The Oklahoma City Thunder season has come to an end, regretfully. The ecstasy of being up 3-1 on one of the greatest teams in basketball history has been replaced by the despair of watching the Warriors celebrate in Oracle as the seconds ticked away at the end of their Game 7 victory, sending OKC home to ponder their shortcomings once again.
While it doesn't seem fair that basketball should be played without this Thunder team part of the festivities, the show must go on.
Waiting--literally--in the NBA Finals for Golden State is none other than the Cleveland Cavaliers. A rematch of the 2015 NBA Finals, but with more star power. Steph Curry and LeBron James are the anointed two best players in the world. Klay Thompson vaulted himself into the top 10 conversation with his clutch shooting. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving enter this series healthy and playing their best ball of the season. Draymond Green is the straw that stirs the Warriors' drink and I can't forget about the defensive contribution that will be asked of last year's Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala.
With OKC's season over here's to hoping that this series brings us good basketball.
06/02 AT Warriors
FORECAST: Torrential Downpour
Golden State has its groove back. After being forced into rushed shots, deflected passes, and out of sync play by the physicality of the Thunder defense for three out of the opening four games of the Western Conference Finals the Warriors were able to right the ship to finish the series.
Steph was back to making big men of any ilk look silly trying to defend him on the perimeter. Klay Thompson was shooting any and everything he touched. Even their role players were playing at a different level--just re-watch Anderson Varejao's two-minute contribution in Game 7 (two points, two assists, and a charge drawn).
The Cleveland Cavaliers may have a better caliber Big Three than OKC offensively, but the Thunder surely hold the upper hand on every team not named the Warriors or San Antonio Spurs when it comes to suffocating defense. Two of their biggest stars--Irving and Love--have long been net negatives on defense in their careers. It doesn't help that on paper their matchups in this upcoming series look to be against Curry and Green.
With "ROARACLE" at max hysteria for this opening game I foresee the Warriors riding a wave of emotion and triples to an easy victory.
PREDICTION: Warriors 125, Cavs 111
06/05 AT Warriors
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy with Showers On and Off Throughout the Evening
Following a few days rest and time to readjust Game 2 brings us glimpses of what this Cleveland team had looked like at times during their postseason run.
Love is able to stay on the floor longer and is likely stationed on Bogut/Ezeli or Barnes/Iguodala and does just enough defensively to not be a problem for the Cavs.
However, with Golden State now seeing they can play more freely and openly than before, they are still take and make an unprecedented number of threes.
I expect the physicality to ramp up some in this game and physical is where Green shines the most. Despite having an up and down performance so far, it seems that a big game from Draymond is right around the corner. If Ty Lue and the Cavs elect to put LeBron on Green I can see a case where James tried to bait Green into taking multiple threes, but Green knocking them down--or at least the clutch ones.
PREDICTION: Warriors 108, Cavs 103
06/08 AT Cavs
FORECAST: Clear Skies with High Winds
Back at home, Cleveland tries to change the tide of the series. The team that we saw dismantle Detroit, annihilate Atlanta and take out Toronto, finally breaks through to gut Golden State.
After two adequate performances, Kyrie Irving will be on a mission to reestablish himself and Steph Curry as peers. Irving's ability to score from all three levels makes him a tough guard for any defender. Klay Thompson will most likely be the main defender on Uncle Drew, but look for him to try to exploit his defender when guarded by any other Warrior.
The beaten and bruised Cavs of 2015 were able to sneak two wins over Golden State last year. At full health expect them to be able to have one game were they're clicking on all cylinders and put the Warriors' back against the wall.
PREDICTION: Cavs 118, Warriors 106
06/10 AT Cavs
FORECAST: The Basketball Heavens Part As An Ultralight Beam Descends Upon Cleveland
I can understand if you may think that forecast is too wordy and tilting in Cleveland's favor. While you are right about the first part, you are wrong on the second.
I feel that this game is going to be the one that we as sports fans are talking about for a long time. One that will be aired over and over again on NBA TV throughout the summer and for years to come. These are two of the NBA's elite battling and with so many good players and two well-versed basketball aficionados heading each sideline it's bound to produce a game of basketball that will shut down Twitter (Fail Whale's triumphant return).
Expect things like James and Curry making plays back and forth. Klay and JR Smith each trying to shoot deeper three pointers than the other. Draymond Green flailing, Tristan Thompson rebounding, Kevin Love outlet passing, Kyrie Uncle Drew-ing.
If all that doesn't make your basketball heart skip a beat try this on for size. This game will be won on a buzzer beater. By Steph Curry. From 30-plus feet. With LeBron James guarding him.
PREDICTION: Warriors 113, Cavs 110
06/13 AT Warriors
FORECAST: Confetti Showers
The Warriors cement their claim as the best team in NBA history. Steph doubles up on his MVPs for 2016. LeBron gets endless Crying Jordan memes. Riley Curry is on your TV more than Flo. Draymond Green's mom becomes the most retweeted user in Twitter history. Lil Kev becomes more famous than Kevin Love. Klay Thompson's Championship Exclusive ANTA's sellout in no stores. Kyrie Irving gets another religiously ambivalent tattoo. David Blatt has all of the misprinted Cavs championship apparel sent to Turkey.
PREDICTION: Warriors 105, Cavs 99