The Golden State Warriors have returned to the NBA Finals for a third showdown on the bounce against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in the Finals in 2015, securing their first championship in 40 years, capitalising on injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.
Cleveland responded last season by snatching the prospect of back-to-back titles from under the noses of Steve Kerr’s men.
The Bay Area outfit put themselves in a dominant position, only to crumble and surrender a 3-1 lead to the Cavaliers, allowing them to claim their maiden crown.
Golden State created history last season with a 72-win campaign and were touted to break that record this term following the addition of Kevin Durant.
Although they narrowly missed out on the feat, Kerr’s men are in an excellent position to atone for their defeat to the Cavs and reclaim their title, staking a claim for a NBA dynasty.
The Warriors have been flawless thus far in the playoffs after earning the number one seed ahead of the San Antonio Spurs.
Kerr’s men brushed aside the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the post-season without having to break out of first gear.
The Utah Jazz were stoic in their defense in the Conference Semi-Finals, but the quality of the Warriors’ offensive play was too much too fend off, securing another sweep.
The Spurs were expected to mount a series challenge for the Western Conference crown, and were well on their way in the first game.
Kawhi Leonard had his side on top at Oracle Arena, only to suffer an unfortunate ankle injury which turned the tide in the favour of Golden State.
The Warriors capitalised on his absence to secure their place in the Finals with their third sweep on the bounce.
Golden State boast four of the most talented players in the NBA as part of their starting line-up. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Durant are one of the most formidable foursomes to be placed together on court and has resulted in another dominant surge to the Finals.
The presence of Durant has made the club almost unstoppable on offense. Even the Jazz – who boasted the best defense in the NBA this season could not stop the Warriors when they were in full flow, with Kerr’s men reaching over 100 points in all of their four matches against Utah.
The 2014 MVP has added an extra dimension to Golden State’s form of attack. His direct approach to the net has alleviated the pressure on Curry and Thompson on the flanks to have almost free reign in their ability to shoot for threes with regularity.
Durant’s injury during the campaign did have an impact on the Warriors during February and March, but his return to the fold has come at the right time and he was instrumental in seeing off the Spurs.
Momentum played a huge role in their series win, with the defining moment seemingly arriving in the first contest. Leonard and San Antonio had built a healthy lead at Oracle Arena, but once he left with his injury – it was Durant who led the charge to reel in their advantage and snatch the win.
Curry was at the peak of his powers as well as Thompson and Green to dominate the rest of the series.
Should they remain at that level throughout the Finals then it will put huge amounts of pressure on the Cavaliers to match them score-for-score, which should play right into the hands of the Bay Area outfit.
Even though Golden State went on to dominate the Spurs in the Conference Finals – there was a time in the first game of the series when they were well and truly on the back foot.
Leonard had inspired the Spurs into a comfortable lead at Oracle Arena and had the Warriors rocking in the third quarter. However, his ankle injury turned the course of the match and the series, allowing Golden State to pick off a shell-shocked San Antonio side with relative ease.
The Cavaliers have the players to expose them once again, especially if LeBron James was to get on a roll. The Bay Area outfit have not played the 32-year-old well over the past couple of years.
When he alone tried to inspire Cleveland to victory in 2015 – he had his moments despite being surrounded by little quality.
In Tyronn Lue’s men’s victory last year, he seized the initiative to inspire his team to a comeback victory – once he was in full rhythm the Warriors had no answer to stop him.
One of the reasons why James was allowed to shine was his battle against Green. The Warriors man lost his cool in game four and was suspended for game five of the series, which allowed the Cavs’ forward to find his form and snatch the championship.
That battle will be crucial once again in deciding the outcome of the Finals. Should James dominate then the Cavaliers will believe they can beat Golden State once again, but if the Warriors forward is disciplined in his play then it could be enough swing the contest in the favour of Kerr’s men.
The Warriors are seen as the leading contenders for the crown and their form in the playoffs thus far sees them deservedly earn that title. Even without the presence of Kerr on the sideline, who has been suffering from a back injury, they’ve brushed aside all comers in the post-season.
After a slight cause for concern in game one of their series against the Spurs, they’ve found their form since and will be determined to avenge their defeat in the Finals last term.
Their offense got off to a blistering start against the Cavs in 2016, but they were slowed down over the course of the Finals and James and Irving punished them later in the series.
The presence of Durant should abate that factor, giving Cleveland too much to contend with to match their scoring prowess. The quality of James, Irving and Love should make it a tight contest, therefore Golden State cannot afford to rest on their laurels.
However, their quality should shine through – as a result backing them at -133 with 188Bet is the option to take. Punters should also consider the scoreline for the Warriors to win 4-2 with Coral at an impressive value of +500 .
Durant was forced to watch the Finals last time around, but he will be the impact player. At odds of +200 with SkyBet he is a good bet to win the MVP award.
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