The recent history of the NBA Finals is littered with unlikely stories, both of players and teams. A newly-constructed, star-studded Miami Heat were humbled in 2011 by Dallas Mavericks after Heat took a 2-1 series lead. Jason Terry taunted LeBron after that Game 3, and he went on to lead all scorers in Game 6, as Dallas closed the series. The 1995 Finals, when a young and hungry Orlando Magic, with Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal in their line-up, were swept by Houston Rockets that finished 6th in the West. The 2004 Finals, when L.A Lakers; Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, Gary Payton and Shaq were beaten by Detroit Pistons in Five Games with Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace leading the Pistons charge. The 2016 Finals looked salted, dried and locked away for Golden State Warriors, but it can become another story of unlikely outcome…just like last season. What are the pitfalls Golden State should look out for?
Plan ahead on how to limit the influence of Tristan Thompson. The Canadian behemoth is only 6’9”, and has never been an All Star; but he know his place, and may be the key to exploiting the hollow center of the Warriors. Thompson increased his Points per game from the playoffs last season (6.7ppg to 9.2ppg) while decreasing his Fouls (2.6pg to 2.0) He also marginally improved both his Steals and Rebounding. He may be the answer to unraveling Warriors’ multiple screen sets.
The quirkiness and temper of Draymond Green. While this may seem unimportant, it is significant. Green is the defensive Linchpin of Warriors; the proof was last season. The Warriors Championship challenge disappeared with his suspension; they were leading the Finals 3-1 when he was suspended for Game 5. Warriors never won another game. If Green lets his (famous) emotions get the better of him, Warriors will lose. The odds are that Cavaliers will goad him. Relentlessly.
Steph Curry and his many Turn Overs. Golden State are averaging 13.8 TO per game in the playoffs. And that is largely due to Curry. He is committing 3.3 per game, although it is significantly lower than last season (4.2) and the Championship year (3.9) it is still a cause for worry. Cavaliers have better FG% than Golden State (50.7 vs 50.2), they also have better 3-ball% (43.5 vs 38.9). This simply means a ball turned over may be additional points conceded.
Then, there is LeBron James. There is nothing more dangerous on a basketball court than a motivated LeBron; and he’s had a lot to get his hackles up this season. He is annoyed at being passed over for MVP, he is upset at his team being labelled underdog by everyone. Plus, he is playing better than ever. The best two-way player in the world is where he’s planned to be all season: at the cusp of another title. If he’s healthy, Warriors better be ready