Everything You Need to Know About Cavs-Warriors 2018 NBA Finals Bleacher Review
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Remember all the regular Cleveland Cavaliers? And how did you postpone your roster on the February date? And how were they going to lose in the first round of the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers? And how did they beat the Boston Celtics 2-0 at the Eastern Conference Finals? And then 3-2?
Remember that the disinterest of the Golden State Warriors was a problem? And how did they have Stephen Curry in rotation until the second game of the second round? And how did you lose Andre Iguodala for the rest of the Western Conference Finals after Game 3? And how were they 3-2? And then, how did they allow the Houston Rockets to score 17 and 15 points in games 6 and 7?
Do you remember all this? Do you remember what it looked like to feel like cavaliers and warriors would not meet again in the NBA finals for the fourth year in a row?
Yes, that was all in vain. Golden State and Cleveland are back, just as we all expected, but not in a matchup that is equally epic and ruins basketball as we know it.
Many will put this latest best-of-seven with limited expectations. Some will focus their attention entirely on the off-season. You know how that will end.
The Warriors have a 2-1 final against the Cavaliers. And they are a breakdown of the year 2016 away from owning 3-0 bragging rights. Most of the action crowned the NBA Champion during the Western Conference Finals. But LeBron James is LeBron James, and unless he is LeBron James, the Cavaliers have a chance.
Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals is typing on Thursday, May 31 at 9 pm ET in the Oracle Arena. Here is the complete schedule:
- Game 1 in Oakland: Thursday, May 31, 9:00 pm ET, ABC
- Game 2 in Oakland: Sunday, June 3, 8 pm ET, ABC
- Game 3 in Cleveland: Wednesday, June 6, 9:00 pm ET, ABC
- Game 4 in Cleveland: Friday, June 8, 9:00 pm ET, ABC
- Game 5 in Oakland (if required): Monday, 11th. June, 9pm ET, ABC
- Cleveland 6th Game (if required): Thursday, June 14, 9pm ET, ABC
- Game 7 in Oakland (if required): Sunday, June 17, 8pm ET, ABC
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Although the Warriors have both won regular seasonal meetings with the Cavaliers, their wins are of minimal importance. Both matchups came before the Trade Deadline, on December 25 and January 15, so Golden State has yet to get a taste of Cleveland's refurbished roster.
George Hill offers more defensive resistance than Isaiah Thomas (who played only in Jan) 15 affair) and Jose Calderon (out of rotation). Dwyane Wade is no longer eating in Kyle Korvers season. Tristan Thompson moves like a real NBA player again. Larry Nance Jr., while being used inconsistently, adds a layer of reversible rim protection.
It remains to be seen if this face-lift will make the Cavs better equipped to compete with reigning champions. They had lead positions in both regular-time matches and never returned to more than 14, but the Warriors were still in the running.
They did not have Stephen Curry in uniform for the Christmas Parring and their laissez-faire defense limited Cleveland's offensive to 99.7 points per 100 possessions – nearly 11 points below his overall average. And the cavaliers could be dressed worse now. Not all her newcomers have helped. Neither of them was remotely consistent.
Several sources confirm that Rodney Hood remains a member of the team; He just does not play. Jordan Clarkson has a lower Assist percentage than Jeff Green. Nance snakes in and out of head rotation Tyronn Lue's rotation. George Hill often seems to feel he can only try four to six shots per game.
The Cavaliers may be lower on the paper, but in practice they are unbearably unpredictable. CLEVELAND, OH – MAY 19: George Hill # 3 High Fives Kevin Love # 0 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second half against the Boston Celtics in the third game of the 2018 NBA.
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Cleveland's Initial Five: George Hill, Jeff Green, LeBron James, Kevin Love , JR Smith
Cleveland's Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood, Kyle Korver, Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson
Good luck in identifying the rotation of the Cavaliers. Lue has used eight different grid positions in 18 postseason contests, and the minute distribution among his reserves is in a constant state of limbo.
Injuries did not help. Hills health has forced some changes in the postseason, and Kevin Love's status remains in the air as he continues to go through the NBA's concussion protocol by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.
Jeff Green will receive the starting nod for Game 1 if love is not ready to rock. He could not care less. It depends on who the Warriors go out when opening the top. Thompson can stay with Kevon Looney jumping in the middle, but Iguodala's return could make Lue play it for Green or Kyle Korver and bring Love into the 5.
The minutes of the reserve will be adjusted from there. Nance will have a hard time seeing the court when Thompson leaves the bench as they can not play together. Hood has fallen miles outside of Lues' good graces, but a 6 "8" wing should be a must-use against the Warriors, and Clarkson's role will be directly related to how much Cleveland gets from Green, Hood and JR Smith.  HOUSTON, TX – May 16: Klay Thompson # 11, Draymond Green # 23, Kevin Durant # 35, Andre Iguodala # 9 and Stephen Curry # 30 of the Golden State Warriors will be at the Western Conference Finals of the 2018 NBA during the 2nd match Playoffs Photographed May 16, 201 “/>
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Beginning of the Five Golden States: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Klay Thompson
Golden Reserves of the State: Jordan Bell, Quinn Koch, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Nick Young
The rotation of Golden State is similar to that of Cleveland.
Iguodala sought a second opinion about his Injury to the left knee and his Availability for Game 1 is uncertain, according to Chris Haynes of ESPN.com After returning, he might regain his place among the starters, but the Warriors may not want to rock the boat right away.
It is inevitable to play him with the second unit at least for his first game. Golden State did the same for Curry in the second round, and throwing a half-limping Iguodala into the fire "Go guard LeBron James" is just mean. He should take one or two trips to get his bearings.
Iguodala's status and place in the lineup will shape the rest of the rotation. If he comes off the bench, that could mean less Nick Young, or the warriors could bask in the extra chord. David West could also see himself in the shadows after two series if Cleveland plays two bigs at the same time or head coach Steve Kerr does not trust Looney or Jordan Bell on the NBA Finals stage.
Kevin Love's Role
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Love will play sometime during the final, even if he is not good for Game 1. But finding out how to use it as soon as it's back raises some problems.
It seems like he's rolling out at the 5 o'clock. The Cavaliers do not have much rim protection anyway, and using it on the 4 thompson seduces the blowout gods. Mike Zavagno of Fear The Sword noted that Cleveland had successfully enforced the Love-at-Center lineups in the past year:
Most of this data is fixed in the macro. The Cavaliers outperformed opponents by 14.4 points per 100 post-trade terms with Love as their only major deal. The LeBron Love Frontcourt partnership remains a little-used weapon. This combination scored a plus-42.5 rating in the regular season, but under Clean The Glass ranked below 200.
Cleveland has survived on the less glamorous end with Love Jumping Center in the playoffs and clinched a defensive rating that would take third place overall (103.8). The warriors are another beast. They could turn Green, the primary front-court sidekick for love-at-the-5 lineups, into debt.
Golden State will not protect him in the attack, and the Green Love Alliance is overdue due to some defensive errors. Cleveland is only 94.1 points per 100 possessions in these minutes – a non-sustainable low score.
The value of love is directly tied to any version of the death row the warriors have in the yard. What do the Cavs do when Draymond Green changes to 5? Are you trying to get along with love? Are you contacting Nance or Thompson? Do you use Green or James as the de facto center?
Deeming Love a non-factor in this series underestimates its importance. He is the second best offensive player of the Cavaliers. They need him on the court. But the warriors have the nightmare turns to dissuade him. The response of the Cavs to their Switch Everything arrangements will tell you a lot about how long this series lasts.
Andre Iguodala's left knee injury
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Soldiers without Iguodala would not be the end of the world for the Warriors. They do not need him in full strength to win their third Larry O & O Brien trophy in four years. You should not need him at all. However, he is someone who simplifies – d.
"We would have won the series in five if Iggy had played," said Kerr's Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated after the Western Conference final.
Wing depth is not Warriors strength at the moment. The Death Lineup also beats opponents for more than 22 points per 100 possessions for the postseason. Iguodala's absence makes Golden State his ultimate cheat code.
Each time he is not in full force on the field, it jeopardizes the way the warriors defend James. Kevin Durant spends more time than anyone else with the quadruple MVP – and he did a damn good job. The Cavaliers averaged below 1.04 points per possession in the regular season on games in which James was guarded by Durant. The lion's share of LeBron Duty will fall to him.
But Iguodala, along with Draymond Green, should step in. James will play more minutes than Durant. He will see more time than any other time. The warriors need Iguodala as a substitute James defender in these short stints when Durant takes a breather.
Is LeBron James Gassed?
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Um, yes. How could he not be?
James joins the finals after appearing in all 82 regular season games for the first time in his career and has already played through the entire 2017 postseason. Adam Fromal of Bleacher Report pointed out:
Corresponding answers include:
- "Holy moly !"
- "This is … less than ideal"
- "LeBron is a robot sent from the future"
- "MJ better"
… And every desecrated epiphany one puts together can.
Tired LeBron is better than no LeBron and also between 99 and 100 percent of all living players. But his sales started to get a bit out of hand against the Celtics. He coughed up 13.7 percent of that time, a not-so-dreading number, but one that was still considered his second-worst for a whole off-season.
Failure to make an above average clip is not an option against the Warriors. After Inpredictable, they are tied for seventh place in the offensive efficiency of sales both in the playoffs and in the regular season.
What is more important is that an exhausted James can not do so much at the defensive end. His closeouts will not be so crisp, and he will not get back into the game soon after he shoots.
That's one thing, if the Cavaliers are against a Celtics squad without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward – or if they're the Postseason Toronto Raptors. It will be more against the Warriors when James's tasks get tougher. He harassed Green more than anyone else during the regular season and has to spend more time on Durant with Jae Crowder out of the picture.
James will be transcendent. He is always transcendent. He makes 40-point double doubles as if they were nothing. But he'll have to be even better for the Cavs to be connected with the Warriors, a horrible idea given the sheer enormity of his previous job.
The Supporting Rule Battle
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Golden State's second stringers have the highest post-season difference in any 100 possessions. The bank was statistically even better during the heptathlon with Houston. It just does not feel that way.
Look behind Curry, Durant, Green, Iguodala and Klay Thompson, and the warriors do not have much – especially when Iguodala misses time or gets hurt.
Shaun Livingston is fine. Everybody else is a joker. Bell and Looney are an integral part of the rotation. Nick Young received meaningful minutes in the Conference Finals. Worse, the warriors really needed them.
JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West were effectively played out of rotation. Even though cavalier decisions allow Kerr to prepare for agility at 5, it does not deepen the Warrior's Wing Corps. To get something from the recently cleared Patrick McCaw would be huge.
As a rule of thumb, however, worry more and more about the support of the Cavaliers. It does not matter which team is on the other side. Cleveland's non-LeBron players are serial mysteries. Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer wrote:
"Of course, the depth on Cleveland's side is also not very outstanding, this may be the weakest support in LeBron's career, and after so much mid-season sales, it does not Die Half-way view is that George Hill will continue to improve as the Cavs go deeper into the playoffs, that the revival of Larry Nance Jr. and the resurgence of Tristan Thompson will give the Warriors. big men problems, and that Kyle Korver and JR Smith can catch fire from three with some consistency.
"The Glass Half-Empty View is Simple: The Concussion-Like Symptoms That kept Kevin Love out of Game 7 and questioned his influence (if not before the injury trusting Nance and Smith seems like it could quickly backfill Cleveland could barely survive a game 7 against the Celtics Wit h LeBron on the ground for every minute survive against the warriors if he has to leave? "
While the warriors are top-heavy at worst, the cavaliers do not enjoy the slightest certainty beyond James. A healthy love does not change that, he gave Hill, Korver and, yes, Green second place on an uncomfortable, semi-regular basis.
Cleveland is down 8.8 points per 100 possessions excluding James on the court. Non-LeBroners shoot below 34 percent from outside the arc and below 30 percent at pull-up jumpers. Neither Clarkson nor Hill or Hood has established itself as this reliable, stabilizing ball handler alternative.
For his part, Hill comes closest to him: he will never be a great gunman, but he gives the Cavaliers some hope in those rare moments when James stands on the sidelines. They nearly knocked opponents into a deadlock during Hill's solo minutes. Constant Prober, not to mention a primary defender of Stephen Curry, when the Cavaliers will overturn their prevailing perceptions.
Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press
The Cavs are playing better defense in the playoffs. They have managed to increase 109.5 points per 100 possessions, the second-worst mark of the regular season, to manageable 105.9 points. They were stingier in the Conference Finals and limited the Celtics to 102.1 offensive rating.
Keeping these returns intact against the Warriors characters is impossible. The Cavaliers have controlled the pace for most of the postseason. They are ranked 15th in the possessions they use in 48 minutes ahead of the Indiana Pacers they sent out in the first round.
Working in this wheelhouse is not against the warriors on the table. They did not play warp-speed against the Rockets, but Houston has the equal-sized switches to block Golden State in the half-court. Cleveland will not be in such a state of transition or convince Durant to tackle the block's mismatches and the break with drippy post-ups and sloggy insulators.
According to Inpredictable, no team plays faster than the Warriors after making a defensive rebound. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the barrel as they line up for a missed shot.
More than a little luck is included in Cleveland's defensive numbers. Opponents shoot below 37 percent for wide open threes after losing 40.2 percent in the regular season. Boston reached only 34 percent of its undisputed treys in the Conference Finals.
The warriors will not do that. They are at 36.9 percent on unattended triples, but that's with both Durant and Green occupying less than 29 percent of their own long-distance hare. This should not be permanent, especially for Durant.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press
All the predictions of Warriors-in-Six were out of last year's final quickly regarded as a coward. They were synonymous with a shy hedge – a refusal to admit that the Cavaliers actually had no chance, because that meant abusing LeBron.
Similar oscillations are now based on Warriors-in-five estimates. The Cavaliers have not done nearly enough to take advantage of the doubt for a single game.
Remove their shellac from the raptors and they are a minus 17 with James in the square. They were a plus-11 against the Celtics when he played, and a minus-28 against the Pacers. They have the best player in the league, and most of them have either lost or barely won the minutes they spent on the field.
Think about it and then think about everything else.
How will the Cavaliers respond to one of the typical Warriors runs in the third quarter? These attacks hinted at curtains for the Rockets, and Cleveland's defensive does not suit them.
What happens inevitably if the other Cavaliers do not play for a whole game? They will not go through a stretch in which they intended 27 consecutive three-point bricks – no disrespect, Houston – but there will be nights when Korver or Green, rather than Hill or Love, turns in James' # , 2 transformed.  Relative inconsistency at the edges has almost taken place in the Cavaliers against the brave Pacers and Kyrie and Hayward-less Celtics. The same duplicity will destroy them now. They can not take Jekyll-and-Hyde their way to more than a five-game battle with the warriors.
Jason Miller / Getty Images
Stealing one of the first two addictions is the Cavaliers' best chance of writing a Cinderella story. The Warriors were down 16 in the first quarters of the Conference Finals. Maybe Cleveland can come out early and fend off an implosion in the second half.
Maybe Iguodala will miss the first or the first game of the series. Every time he is not on the ground, Golden State braces himself with one less body to throw James or chase Korver.
Maybe the little ball of the Cavaliers will turn green on the 4-pan. Maybe they are open for more James-at-the-5 minutes. Curry and Durant may never explode in the same game. Maybe James has some other equipment. (We call it "Jordan who?" Mode if he does.)
Maybe, maybe, maybe. This is the vivacity of the Cavaliers in this series – a collection of Maybevils and hopes and probably-nieces. You should win a game. James's one-man brilliance brings her so much. It would – and did – get more against other teams.
Against the Warriors, James is just enough to prevent himself from predicting a sweep.
Prediction: Warriors in 5
Dan Favale covers the NBA for the Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter ( @danfavale ) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, moderated by Andrew Bailey.