The NBA Finals start this week and there’s good reason for excitement. For instance one of two long suffering fan bases are going to hold a championship celebration. Cleveland has somewhat infamously never won a title and the Bay Area last saw an NBA champion during the Ford Administration (yep, if your mind doesn’t stretch back to leisure suits and Whip Inflation Now buttons, don’t feel bad).
A lot of prognosticators are forecasting a long dramatic series, and I hope they are right. I still recall the scintillating finishes of Games 6 and 7 of the 2013 Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs. When those teams arrived in the Finals again in 2014, most forecast a repeat of 2013’s drama. I was skeptical. To me, the Spurs had jussssst missed winning the title in six games in 2013. Meanwhile San Antonio had improved and Miami had declined. I wrote that the Spurs would win in six and perhaps five games. In the end, San Antonio did win in five games.
I’m using that logic this year. Here’s LeBron James with a different bunch of mates this year. He’s in the Finals for the fifth straight season, but his team this year with Cleveland, especially with guard Kyrie Irving dinged up and forward Kevin Love out, is appreciably worse than last year’s team with Miami. OTOH, Bron’s opponent the Golden State Warriors are a better team than last year’s Spurs, much better in fact. These Warriors won 67 to the ’13-’14 Spurs 62; these Warriors outscored their opponents by 10 points per contest; those Spurs had a 7.8 ppg differential. What about the playoffs? Well, the Spurs arrived in the Finals with a 12-6 postseason record, which pales to the Warriors 12-3. In addition Golden State arrives after defeating two teams, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets, would also be favored to win over Cleveland.
By my reckoning this Warriors team is one of ten best teams of all time. I’m not arguing that they are going to blow the Cavs out of the building four straight times, but that they are good enough to win four games in a row by margins of seven to ten points. I’d like to see a competitive series, so I hope I’m wrong.