OH BABY. Could this muthafuggin’ shit be any fucking better? I normally don’t swear too much here on AGR, but COT DAMN I am excited for this rematch. We’ll get into the Finals preview, but first, an update with where we all stand in the BSB(R).
Some notes on the current state of the BSB(R)
- Michael Hall leads the field with 72. Bernie is right behind with a solid 71, and David Gold and I each have 70. However, Bernie and David both made the same Finals prediction as Mike Hall, meaning they’ll be unable to tie or eclipse him. As for me, if the Dubs win in 7, I’ll be tied with Mike–otherwise victory is his.
- It’s worth reiterating: From the get go, Jeremy Safran was the lone person to predict a Cavs victory. While their victory is still unlikely, it still surprised me that no one else had them as champs. And if they win, props to the one and only Dr. Gary Sapphire.
- As I mentioned, this year’s Finals is a rematch of last year’s matchup. This year, 18 out of 28 picked a Cavs-Warriors Finals, which is pretty dang good. For reference, last year 17 out of 36 correctly picked the Cavs-Warriors.
As we await to see who wins the BSB(R) and NBA Finals, let’s look back at what transpired during this year’s Conference Finals.
Conference Finals Recap
Cavs-Raptors: The Raptors put up a fight–especially when considering how dominant the Cavs had been and the Raptor’s subpar performance in early rounds–but LeBron and the Cavs were too much. Their 4-2 victory over the Cavs marked the second straight trip to the Finals and LeBron’s 6th (!) straight trip the the championship round. How did it go down? The Cavs laid the smackdown in their first two games, winning by 31 and then 19. Unlike in previous rounds where they were money from beyond the arc, the Cavs were picking apart the Raptors in the paint to this point. But the Raptors, for all their faults, never lack heart, which is why they were able to go home and win the next two games. They were particularly impressive in Game 3, holding the Cavs to just 84 points in a 15-point victory. But the King doesn’t lose in the ECF. He and the Cavs zoned in and won the final two games by 38 and 26 points. Despite the Raptors’ ability to put up a fight, the series was a relative snoozer.
- Hero: LeBron James
- Goat: All Raptors not named Lowry or DeRozan
- Line of the series: In the closeout game, LeBron did LeBron, going for 33 (13-22 FG), 11 boards, and 6 assists. Claaaasssiiiicc.
Warriors-Thunder: In the words of Mark Jackson, “My goodness!” This year’s WCF provided more than enough drama to make up for the dud of an ECF. It started in Game 1, where the Thunder upset the Warriors 108-102 behind a strong all-around effort and a controversial no-call. The Warriors answered convincingly in Game 2, but the Thunder proceeded to go home and stomp the Warriors in consecutive games, winning by 28 and 24 points in Games 3 and 4. While the games weren’t close, there was something spectacular about watching the Thunder continue their hot streak en route to their 3-1 series lead. The Warriors’ perfect season was in serious jeopardy–FiveThirtyEight estimated the Warrior’s probability of winning the series at just 16% going into Game 5. But the best story of the playoffs was just getting started. Despite the Thunder hanging with the Dubs throughout Game 5, the Warriors gutted out a tough victory thanks to timely plays from Steph Curry (particularly his two strips of Durant). In OKC for Game 6, Klay went off for an NBA-record 11 3-pointers as he and Curry hit clutch shot after shot. The Thunder were the opposite of clutch–despite leading nearly all game and much of the fourth quarter, Durant and Westbrook combined to go 0-3 and commit 6 turnovers over the final 3 minutes. Having forced a Game 7 back in Oakland, momentum was on the Warriors’ side. Still, the Thunder came out and jumped to an early lead 13-point lead and were up 6 at the half. In the third quarter, though, the Warriors came out firing and mounted their own 13-point lead. Through the rest of the game the Thunder inched their way back into the game, getting their deficit down to 4 points at the 8:30 and 1:40 marks, but they didn’t have enough fire power to hang with the Warriors when it was all said and done. The Dubs became just the 10th team to recover from a 3-1 deficit.
- Hero: Steph Curry
- Goat: Dion Waiters
- Line of the series: There are almost too many choose. Westbrook went for 36-11-11 one game and 30-12-8 in another (NBD); KD went for 40-4-7 one game; but the award has to go to Klay, who pured in 41 points on 31 shots and two free throws, thanks in large part to going 11-18 from 3.
What to look for in the Finals
Yes, Game 1 already went down, with the Warriors beating the Cavs 104-89. Here are some things to look out for as the Finals continue:
- Which role players will step up for the Cavs the way Livingston, Barbosa, and others did for the Warriors? Delly, Swish, Frye, and Shumpert can all stroke the rock, but can they do it against this Warriors’ D on the big stage?
- What tempo will the Cavs try to play–fast, the way Lue has pushed them to do all season, or slow, the style that shook up the Warriors in last year’s finals?
- Steph and Klay were disappointing in last year’s finals and very disappointing in Game 1. Both will eventually find their groove, but the questions is: When?
- What will Iguodala’s impact be as the series continues? He was last year’s Finals MVP and played fantastically in Game 1. If he can keep up his underrated all-around game, the Cavs will be in trouble.
- Will Kyrie and Kevin Love play like Finals MVP candidates? For the Cavs to win, at least one of them will have to have a stellar series.
The Finals continue Sunday June 5th at 8pm EST. Here’s to a 7-game classic.
Who are your picks to win, both the Finals and the AGR tourney? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook