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NBA Finals Prediction: Cavaliers vs. Warriors

Maya Hughes | 5/31/2015, 12:52 p.m.
The NBA Finals begin on June 4, and while the matchup may not feature teams from major markets, there's no ...

The NBA Finals begin on June 4, and while the matchup may not feature teams from major markets, there's no questioning the appeal of Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors.

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LeBron James

Both the Cavs and Warriors smashed their way through their respective conferences in the playoffs. Cleveland lost just two games en route to the NBA Finals—both to the Chicago Bulls. The Warriors only fell three times, with the Memphis Grizzlies beating them twice and the Houston Rockets once. The Cavs and Warriors are both teams that like to shoot the 3 and do it well. The Warriors were the top defense in the regular season and the Cavs have been the top defense in the postseason.

Team History:

For the Cavaliers, it's their second NBA Finals in franchise history, and their first since their 2007 appearance -- which was led by a 22-year-old LeBron James. For the Warriors, it's their fourth NBA Finals since moving to the Bay Area from Philadelphia and their seventh as a franchise. Their last appearance came in 1975 when the Warriors swept the Bullets.

Prediction:

The Cavs have shown remarkable perseverance this season. They started the year struggling with a 19-20 start. There were rumors about Kevin Love’s unhappiness and coach David Blatt’s fitness for the job. There were also three key players they brought in via in-season trades. Despite the rough start, the Cavs pulled it together and went on a memorable run which has culminated in their 12-2 run through the Eastern Conference. James also has had an incredible ride and in the conference finals with 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.3 assists in the four-game sweep. There’s a lot of momentum and good feeling around this bunch.

But the intangibles that favor the Cavaliers are overwhelmed by the juggernaut the Warriors have been all season. Beyond the obvious perimeter weapons that Steph Curry and Klay Thompson provide, coach Steve Kerr has an impressive array of options he can use against a Cavaliers rotation that is limited without Love. The Cavs bench is limited to point guard Matthew Dellavedova, shooting guard J.R. Smith and small forward James Jones.

They’ll have to go small at times, and no one is going to beat the Warriors by going small. Assuming Marreese Speights is back from his calf injury, Kerr will have a bench of up to six players (Speights, Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston, Festus Ezeli and David Lee) he is comfortable using.

Cleveland has shown some guts in the postseason, and can tape together just enough of a rotation to make this series a great one. But this isn’t the East. Yes, the Warriors are 3-point-loving jump-shooters like Atlanta, but they’re not the Hawks — Golden State was the best defensive team in the league, it's a pretty good rebounding team and it has the NBA’s most versatile rotation. The Cavs’ momentum is not going to be enough to counter that.

Finals TV Schedule:

Game 1: Thursday, June 4, Cleveland at Golden State, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 2: Sunday, June 7, Cleveland at Golden State, 8 p.m., ABC

Game 3: Tuesday, June 9, Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 4: Thursday, June 11, Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 5*: Sunday, June 14, Cleveland at Golden State, 8 p.m., ABC

Game 6*: Tuesday, June 16, Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m., ABC

Game 7*: Friday, June 19, Cleveland at Golden State, 9 p.m., ABC