If you believe the oddsmakers, the Golden State Warriors will win their second consecutive NBA title relatively easily.
LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, however, will have something to say about that.
“I think Cleveland is as prepared as anybody is going to be and has as much depth and talent and flexibility to play them,” Turner Sports NBA analyst Mike Fratello said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It would not surprise me at all to see this go to a seven-game series. It may come down to a jump-shot from behind the three-part line. To me, it’s a pick-it. I don’t know if it’s the veteran experience and the fact that they’ve been on a mission all year for Golden State that makes the difference, or if it’s the hunger of the Cavaliers to come back at them with a full cast of characters this year and try to prove that they’re the better team.”
We’ll see about better, but the Cavs are certainly the more well-rested team, needing just 14 games to get to the Finals. The Warriors, meanwhile, needed 17 and are coming off a grueling seven-game series with Oklahoma City that may or may not have drained their physical and mental energy, especially after being down 3-1.
It’ll be interesting to see if fatigue plays a factor in the Finals.
“Hasn’t the whole season been about challenges for Golden State?” Fratello asked. “Win 73, break that record, have the first unanimous MVP, have a coach that’s voted Coach of the Year, down 3-1 against Oklahoma City, come back and win that series – they’ve faced pressure the entire season. Some of it’s self-imposed. (Some of it) is from the outside, the media. But sure, there’s been a build-up, this residual effect of time after time having to answer the bell. But now you’re at the final stage. Does that adrenaline play in? Do you get past the fatigue? To me, it’s mentally can they get themselves once again charged up for the seven-game series to zero in and focus in and do all the small things necessary that they obviously didn’t go in Games 3 and 4 against Oklahoma City but came back to do in the last three games?”
Last year, James was a one-man wrecking crew in the Finals, almost single-handedly lifting the Cavs to a 2-1 lead in a series they ultimately lost in six. Cleveland tried to muck up the game as much as possible, slowing each possession to a snail’s pace.
That won’t be the strategy this year, not with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love along for the ride.
“You understand that they’re going to score,” Fratello said of the Warriors. “You have to score points to beat them.”