Ryan Hayes – @rphayes21
Mike Hess – @hessy_22
Cyril Mpacko – @cee_armel
Alex Fischbein – @thatkidfisch
Alfonso De Falco – @fonzydefalco
1. With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love healthy this time around, are the Cavs now equipped to take down the Warriors?
Hayes: Yes, the big three are playing well together and having fun. The Cavaliers have a much better bench then last year as well.
Hess: Yes, they are equipped to take down the Warriors. Last year LeBron didn’t have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to take some of the load off of him on offense. J.R. Smith has been playing great on both ends of the floor to also help take pressure off of the Cavs big three.
Mpacko: I truly believe the Cavs are primed for this exact moment. Their goal all year was to iron whatever wrinkles they may have had within the big three, and ultimately get to the Finals healthy. The Christmas game this year was painfully close. The Cavs know they match up well with the Warriors and LeBron is oozing with confidence. I anticipate a fiery NBA Finals matchup this year.
Fischbein: The Cavs are definitely equipped to beat the Warriors, but that doesn’t mean they will beat the Warriors. When the Cavs steamrolled through the first two rounds, they were shooting the lights out and killing some weak East teams. Then, they were just a little off and the Raptors took advantage. That means, they have to be playing at 150% to one up the Warriors.
De Falco: Absolutely. The Big 3 in Irving, Love and LeBron James have been great together in these playoffs. With a better bench than last year also, they are equipped to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors.
2. Tyronn Lue says he wants to beat the Warriors at their own game, playing small and fast. Good or bad idea?
Hayes: Bad because Thunder gave the Warriors problems when they had a bigger line-up and playing to a team’s style can end up hurting you.
Hess: I don’t think it is a good decision to try and beat the Warriors at their own game. The Cavs need to keep doing what they have been doing. When teams start trying to beat another team at their own game you start making more mistakes on both ends of the floor.
Mpacko: Small ball has worked for Cleveland thus far. Obviously they haven’t played against anyone quite like the champs just yet. The only troubling theme is that OKC gave the Warriors fits by going big. If the small lineup works in Game 1, I’d say keep it. We know the Finals is all about who can adjust the quickest, so Game 1 will certainly prove Lue right, or break his plan down altogether. Up to this point small ball has worked in Cleveland’s favor, so good idea. For now.
Fischbein: Bad, VERY bad, idea! Lue thinks they’ll beat the Warriors at the their own game?! C’mon man!
De Falco: I do not think this is a good idea. Let’s look at the Western Conference Finals. There was a reason why at one point the momentum was on the Thunder’s side. They played with a bigger lineup and gave Golden State problems. For Cleveland, just stick to what has worked so far during the playoffs and make small changes during the games if needed.
3. Can the Cavs keep up with Golden State’s three-point shooting?
Hayes: Yes, but they can’t fall in love with it like they did in the Toronto series, that’s a reason the Raptors came back to make it a series.
Hess: Yes, but they shouldn’t try to beat them shot for shot from three and start jacking them up. The Cavs need to be patient and not fall in love with it.
Mpacko: The Cavs have set all types of three-point shooting records in these playoffs, so this question could be rephrased, “Can the Warriors keep up with the Cavs three-point shooting?” We all know how lethal Curry and Thompson are, the same way we know Kyrie, J.R., Love and Frye can fill it up from deep. It’ll ultimately come down to who can hit shots and limit the other. I think the Cavs have a legitimate chance at matching the Warriors tit for tat.
Fischbein: The Cavs proved in the earlier rounds that they can keep up with the Warriors shooting from deep. Love, Irving, J.R. Smith, and LeBron were all shooting well from the arc, but like I said before, they have to all be in sync.
De Falco: Yes they can. Kyrie Irving can shoot, Kevin Love can shoot, J.R. Smith can shoot and Channing Frye can come off the bench and knock down threes. There was a reason Cleveland went out and acquired the stretch four from Orlando during the trade deadline. Those are four players not named LeBron James the Cavs can rely on when it comes to shooting the three.
4. Who is the most important player for each team in this matchup?
Hayes: Kevin Love because he has never been this far into the playoffs. With the injury last year I believe he is going to be a huge factor for Cleveland. Warriors – Draymond Green, he struggled at times in the Thunder series and he is the heart and soul of the Warriors.
Hess: The most important player for the Cavs in this series is Kyrie Irving, believe it or not. He has not faced a player like a Steph Curry yet in the playoffs and he is going to have his hands full. The most important player for the Warriors is Draymond Green. Green wasn’t that consistent against the Thunder. He needs to be in the Finals.
Mpacko: Kevin Love and Draymond Green. Love must hit shots and be somewhat useful defensively. Draymond Green has to be himself and stay in his lane these Finals. If Cleveland can somehow mask Love’s defensive deficiencies and maximize his offensive output, they’ll be just fine. Green cannot pull a Houdini disappearing act like he did in the Western Conference Finals and expect his team to come out on top once again.
Fischbein: Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love are the most important for each team. Iguodala has to bring the defense that he brought in last year’s Finals, and Love has to be able to defend a pick and roll.
De Falco: For Cleveland it is Kevin Love. He has been playing great this postseason averaging close to 20 a game and shooting close to 45% from the behind the arc. For the Warriors it is Draymond Green. He was very inconsistent during the OKC series. He needs to forget about that series and play like he did before that WCF if he wants to win.
5. Is there more pressure on the Warriors to repeat and complete this historical season, or on LeBron and the Cavs not to lose another Finals?
Hayes: Warriors because they almost lost to the Thunder and they looked very beatable in the WCF. Also the focus has been about them throughout the whole season because of the record and Stephen Curry getting back-to-back MVP’s.
Hess: There is more pressure on the Warriors especially since they are trying to repeat. The Thunder had their number in the Western Conference Finals and made the Warriors look beatable at times. The Warriors have accomplished a lot more this season compared to the Cavs.
Mpacko: The pressure is even on both sides. The Warriors just spit in the face of history with their dominance this year. LeBron and Cleveland have the weight of Ohio on their shoulders once again. LeBron has shown the unique ability to be able to bounce back from Finals failures and win. I personally think winning 73 games, coming back from 3-1 down, and then not winning it all would be much much worse for the Golden State Warriors in terms of legacy.
Fischbein: Right now, there’s more pressure on the Warriors. They have sort of become “America’s Team,” and everyone agrees that if they don’t win the ring, then this whole historic season doesn’t even matter as much.
De Falco: The pressure has to be on LeBron. This will be his 7th finals appearance, his 3rd while wearing a Cavaliers jersey. His goal is to bring a title to the city of Cleveland and the last thing he wants to be is 2-5 in the NBA Finals.