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NBA Finals preview: Five things to watch for

Cleveland Cavaliers former superstar LeBron James. (Source: Wiki Commons)
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1st June, 2017
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The NBA Playoffs has failed to live up to expectations so far. The 2017 postseason has been heavy on blowouts and short of truly competitive and exciting series.

Basketball fans all around the globe will hope the NBA Finals between the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors can deliver some much needed drama.

Here are five things to watch out for in the 2017 NBA Finals.

No love lost
For the first time in NBA history the same two teams will contest the Finals for a third year in a row. These are two teams who know each other very well and certainly don’t like each other.

Expect the series to be heated from tip off with Golden State’s Draymond Green likely to be the lightning rod.

Green was suspended for Game 5 of last year’s Finals for a cheap shot to LeBron James’ groin and the Cavs will look to exploit Green’s fiery temperament. Likewise Draymond will be desperate to redeem himself after his misdemeanour cost the Warriors dearly in 2016.

Back at the beginning of the season Green stated that he “wanted to destroy Cleveland”. This WWE style posturing is how Green operates but there is little doubt that the bad blood between Cleveland and Golden State is legitimate. Let’s hope it contributes to a great series.

The decider
With the Cavs and Warriors having each claimed an NBA Championship in the past two years this series has added significance. The winner will be able to claim dominance in the NBA’s most recent burgeoning rivalry.

In addition this year (fingers crossed) will be the first time the teams have met at pretty much full strength. In 2015 the Cavs were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving resulting in a fairly comfortable victory for the Warriors. Then in 2016 Steph Curry was recovering from an injury and Draymond Green got himself suspended as the Cavs produced a stunning comeback from 3-1 down.

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This year there will be no excuses for either side this year as both try to claim the title.

KD seeks vindication
Kevin Durant has received a huge amount of criticism – from all corners of the basketball world – for his decision to join the Golden State Warriors. Many questioned Durant’s competitiveness after he joined one of the best teams in the NBA. None of this will matter to KD if he manages to win an NBA title in his 10th season.

What will be important for Durant is that he is a central component of a Warriors victory – he can’t be seen as a passenger riding on the coattails of Curry, Klay Thompson and Green.

Throughout his first season Durant has played to a consistently high level – shouldering some of the offensive responsibility previously held by Thompson and Green. There is no doubt that the Warriors are a more explosive team with Durant in the line up but will it be enough to put them past the Cavs.

Durant will also have to go up against LeBron James – the man who ruined his only appearance in the finals back in 2012. Back then LeBron had the better, more experienced supporting cast and prevailed in five games despite KD averaging 30 points throughout the series.

This year the table has been flipped and Durant is playing for the favourite. It will be interesting to see how KD deals with the pressure that comes with expectation.

Look for Durant to be out to prove the haters wrong and claim his maiden NBA crown.

Kyrie Irving versus Steph Curry II
Irving produced the defining moment of the 2017 finals – crossing over the two-time reigning MVP and hitting the decisive fade away three pointer. Curry will be desperate to get the better of Irving this time round in a battle between two of the most explosive point guards in the NBA.

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Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, and LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers

(EDrost88 / Flickr)

While Kyrie and Steph are two of the finest offensive talents in the league both can be suspect defensively. Irving showed an ability to raise his defence in the playoffs last season but he has been a liability this season for the Cavs whose defence has been horrendous since the All-Star break.

Crucial to who comes out on top in the battle of the point guards will be which player can elevate their defence just enough to slow down their opponent. I am sure we will see plenty of Kyrie slashing to the basket and Steph splashing ridiculous threes from way way downtown. But whether either man can pull his weight defensively will be more questionable.

The King goes for a fourth ring
When LeBron James brought an end to Cleveland’s 50 year wait for a major sporting triumph many assumed he would be playing with house money for the rest of his career. Anything more he achieved would simply be a bonus – he had done what he set out to do, bring a championship to his hometown.

Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James

(Source: Wiki Commons)

However, LeBron James has always been very vocal about his desire to emulate the greatest of all time, Michael Jordan. If LeBron is to continue on his quest to become the greatest there has ever been he will need at least one more ring if not two.

There can be no denying that this is incredibly important for James. He wants to cement his position as the premier player in the NBA and he certainly wants to continue to chase Jordan’s six championships.

Prediction: Warriors in 7

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This is a prediction more out of hope than expectation. I really want to see a closely contested series that goes to six or seven games. However, I fear the Warriors will simply have too much despite LeBron’s stellar performances.