Before the 2016-17 NBA season even began, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers were the two teams with best odds to make it to the NBA Finals. Throughout the course of the regular season it became apparent, even when both teams struggled at different points in the year. Now that the NBA Playoffs have begun, those projections have stayed the same, but it all depends if they can make out of their respective conferences.
One of the biggest issues throughout the regular season was resting star players. There is no bigger example than that of Cleveland, which continuously did so at the expense of losing the No. 1-seed in the Eastern Conference. In fact, the Cavaliers finished out the regular season on a four-game losing streak. The biggest question heading into the Playoffs was: Could Cleveland just flip the switch and get it rolling in the postseason?
The Cavaliers have not looked like the defending champions throughout these opening games of the first round. Cleveland barely came out victorious in game one, beating the Pacers by a point with a missed shot that could’ve lost it at the buzzer. In the regular season it seemed that they were going to have a walk in the park in the Eastern Conference. But for a Cavaliers team that carries all this talent and under achieved during the regular season, these opening games have been alarming.
That arrogancy that they carried throughout the year might come back to bite them. Leaving teams with a spark of hope can turn into a whirlwind of problems, and it has already shown with Cleveland squeezing by Indiana. This arrogance that the Cavaliers carried with them has rubbed everyone the wrong way. The Pacers most likely won’t win the series, but they can start a bad trend for Cleveland that can carry throughout the rest of the Playoffs.
The Cavaliers can forget about cruising through the first two rounds like it did last year, as they have ignited teams to come at them and pose a legitimate threat. Let’s face it — no one cares about any other team in the East except for Cleveland. The NBA regular season was boring enough with the constant rest of star players, but the last thing anyone wants to see is no one challenge the Cavs.
On the other hand, Golden State was the complete opposite, and closed out the season winning 15 out of its last 16 games. Even with a MCL sprain that kept Kevin Durant out through most of the stretch, the Warriors came into these Playoffs in top form. At the start of the season they were given the best odds to win the NBA Championship, and I don’t see how that won’t happen. Portland Trail Blazers’ guard Damian Lillard said that they were going to beat Golden State in six games. Not only was he wrong, but the Blazers are now looking like they are going to get swept.
The Warriors were given the best odds to win the Championship because they are simply loaded with talent. They are benefiting from having the last two players to raise the MVP trophy in Stephen Curry and Durant. Draymond Green is one of best two-way players in the game, and there is, of course, Klay Thompson the streaky shooter. Having to face these four All-Stars is overwhelming enough, but having to overcome it in a seven game series is impossible. It’s championship or bust for Golden State. With the lineup that it carries, it is hard not to see them raise their second title in three years.
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