is turning the ball over. But other than slowing down, he may want to realize that he does not have to be one of the main playmakers on this team. Just looking at the team, the playmakers they have are Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. To a lesser extent, you can say that Andrew Bogut is a playmaker with his passing ability. Listing all these playmakers for the Warriors lets you know the Warriors don’t need Thompson to be a playmaker on this team. If he just hones in on the things that he can do, then his game will come along this season.

Thompson has plenty of time to get things straightened out. It is still early in the season and he has a talented cast of players surrounding him that can give him time to get it done. But for the Warriors to repeat like they want to do, he will have to get it together on the court.

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Andre Iguodala’s Unselfishness Gets Repaid In A Title

Andre Iguodala hits a big three and celebrates as the Warriors win the NBA title. (photo courtesy of www.cheatsheet.com)

Andre Iguodala hits a big three and celebrates as the Warriors win the NBA title. (photo courtesy of http://www.cheatsheet.com)

The Golden State Warriors are now NBA champions after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The feeling of winning the NBA title when many did not expect them to do so beginning the season has to be something that overcame all of them at that moment in time. All the hugs and joy that was seen between players, coaches and families on the Warriors team were priceless things to watch. Going into this series, the battle of Golden State versus Cleveland was viewed as the NBA’s best team versus the NBA’s best player in LeBron James. Cleveland got a huge series out of James, but the strength of the Golden State Warriors team proved to be too much for him to overcome. The strength in numbers was enough to overthrow the King. But more than that, there was one thing that was shown all season with this team. If you have watched the Warriors all season long, they have been an unselfish team that is all in together. In fact, you could say that they all take turns making plays to win games. Obviously players like Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson receive most of the credit, but there were other players and their sacrifices that helped make this team who they are. One player that sacrificed a lot this season is David Lee. He was the starter ever since he came to Golden State, but when he hurt his hamstring before the season, it was Draymond Green who got the call to start. And with him in the lineup, the team seemed to flow better. Green retained the starting nod while Lee retreated to a bench role for the betterment of the team. And in the end, his acceptance of his role helped bring home a title. But there was one man that made a sacrifice even bigger than Lee did. His name was Andre Iguodala.

When Andre Iguodala came to Golden State, he said he was coming there to play for then coach Mark Jackson. Iggy was a starter ever since he came into the league as a rookie back in 2004 with the Philadelphia 76ers. In his first year with the Golden State Warriors, he was thought to add a little more defense and versatility to that team. But instead of adding that, he took a little more than he added. Emerging young player Harrison Barnes, who had played well the previous season, was not the same player he was coming in off the bench. He never played to the level he did the previous season and that ended up being to the detriment of the team. The Warriors would go on not meet expectations as they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. And as far as Iggy, he would average his lowest points per game since his rookie year (9.3 points per game) while dealing with a hamstring injury that hampered him throughout the season. Going into this season, the Warriors had a new coach. After a managerial disagreement, Mark Jackson was fired and former NBA player and TNT announcer Steve Kerr took over. It was expected by many that Kerr would keep the same lineup and add in their free agent signings, Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. But Kerr had something else in mind and it involved Andre Iguodala.

One of Kerr’s first visits when he signed on as coach of the Golden State Warriors was to Andre Iguodala. He knew the veteran was a voice on the team that many would listen to because of his tenure in the league. But his reason for meeting with him was not only to get on the same page as him, but to ask him to sacrifice. When taking over the coaching job, Kerr noticed the dip in Harrison Barnes’ play as a result of going to the bench. And in an effort to maximize what he had in Barnes, he asked Iggy to come in off the bench for the first time in his career. From what is reported, it was not an easy decision for Iguodala. He was known as an NBA starter for all of his career. In his mind he had to be wondering what Kerr was thinking when he asked him to be a bench player. But reluctantly, Iggy agreed to the switch and bought what Kerr was selling to him. And during the season, it seemed like Barnes played much better. He only averaged .6 points better than the previous year, but Barnes shot 48.2% for the season (up from 39.9%) and he also posted a career-high in rebounds. And to his credit, Iggy gave the Warriors a boost off the bench all season long, averaging 8 points per game off one of the best benches in the NBA. The sacrifice of Iggy along with the great play of the Warriors helped lead Golden State to 67 wins and the number once seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. And throughout the playoffs, Iggy made timely plays and was one of the glue guys off the Warriors bench along with Shaun Livingston. But his biggest payback for his sacrifice would come in the postseason.

The Golden State Warriors were looking at a 2-1 deficit going into Cleveland for Game 4. Many wondered what adjustments that Kerr would make and how he would combat what LeBron James was putting together for the Cavaliers. Up until gametime, no one really knew what he would do. But then he shocked the world and went with Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup to replace center Andre Bogut. The shocker wasn’t so much that Iggy was in the starting lineup. After all, he was the most consistent player in the series up to that point. When he jumped into the starting lineup, it was his first time being in the starting lineup all season. And with Iggy and Draymond Green starting up front, it was assumed the Cavs would eat them up on the glass. Well, that move surely did so for the first couple of minutes of Game 4. Tristian Thompson was tearing them up on the glass to start the game. But after the Warriors settled in, the small lineup with Iggy started to work its magic. And three straight games later, the magic they found in the small lineup led them to being NBA champions. One player that made an immeasurable impact on this series from the onset is Andre Iguodala. He made LeBron work for every point he got when he guarded him, had some nice assists and hit the open shot when given to him. And because of that strong play, he won the NBA Finals MVP. Some say that Steph Curry should have won the MVP, but Iggy was consistent the entire series and when he was inserted in the starting lineup, he gave the team 20.3 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists per game. And even more than that, he helped make the Warriors defense better along with create big mismatch problems for the Cavaliers. Curry may be the Warriors best player, but Iggy was definitely the most important player and proved to be the most valuable too despite the missed free throws.

Andre Iguodala made a sacrifice that not many would have honestly said they would have made. He willingly went to the bench in an effort to do what the coach said would make the team better. And as a result of his sacrifice and unselfishness, he played a huge part in bringing a championship to Golden State. Not only did he help win the title, but he was a key cog in the turnaround of the entire series. No matter what anyone says about Iguodala after tonight, it won’t matter. Iggy can now be known as an NBA champion and one that was selfless enough to see the big picture for the Warriors. And for that he should be commended.

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The Golden State Warriors Won The NBA Title On Their Terms

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their first title in 40 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their first title in 40 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The NBA Finals are over in six games and the Golden State Warriors are now the NBA champions. They outplayed and outsmarted the Cleveland Cavaliers as they have won their first championship in 40 years. The Warriors were led by Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala, who had 50 points combined. And not to be outdone, Draymond Green rebounded from a tough stretch to start the series to post a triple-double in the finale. And just like that, they crushed all hope of the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were in total pretty much the entire game. When the Warriors won, it seemed like there was a sense of joy. No, not the joy from the people that hate LeBron James and want him to fail, but joy for a team that made it happen despite everyone counting them out. The Cavaliers were undermanned going into the Finals and had even more to overcome when Kyrie Irving was hurt in the first game of the series and did not play again. But that does not take away from the great accomplishments the Warriors had this season. And it is because of that, the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors will go down as one of the best teams in NBA history. Now some may say that it is crazy to say they are one of the best teams of all-time, but with all that they have done and the unconventional way they have done so, it is rightful to put them up there with teams like the 72 win Chicago Bulls.

Unlike the Chicago Bulls that season, the Warriors were not picked by many to win an NBA title. In fact, many thought the San Antonio Spurs would put it together again and make a run at repeating as a NBA champion for the first time. And when David Lee went down with a hamstring injury before the season and the Warriors put Draymond Green in the starting lineup, it was thought that their chances decreased even more in the eyes of some. There were many that said they were too small with Draymond at the power forward and that he would eventually get taken advantage of in the paint. Well, the opposite happened all season long. Going into a season where he could play himself into a big contract, Green became the ultimate mismatch on the offensive end of the court. He was only 6’7 (and many would argue that he isn’t even 6’7”), but he could finish inside because of his anticipation, touch and strength around the rim. But not only could he finish around the rim, but he could stretch the defense. Not many power forwards could take the rebound and dribble it up the court and hit open threes. Draymond could do that and more with his unique abilities. On the defensive end he more than held his own as well all year. He gave it his all each and every time he touched the court. And he also played bigger than many gave him credit for. He defended bigger players all year long and did not give up an inch, negating the supposed mismatch that he was put into on the defensive end. And in the NBA Finals, the lineup change the Warriors made put all those abilities on display. He was matched up against Tristian Thompson and Thompson was giving him problems on the defensive end on the boards. But as the series went on, Thompson was not as effective as he was on the glass. He still got his, but it was not at the clip it once was due to the effect of Green. And Green, to his credit, rebounded from a tough start to the series and became a huge piece to three straight wins and a title.

Another thing that made many not believe in this team is their style of play. The Warriors were criticized all year long because of the Style of the Splash Brothers (me included). There were times that many thought they took shots that were awful and depended too much on the three-pointer. They did shoot some bad shots, but they made a lot more of them than they missed. And it was because of that, their shooting opened up the paint more and more as the season went on. But the common misconception about this team is that they are just an outside shooting team. That could not be further from the truth. The Golden State Warriors were also a team that took the ball to the basket. For example, they used backcuts and dribble penetration to setup easy finishes for their big men all years. Countless times you would see Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut getting an easy dunk off of penetration from Steph Curry or Andre Iguodala. But that isn’t the only example of them attacking the rim. The growth of Klay Thompson as a playmaker and a rim attacker was something that has progressed over the years. In the beginning of his professional career, Klay was more of a shooter. He was a one-dimensional player that only played on the offensive side of the floor. But as his career as gone on, he has made more of a concerted effort to take the ball to the basket. His first progression was being able to shoot off the dribble. Once he got that down, he began to get deeper and deeper into the defense, even attacking the rim while working on using his height to his advantage defensively. Fast forward to now and Klay Thompson is considered by many the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA because of how he has completed his offensive game and picked it up tremendously over time with his defense. In the NBA Finals, the growth of the team and the style they played was shown to the entire country. They shot the three-pointer pretty well for the series. But even when they did not do so, they used backcuts and also dribble penetration to breakdown Cleveland’s defense. The constant movement and timely shooting from the Warriors eventually wore Cleveland down, as they could not keep up. And because of that, the Warriors are now celebrating the NBA Championship.

The Warriors started this season with a motto “Strength In Numbers”. As the season went on, many more people believed in them and they carried that on to the title. But what the Warriors exhibited to the world was more than about strength in numbers but mental strength in themselves. They believed in what they were doing and did not care what anyone else said about what they did. And it is because of that, they broke the mold on what exactly is needed to win a title. They did not have a guy to throw it inside to and get an easy bucket. They did not have the prototypical size, especially when they downsized their lineup. But what they did do is impose their will on any and everyone they faced on their way to the NBA title.

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Steph Curry Finds Himself In The Clutch And Helps The Warriors Close In On The Finish Line

Steph Curry pumping up the crowd as the Warriors take the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Steph Curry pumping up the crowd as the Warriors take the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers came into Game 5 even at two wins a piece. Statistically, the team that wins game 5 when a series is tied wins the series almost 75% of the time. The importance of this game was something that was very evident. And coming out of the gate, the Warriors came out swinging. But the Cavs, to their credit, came back and made a game of it. But in the end, the Cavs just did not have enough to make it happen, as they fell to the Golden State Warriors 104-91. LeBron had JR Smith show up in the first half, but Smith disappeared in the second half of the game, as he could not even find the basket in the second half. LeBron, the former league MVP, turned it up in the fourth quarter. It looked like the Cavaliers were going to make it happen and come back to win this one. The former MVP had stepped up. But when he turned it on, the current MVP made his presence felt. Curry had 20 points heading into the fourth quarter, but he knew his team needed him and he scored 17 of his 37 points to close out the Cavaliers and put Golden State one game away from winning the title.

Throughout the series, Curry has been up and down. He has had moments that have stood out and others that are forgettable. Who can forget the comments and articles being written (including one on this site) over him not showing up in Game 2? And who can forget the thoughts that Matthew Dellavedova shut him down in Game 2 and most of Game 3? Dellavedova played a solid game against Curry in both those games and he made a great impact against Curry with his physical play, but he does not deserve all the credit for what he did to Curry. Part of what happened was Curry making things difficult for himself by missing shots with a high degree of difficulty. In this game, he took it a little bit more to the basket, but he was hitting those high difficulty shots that he was missing for the first part of the series. And when he is hitting those, there is no stopping him. And in the fourth quarter, Steph cooked up a special meal for Dellavedova. He hit him with the crossover and stepback three. He mixed him up in a screen and roll with the midrange jump shot. And he also took it off the screen and went right to the basket. Curry was the MVP we all watched this season and the Warriors benefited greatly from it. And as far as Dellavedova, he looked like he was trying to two-step but lost his rhythm. All those comments of Curry being locked down by Dellavedova faded away and seemed like a distant memory. This was a great win for the Warriors, but they must still remember that it was only one game. And in the end, it is not three games you have to win but four to win this series. Game 6 will be tough and they must be mentally ready to tackle that one as it comes to them.

Game 6 will be back in Cleveland of course. The crowd will undoubtedly be pumped up for the return of their team. The town will bring their energy to the team and will more than likely fuel the role players in this one. And one LeBron James will be focused on extending this one to a seven-game series. But for the Golden State Warriors, they need to end this one in Cleveland. Even though a Game 7 would be at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, there is no way the Warriors want to face LeBron James in a Game 7 scenario. Anything can happen in those games and when you have a great player involved as the opponent, that makes a Game 7 even scarier. The main person that can help them end this series in six games is Curry. He has found his mojo. And it all goes back to the fundamental change the Warriors made in Game 4 when he got that little bit of rhythm and got some shots to fall. At that point, that is when the Chef made his way back into this series and he has not left it since. Curry has firmly seated himself at the head of this team as its leader. And it is because of his calm demeanor and his quiet fire that this team follows his lead. Many can say that Draymond Green is the heart and soul of this team, but Curry is the real fire and desire behind this team. And over the years, he has assumed the leadership role. This year, he seems to have stepped to the head of the class.

The end of this season is looking to be a culmination of a championship for Steph Curry and his team. They did things their way and never let anyone tell them any differently. And although many wanted them to fall from grace, they stood steadfast in their belief in themselves and their drive of bringing a championship to Oakland. Well, the time is almost here and the moment is about to arrive. Curry is peaking at the right time and he is carrying them at the big moments. The end is near and the finish line can be seen. Can the Warriors cross that finish line in Cleveland on Tuesday?

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Draymond Green Is Hurting The Golden State Warriors In The NBA Finals

When will Draymond Green show up for the Golden State Warriors? (photo courtesy of www.uproxx.com)

When will Draymond Green show up for the Golden State Warriors? (photo courtesy of http://www.uproxx.com)

The Golden State Warriors were riding high after their Game 1 win. They did not play their best in Game 1, but they found a way to make it happen and survive a huge effort by LeBron James against them. But in the past two games, it seems like we have continued to see a Warriors team that has not played as well as they could. And in that time, we have seen a Cleveland Cavaliers team that has started to play better around James. Even with them losing the presence of point guard Kyrie Irving for the rest of the season, the Cavs still looked like the tougher and better team. The struggles of point guard Steph Curry have been well-documented over the last two game and he seemed to snap out of them when he caught fire in the fourth quarter versus Cleveland. But while Curry’s resurgence is catching headlines, there has been one player that has been scuffling for the entire NBA Finals. When the Warriors made the change before the season to add Draymond Green to the starting lineup, they figured it would strengthen their bench (moved David Lee to the bench) while adding some youth and better shooting to the starting lineup. They also made that move because Lee had a hamstring injury and Green was inserted into the starting lineup. The move worked well for the Warriors and they stuck with it through the regular season, as Green had his best seasons as a professional (11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game). And early in the postseason, Green was good for them. He was playing with passion and knocking down shots as well. But in the NBA Finals, it seems that he has been scuffling to gain some ground. Going into Game 4, the Warriors face a tough position. They will be in Cleveland going against the best player in the NBA while down one game. And to add to that, they will also be playing in front of a raucous crowd that will bring tons of energy to the building. They need Green to play well. But some are wondering what is going on with him in the first place.

Green has been a very versatile defender for the Warriors this season. He has guarded four positions with ease. He and Warriors center Andrew Bogut up one of the best power forward/center defensive combos in the NBA. But during this series, it seems like the versatility of Green has not shown up. Part of that reason is he has to stay with Cavaliers power forward Tristian Thompson. Coming into this series, the matchup between Green and Thompson was one to watch. Thompson is a bull on the offensive glass and Green, although undersized, is one of the tougher defenders and rebounders around. Through three games, it seems that Thompson has gotten the better of Green. Thompson may not be scoring as much as Green has, but he is giving the Cavaliers second chance opportunities with his offensive rebounding. And while Green is trying to box Thompson out, he is just not able to get the job done on a consistent level. The result is Green spending a ton of energy trying to find him on the boards. Green has not guarded LeBron James much this series. Some thought that Green against LeBron would be a good matchup. But anytime Green has guarded LeBron, he has been at a disadvantage. The Cavs have given James the ball either on the wing or in the middle when guarded by Green. And with one setup dribble or a jab step, he has gotten by Green with ease all the way to the basket. Now he has had his moments as a help defender in this series. Who can forget the block he had on LeBron James in the fourth quarter of Game 2? That was a great defensive play from him. But for most of the series, he has been struggling to keep Tristian Thompson off the glass. The fact of the matter is through three games, Green cannot hold him off the glass and Thompson’s activity and constant movement is causing him issues.

But Green is not only having issues on the defensive end, but the offensive end too. During the season, it was not uncommon to see him come down and hit the transition three-pointer as the trailer on the fast break. It was also usual to see him take a defensive rebound and push the basketball the other way each game. During the playoffs, he has done that a lot and actually hit some three’s that have been huge. But as the playoffs have gone on, the percentage that Green has shot from three-point range has gotten worse and worse. He started the playoffs shooting around 35% from three-point range. But now he has sunk all the way down to shooting around 13% from the deep. And in watching the games, it isn’t like Green is shooting these shots contested either. He has actually been wide-open on a lot of these three-point attempts and has just missed them. Green has also not been as efficient taking the basketball to the rim either. One thing that has been exposed about Green this series is his height. Green is listed at 6’7”, but he may be even shorter than that. Where his height has hurt him is when he has driven to the basket and tried to finish over Cavs center Timofey Mozgov. The 7’1” center from Russia has been a major deterrent at the rim for Green all series long. When Green has attacked him in the paint, Mozgov has gone straight up every time and not broken the plane of verticality. When he goes straight up and jumps, Green is essentially jumping into him and trying to finish. And a 6’7” man jumping into a 7’1” man with long arms has not worked out for Green. The result has been a missed finish at the rim every time for Green. And a lot of the time, Green makes it try to look like a foul, when it actually is not a foul at all. The main thing that Green may want to try is a pullup jumper because time and time again he tries to take the basketball at Mozgov and it has produced nothing for the Warriors at all.

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson are important because of what they bring this team, but Green has been a huge difference-maker all season long. And with their backs against the wall, he must produce for them. Green has been known more for his contesting of calls this series than he has for his actual play. In Game 4 he must show up with his play and not his talk for the Warriors to have a chance to win. If he does not show up, then the Warriors may need to make an adjustment and give some of his minutes to their former starting power forward, David Lee. We all saw what Lee brought to the team when he played in the fourth quarter of Game 3.

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The Fourth Quarter Of Game Three Was Exactly What The Golden State Warriors Needed

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

The Golden State Warriors were the team riding momentum heading into Game 2 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were up 1-0 and playing at home. They were trending in the right direction. And to add to everything, the Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving to a season and series-ending knee injury. They had the Cavs right where they wanted them. But a certain number 23 and his crew of merry men decided that they would not lose Game 2. LeBron James took over in Golden State in Game 2 and he got his teammates involved, leading to their clutch win in Oakland. The pressure had then switched from Cleveland to Golden State and it was going to be interesting to see if the Warriors could respond like they did against the Memphis Grizzlies. Well, the Warriors not only did not respond, but they actually did not show up for most of the game in Game 3 in Cleveland. The Warriors looked to be lacking energy for most of the game and the Cavaliers were making everything happen as they entered the fourth quarter with a 17 point lead. But in the fourth, it looked like the Warriors found some rhythm and made things interesting. While the Warriors were playing with confidence in the last quarter while trying to make a mad dash back in the game, the Cavs were grasping for air while trying to close out the game. The Cavs eventually did enough as a team to close out the game and win it 96-91, but it was not easy at the end. And because of that big finish by the Warriors, there are a few of glimmers of hope the Warriors can take from this one.

David Lee was a forgotten man on the Warriors bench. He has been sitting over there collecting dust on the Warriors bench for most of the playoffs and the entire NBA Finals series. And in Game 3, it seemed that Lee was going to sit the entire game as well. But with Draymond Green struggling, Bogut disappearing and Festus Ezeli struggling as well, Warriors coach Steve Kerr finally went to Lee and the results were excellent. The biggest thing that was hurting the Warriors all game long was their lack of weapons at the post position. The aforementioned Green has been struggling to shoot the basketball all series long and Bogut and Ezeli are not really offensive weapons. Lee, although he can struggle on defense, can make it happen on the offensive end. And because of his presence, he puts pressure on the Cavaliers big men. He almost scored as many points tonight as he scored in the entire playoffs with his finishes around the rim and his active body. Going into the next game, the Warriors bring in Lee ahead of Festus Ezeli off the bench. In fact, if Draymond Green is struggling again as the starting power forward, then Kerr should bring him in for Green as well. Of course the defense will suffer, but the Warriors need offense and the Cavs have been mucking it up for them for the last two games.

But Lee is not the only weapon that could make it happen off their bench. Leandro Barbosa was a forgotten man in Game 2. He played less than ten minutes and did not have the effect that was desired. In Game 3, Kerr again went to his bench and brought in Barbosa to play alongside Curry and Thompson. The result was a pickup of tempo. We all remember the Brazilian Blur and the things he did in Phoenix over his career. Well, he isn’t quite as fast as he was back then, but he still does push the tempo and his stroke is pretty good from three-point range. If Harrison Barnes is going to disappear again like he did in Game 3, then Kerr has the option of bringing in Barbosa alongside Iguodala off his bench or leaving him in with Curry and Thompson to put more pressure on the offense. And with the added shooting and ball-handling, Barbosa can free up Curry to run off screens and can also allow more pressure to be taken off Curry to be the ballhandler and scorer for the Warriors.

Another positive sign from the Warriors in the fourth quarter was the play of Steph Curry. For most of the game, Curry was getting outplayed by Matthew Dellavedova, a backup point guard that has had to step in for an injured Kyrie Irving. Delly, as they call him in Cleveland, was making it happen and had outscored Curry for most of the game. But when the fourth quarter came around and the Warriors made their changes, it seemed like Curry played with the looseness that he played with in Game 1. The results were Steph hitting those high-difficulty shots that he was hitting all season long. And with each shot he hit, you could see his confidence growing more and more. Steph ended the game with 27 points and 7 three-pointers made. Sure, the Warriors still lost the game, but Curry gained back some of that magic he had been missing since the first game of the series. Going into Game 4, look for Steph to play with the same bounce that he played with previously enroute to the MVP. And if he is hitting these types of shots with regularity, then he will have the Cavaliers on their heels and the Warriors will have taken back momentum. And grabbing back all the momentum they lost in two games in Game 4 would be huge for them. Green has not played well, but if they can get Curry going then the team could pickup behind his momentum. Like it or not, he is the MVP and the team is following his lead. Klay Thompson has been playing well, but they get nowhere without Curry being the electrifying player that he can be at all times. In fact, there should be no way Dellavedova could guard him. But the combination of hard-nosed defense and passive offense from Curry has allowed Delly to grow in confidence.

The Warriors may be down, but they are definitely not out of this series. After all, they are down only one game this series. Momentum can change addresses with lightning speed, just like it did from Game 1 to Game 2 of this series. The main thing the Warriors have to do is take what they did in the fourth quarter and duplicate it over four quarters. Pushing tempo will definitely be the key to all that happening. We shall see if they do so or if they continue to let the Cavaliers muck up the basketball game.

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Matthew Dellavedova Brought The Grit As The Cleveland Cavaliers Win Game 2

LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova celebrate after a win. (photo credit Gus Chan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer)

LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova celebrate after a win. (photo credit Gus Chan of The Cleveland Plain Dealer)

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors went at it again at Oracle Arena for Game 2. The task was monumental for LeBron and the Cavs, as they were playing without their star guard, Kyrie Irving. The Cavs came out inspired and they were up by 11 late in the game, but the Warriors roared back behind big shots by Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala. But in overtime, the one guy that many viewed as a liability for Cleveland in Game 1 came through in the clutch. Matthew Dellavedova was an afterthought in Game 1. He played only 10 minutes in the first game and he was so forgotten that the Cavaliers team bus actually left him at the arena. But in Game 2 when it really mattered, he played hard, fought for everything and was arguably the second-most important man on the court for the Cavs. His stats were not overly impressive this game (9 points on 3/13 shooting, 5 rebounds and 1 assist), but it was the little things that made him one of the stars of the game.

Everyone remembers the plays that were made by Kyrie Irving against Steph Curry during Game 1. Curry had two of his shots rejected while going to the basket against Irving, including the potential game-winning layup at the end of Game 1. But being that Irving was injured for Game 2 and the rest of the series, not many gave Matthew Dellavedova, affectionately called Delly by Cleveland fans, a chance at all. Many expected Curry to take it to him offensively. After all, Curry was giving him fits when he was guarding Dellavedova defensively and Curry was having his way against him when he got his shot offensively. But going into Game 2, it seemed that Dellavedova took it to Curry just a little bit more. The thing he did the most against Curry was take away his air space. Usually Curry has some room to operate and run off screens when he gives up the ball offensively. This game, Curry felt Delly everywhere he went on the court. Curry was not fouled by Delly, but the defense was enough to make Curry uncomfortable. Delly not only played physical with Curry but he moved his feet defensively better than some thought. Delly was able to stay in front of Curry for most of the game, minus one open court layup where Curry gave him the business. That seemed to frustrate Curry and also made Curry take some tough shots where he had his momentum leaning away from the basket. Of course Curry usually hits some of these tough shots and he hit a big shot down the stretch from three-point range, but they were not falling tonight and most of that credit has to go to Cleveland’s underdog point guard. Curry did not hit one shot against him all night.

Delly was clicking defensively, but earlier in the game he was giving the Cavaliers nothing offensively. In the first half, Dellavedova was just turning the basketball over. He was trying to throw the lob to some of the Cleveland big men, but it was not working like it had in previous series. He also was jacking up shots way too quickly with a lot of time left on the game clock. He kept on doing some of the same unexplainable things in the second half. At one point, there had to be some question as to what else he could give on the offensive end and how could they hide him. But when the fourth quarter came around, it seemed like Delly saw the bright lights and felt it was time to make things happen. The Warriors dared him to shoot the basketball off a pick-and-roll at the top of the screen twice and Delly obliged them. But what he did smart was counted on the floater that he was missing earlier in the game. He hit two straight floaters in the fourth quarter and then hit a big three off the assist of LeBron James. That was thought to be enough if it were not for the huge collapse the Cavaliers had in the fourth quarter. But in overtime, just like in the fourth quarter, Delly made a huge play when it counted. The Cavs were down one point with the ball when James Jones missed a three-pointer with 10 seconds left. One guy the Cavaliers were expecting to be in the paint fighting for the ball was rebound machine Tristian Thompson. But he was not by himself in that battle because there was small, gritty Dellavedova fighting and clawing on the boards. He was fouled by Harrison Barnes and he hit two free throws to put the Cavaliers up one point. And that was a lead the Cavaliers would not relinquish. Besides the play of LeBron during the game, his effort on that one play alone was the play of the game. His grittiness definitely helped Cleveland pull out this victory.

Going forward, Dellavedova can be key in how Cleveland does. He is a gritty defender and can cause havoc and muck up the game. For Cleveland to win, he has to play this way and so does the entire team. James is definitely the straw that stirs the drink for the Cavs, but Dellavedova was definitely the spark plug to the Cavs mentality change going into this game. For Cleveland fans, they hope Delly shows up like this again in Game 3 minus the turnovers and bad shot selection at time. The Cavs probably will not see Steph Curry have another shooting night like he had in Game 2, but in this game, Delly had the upper hand. And going into Game 3, it will be interesting to see how Curry counteracts the physical defense Dellavedova played on Curry.

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Golden State Versus Cleveland: Strength In Numbers Meets Believeland

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of www.cleveland.com)

Steph Curry versus Kyrie Irving will be something to keep an eye on, especially with the health of Irving. (photo courtesy of http://www.cleveland.com)

The NBA Finals are finally upon us. From the Eastern Conference, we have the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by NBA superstar LeBron James. And from the Western Conference, we have the Golden State Warriors, who won 67 games this year and were the class of the NBA this season. Both teams have had some things happen to them along the way that have made them stronger teams. But only one team will be at full strength coming into the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors. The Cavs are playing without power forward Kevin Love and have a gimpy Kyrie Irving scheduled to play in Game 1. But with that being said, the Cavs have found a way to make it happen and persevere. The Warriors, in the meantime, had a couple bumps and bruises to their Splash Brothers, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. Both looked to have concussions but only Klay was determined to have one as a result of an inadvertent knee to the head from Rockets guard Trevor Ariza in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals. The series starts on Thursday and there will be plenty things to talk about, but what it may ultimately come down to is a couple different things for each team.

We all know that LeBron James is the best player on the planet right now. But we also know that it is almost impossible to stop him from get where he wants to go on the court. With that being said, the only thing the Warriors can hope to do is slow him down. In doing that, the Warriors have an advantage because of their depth. LeBron will probably get his numbers, but if the Warriors want to win, they have to take advantage of their depth and wear on LeBron. A rotation of Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and possibly Andre Iguodala will more than likely be the main competition guarding James. Draymond Green has his hands full in keeping Tristian Thompson off the boards and that could limit the time he has to guard LeBron. But as for Thompson and Iguodala, they have the size to deal with LeBron along with the defensive prowess. Both of these two along with Green could make it harder on LeBron to get to the basket and put pressure on defensives. And when the defense collapses, that is when LeBron is even more dangerous. At that point, LeBron will then starting picking through the defense to make pinpoint passes to his teammates. And when the supporting cast is contributing and hitting shots that could be serious trouble. The best bet of the Warriors would be to force James to make perimeter shots and offer just a little bit of a show regarding defensive help. The more he has to score and go at it with his teammates less involved, the more he will have to feel he has got to win the game by himself.

Another big thing for the Warriors versus the Cavs is rebounding. The Cavaliers absolutely killed the Atlanta Hawks on the boards last series and this series they have potentially an advantage with Tristian Thompson on their team. With Thompson, the Cavaliers are posting the third-best offensive rebounding differential in the NBA playoffs (+2.2) along with the best rebounding differential in the playoffs with +6.5. Thompson has been a bull in a china shop with his relentless pursuit of the basketball reminds some of Dennis Rodman and his rebounding wizardry. He, along with Timofey Mozgov, can cause some problems with the Warriors inside. Golden State has depth, but they would rather stay out of foul trouble when it comes to the likes of Thompson and Mozgov. With the Warriors, they must use Draymond Green to match up with Thompson. These two are both versatile players and they are also both barometers for their team’s success beyond the usual suspects. And Green has the great ability to defend taller players no matter what size. And in the case of Mozgov, it will be interesting to see how the matchup between Mozgov and Andrew Bogut swings. Bogut was and still is a great defender after making 2nd team All-Defense, so he will more than likely hold his own down there. And the best thing about Green and Bogut is they don’t have to do it all by themselves. The Warriors also have center Festus Ezeli, power forward David Lee and others that will be there reinforcements to help.

For the Cavaliers, they have to have their team slow down the basketball game. The best way for the Cavs to do that is to slow down the basketball game just a little bit. The Cavs are more of an isolation team at times, so doing this could be a problem. But it also could be a problem if they play a little bit too fast and get hammered by the Warriors in transition. The best way to slow them down and keep them out of transition is to make baskets. Players like Kyrie Irving, JR Smith and Iman Shumpert will need to stay hot when shooting the threes and jump shots. When you shoot well against Golden State, the tempo is right there in your hands and you control the pace of the game. The more your team controls the tempo, the more Golden State has to run halfcourt offense. The Warriors are more than capable of running halfcourt offense, but they are also more prone to turning the ball over because of getting too flashy or just not valuing the basketball. And the other main thing that slowing the game down does for Cleveland is makes it easier for them to set their defense. The Cavaliers have been very good defensively in the playoffs, only giving up 92.6 points per game. The more they are able to get back and defend the Warriors, the better the Cavaliers choices are in defending the Warriors.

Another thing the Cavs must do to win is keep the Warriors out of the paint. You would not think a team that is perceived as a jump-shooting team would need to be kept out of the paint, but the Warriors do it in an unusual way. They use movement and penetration to make things easier to get to the basket. For Cleveland, the trade for Mozgov game them a rim protector and someone that could deter guards from coming inside at times. He will have to be big for the Cavs this entire series for them to win. But not only he will have to be big, but so will the rest of the Cavaliers defense. One guy that could defend Draymond Green this series could be James Jones. The veteran wing player has been playing some power forward this season and he could help deter Green from shooting that three he tends to shoot off penetration and in transition because of his length and his ability to guard on the perimeter. Now he will be at a disadvantage on the block and rebounding, but he will have help there as well in Mozgov and Thompson perhaps as well. And speaking of defending the three, the Cavaliers would like to force the Warriors to shoot them more because they are only giving up the three at a 28.1% clip. That is by far the best of the teams that were in the NBA postseason.

The Cavs and the Warriors is a battle that many wanted to see in this postseason. The case of the former MVP in LeBron James versus the reigning MVP in Steph Curry. Both will have impacts on this series along with the usual players, but in regards to how this series will go, these points along with the depth of the Warriors and lack of depth of the Cavs will have an impact. In the end, the depth of the Warriors will prove too much for the Cavs and LeBron James. The Warriors win this series in six games and will prove there truly is strength in numbers.

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