On this Tuesday that is actually a Monday thanks to the holiday weekend, we look forward to yet another NBA Finals appearance for our beloved Cleveland Cavaliers. Here we go, Cavs fans….another shot at a title, another chance to enjoy watching LeBron carry our team on the biggest stage.
It’s funny thinking back, prior to LeBron James being drafted by the Cavaliers. The Browns had never been to a Super Bowl. The Indians hadn’t won a World Series since 1948. The Cavaliers had never been to the Finals. In my lifetime, I had seen the Indians in the World Series in 1995 and 1997. That was it for my chances to see Cleveland compete for a title. This is now the fifth time LeBron has led Cleveland to a championship series. That’s pretty special stuff.
As I sat down to write this segment, though, I felt like I had nothing to write about. That may seem counterintuitive because, hey, the Cavs are playing in the Finals, right? I should have plenty of material to cover there.
But the Cavs are playing the Golden State Warriors. Again. For the fourth straight year. Sure, the Cavs look a lot different this year and the Warriors have a few changes as well. But still. It’s the Cavs and the Warriors. We know how these teams matchup, it’s all been said, written, and seen before.
But I have seen a bit of a funny thing going around social media, headlines, and talk radio since this Finals matchup has been set. I’ve seen several variations of “Well, here we go, this is the rematch we all knew was coming”, or “To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Cavs and Warriors are playing again”, or something like that. And that’s funny to me.
First of all, the Cavs being in the Finals was far from a sure thing. When the Cavaliers got off to a slow start this season, people doubted. When the Cavaliers fell apart when Isaiah Thomas returned, people doubted. When the Cavaliers shook up their roster at the trade deadline, people doubted. When the Cavs struggled with the Indiana Pacers in round one, people doubted. When the Cavs fell behind 0-2 and again 2-3 to the Celtics, people doubted.
The Cavaliers were the fourth seed in the East. They haven’t had home court advantage since the first round. This was not an inevitability. The Cavaliers deserve a ton of credit for overcoming all their obstacles and getting here. It’s a massive accomplishment and they should all be proud.
As for the Warriors, this was no cakewalk for them, either. The Warriors were not the top seed in the West, they were the second seed. The Rockets had home court advantage and they made the Warriors have to win two elimination games to advance. Same thing the Celtics did to the Cavaliers. This was the shakiest path to the Finals both of these teams have taken in the four years they’ve been here.
But now what? Is another Warriors’ romp to a title a sure thing? Probably. I give the Cavaliers a chance because they have LeBron James and anything can happen. But it’s not a very big chance. The Cavs cannot have LeBron defending Durant because they need all of LeBron’s energy on offense, but they also don’t have anyone else capable of slowing him down. Is George Hill doing to be able to chase Steph Curry around screens all game long, or will they ask JR Smith to do it again? There are matchup issues left and right for the Cavaliers in this series.
If Andre Iguodala’s knee keeps him out of this series, though, it will be a huge break for Cleveland. Iguodala has been one of the best in the league at slowing down LeBron. Without him, the Warriors will have to make some hard decisions on how they want to defend LeBron, and those decisions could open up some things for other Cavs depending on how Golden State approaches it.
The Warriors could go cold and Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, and JR Smith could catch fire. There are things that could break Cleveland’s way and allow them to win this series. And above all else, Cleveland has LeBron James playing out of his mind right now. So don’t give up all hope, Cavs fans. And don’t freak out if the Cavs fall down 0-2 again. The formula from the last series still applies. Win your three home games, and then hope LeBron James can win one on the road for you. That’s it. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible, despite what many will tell us going into this series. The journey starts Thursday and for the legacy of this franchise and the future of LeBron James, it’s going to be a good one.