The day is finally here: Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals.
Here in the Bay Area, we’ve obviously been dissecting this from our perspective as fans who have been waiting for redemption, revenge or whatever you wish to call it since last June. But with so much said already, I thought it might be good to have some insight from the Cavs’ perspective as well.
So, here to help is Chris Manning of SB Nation’s Fear the Sword to give us some of his thoughts heading into the third of three consecutive Finals meetings between these two teams.
Q&A with Fear the Sword
1. As Warriors fans, we've been sick of the storylines surrounding our team all season. But what are some of the storylines about the Cavs that have bothered you, as a Cavs fan, leading up to the Finals?
Chris Manning: For me, the LeBron-MJ comparisons are old in the sense that they are fruitless exercises. It’s so hard to actually do any type of comparison - much less a cross-era comparison - and there isn't a necessarily a lot of thought being put into the comparisons. It’s also annoying to have people talk about this series being over before it starts because a) 3-1 lead and b) the Cavs have LeBron.
2. A lot of Warriors fans have wondered if Kyrie Irving’s ankle is fully healed (and want him as close to 100% as possible). How big a deal do you think his health might be in this series?
CM: As far as I know, he’s fine and the time off had to have helped. But if his ankle at all is hurt or gets worse, and Steph Curry remains Steph Curry, that becomes a huge issue for the Cavs with no good alternative.
3. On a scale of 1-10, how worried are you about the Cavs’ defense?
CM: A seven. I think it’s been a lot better since the playoffs started, partly due to effort and partly due to scheme. But a few things for the Cavs will change in the Finals. For one, because of Kevin Durant, there isn’t an obvious spot to place LeBron and let him roam. I also don’t think they can blitz and trap as much as they have against a team like the Warriors that moves the ball so well. As weird as this might sound, this might be the first series were we really learn if the Cavs’ defensive improvements are meaningful and enough to win the Finals.
4. What, if anything, do you think we can draw from the regular season meetings between these teams?
CM: Not much. Both games were so long ago and both teams have changed since then. The Jan. 18 game feels largely meaningless to me because the Cavs didn’t really try and the roster was different. And while the Christmas Day game set a basic template for Cleveland to follow, DeAndre Liggins was starting that game for the Cavs and he’s no longer on the team. It’s not helpful for us to think about this series, but you could argue that last year’s Finals and the regular season matchups could be largely considered useless.
5. 538 projections only give the Cavs a 10% chance to win the series. Do you think those odds are wrong, and if so, what are the odds-makers not seeing?
CM: I’d say they are a little off. 10 percent for a team with LeBron just feels low to me. Golden State is certainly the favorite in my eyes, and I have the Warriors winning. But the Cavs have LeBron, they’ve been better in the playoffs and I think have another gear to find.
If anything, I think the 10 percent says more about the Warriors’ dominance than it does the Cavs.
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer our questions. Let us know what you think in the comments below.