OAKLAND, CA (WOIO) - Tony Zarrella brings you five things to watch in Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors.
It's not hard to find the stars in this series. LeBron and Kyrie are both throwing down just under 25 points per game in these playoffs. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, just over 26 points per game. So, you know what you're going to get with these Fab Four.
Who makes the difference? Kevin Love, at 17 points and 10 rebounds per game, matches up with Draymond Green (15/10). And Channing Frye, who's giving us just under 9 ppg off the bench, equals Harrison Barnes' contribution. The key to me in some of these games? J.R. Smith, who didn't do nearly enough in last year's NBA Finals, but has been strong during this run and could erupt in a game or two in the Finals.
LeBron is an NBA historian. He knows exactly where he stands among the all-time greats, and despite his and Curry's insistence that neither cares if Steph has become the "Face of the NBA," that extra drive to prevent Steph from taking another title away will only help James. He's still the best all-around player in the league, has already basically said he's still the real MVP, and he wants to prove it.
I wrote about this early in these playoffs. Tyronn Lue has been more than impressive in his first playoffs as a head coach, especially with in-game adjustments. He'll need to be even better. Nobody gives Steve Kerr much credit as the head coach of a 73-win team (how many of those games did interim head coach Luke Walton win?), but Kerr adjusts as well as anybody.
Consider this: Andre Iguodala, last year's Finals MVP, once again was a bench player until Game 7 vs. the Thunder, when he made his first start since January 2nd. It paid off. Kerr will show the Cavaliers one lineup in one game, and then another in the next. Lue needs to match his adjustments, not with the starting lineup, but certainly in-game.
It's Not Easy Being Green
So Draymond Green, the Warriors' controversial forward, told me on Wednesday that he isn't worried that the Cavaliers are far more healthy than they were a year ago. In his words, if Golden State plays its game, "it doesn't matter who they put on the floor".
Okay. He should feel that way. And the Cavaliers have a couple of weeks to change his opinion. But the fact is, LeBron does't need to go for 83 points in the first two games, as he did a year ago (when Kyrie and Love were injured, and the Cavs still split the first two in Oakland). If the Cavs play like they did in Games 5 and 6 vs. Toronto, Green is in for a lesson.
I've done a ton of radio interviews across the country leading up to these Finals, and the one consistent message is, other cities want the Cavaliers to win this series. People are not only intrigued by this incredible storyline of LeBron returning and finally ending the Cleveland Curse, they recognize how close and fun this team is. It's an incredibly likable group. Now they just have to complete the ending to this wonderful script. That starts tonight.
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