The NBA Finals of 2016 were something that can be viewed as a nightmare for the Golden State Warriors. They were on their way to back-to-back titles in the eyes of everyone, as they were up 3-1 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. Then, things fell apart as fast as they were coming together. The Cavaliers won Game 5, Draymond Green was suspended and Kyrie and LeBron went off as the Cavaliers erased the 3-1 deficit to win the series in seven games. The Warriors not only lost the series in dramatic fashion, but they lost at home and had to watch the Cavaliers celebrate on their court. The loss stung the Warriors, but it also motivated them to get back there this season. To up the ante even more, the Warriors went out and upgraded the small forward position by letting Harrison Barnes go in order to get one of the Top 5 players in the NBA, Kevin Durant. With the arsenal of weapons the Warriors had and Kevin Durant, Golden State was the leader in the clubhouse for many to win the NBA title. They had a couple missteps early on, but they put it all together and now they sit one series win away from returning the title to the Bay Area. But just like last year, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers stand in the way. Cleveland steamrolled through the Eastern Conference just like the Warriors steamrolled the West and they will not be an easy out. With that being said, here’s a six pack of things the Warriors must do to win this series.
Keep An Eye Out For Tristian Thompson
The Golden State Warriors had all kinds of problems with Tristian Thompson and they were not the only ones. The burly big man has the energy of Dennis Rodman when it comes to eating the glass on the offensive boards. In this series last year, Golden State had no answer for him at all. He was tenacious and gave the Cavs crucial extra possessions when they needed them the most. The Warriors defense is good enough to keep Cleveland under wraps, but they cannot allow the Cavs extra possessions. Draymond Green will have to spend time on Kevin Love and LeBron James more than likely, so the task of keeping Thompson off the boards will fall on Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee. They have to know where Thompson is at all times and box him out as best as possible. With the shooters Cleveland can put on the floor, this task will more than likely have McGee or Pachulia facing Thompson one on one. Good luck gentlemen. You’re gonna need it.
Guard The Three-Point Line
The talk about the Golden State Warriors is how well they shoot the three-pointer. But while everyone is talking about Golden State shooting the three, the Cavs are right there with them. Guys like Kevin Love, Kyle Korver , Channing Frye and JR Smith can get hot and hit threes in bunches. Along with these four sharpshooters, the Cavs also have Kyrie Irving and Derron Williams that can get hot from deep along with Iman Shumpert and LeBron James that have shot the ball better than they have in their careers from deep. At one point, you could actually see five guys that can shoot the three on the court at one time, which can be dangerous. For the Warriors to win, they cannot overreact in their rotations. Sure, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving attacking the basket is dangerous for any defense. But what is even more dangerous is if they get their teammates going from beyond the three-point arc. So while it may not be good to give up a layup, that’s much better than allowing the Cavaliers to get hot from the three-point line. Then the Cavs offensively become that much more hard to guard.
Make LeBron Work
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best player in the world and his name is LeBron James. Besides one forgettable Game 3 versus the Boston Celtics, LeBron has been amazing in the playoffs. He has taken it to the rim, shot the three-pointer well and has seemingly done whatever he wanted. LeBron will get his points, but you have to make him work for them. He is the barometer of the Cavaliers. The best way you make a player have to work harder is by keeping fresh bodies on him. The Warriors, unlike any other team that LeBron has faced this playoffs, have the bodies to deter him some. Golden State must use the combination of Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala to guard LeBron all series long. These two are not going to stop him, but they can make it more difficult for him by being physical with him and forcing him off his spots. All three potential defenders of LeBron James have enough size and length to give him fits all series long. The more you can make him struggle, the harder the Cleveland Cavaliers have to work to generate offense.
Take Care Of The Basketball
The Golden State Warriors can be extremely exciting when they get cooking. Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant with their deep three-pointers as well as the exciting lobs to the rim that get the crowd ignited. All that firepower this team has can be overwhelming to many a team. But as overwhelming as they can be when they are on, they can also be reckless. Plenty people may be remembering the great plays, but plenty can remember Curry throwing a behind-the-back pass during crunch time that was ill-advised. For the Warriors to give themselves the best chance to win versus Cleveland, they must eliminate as many mistakes as possible. The less mistakes they make, the more the Warriors impose their will on the Cavs. They say pressure busts pipes or makes diamonds. If the Warriors play to their potential, then we will see what that pressure does to the Cavaliers.
Get Klay Thompson Involved Offensively
With the addition of Kevin Durant this offseason, many marveled at what the offense for the Golden State Warriors would look like. Along with that, many also wondered who would have to sacrifice shots on this team. Earlier on, it was thought to be Steph Curry, as he was allowing Durant to get comfortable. But as the playoffs have shown us, the guy that many thought would have to sacrifice quality touches is currently not as involved in the offense. Klay Thompson has been down more than up this playoffs. We all know what he is capable of, but he just has not shown it consistently in the playoffs. The Warriors have Durant and Curry that can carry them offensively, but they need Thompson’s shooting and offense to show up to put any doubt of them winning this series to bed. If he shows up, then the Cavs have even more problems. If he does not show up, then that helps make the Cavs job easier defensively.
Attack The Basket
The Golden State Warriors can shoot the lights out when they want to. They have three of the best shooters in the NBA on one team, which has to scare the Cavs. While the threat of Thompson, Curry and Durant will scare any team, what will scare teams even more is if they attack the rim as well as they shoot the basketball. Sometimes the Warriors can shoot some shots that make you scratch your head and it lets the defense off the hook. If they are able to move the ball against the Cavaliers, they will not only get wide-open shots, they will get some easy looks at or near the rim. The more the Warriors are able to attack the rim, the more things open up in all aspects, leaving the Cavs defenseless against what the Warriors want to do. The key here is applying pressure to the defense at all times. If the Warriors do that, the Cleveland may be in for some trouble.
The Warriors are the more superior team to many on paper, but championships are won not given. Golden State has revenge on their minds. If they can accomplish this six pack of things on the court, then they definitely increase their chances.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former co-host of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls, and Chicago Cubs and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.