MANILA, Philippines – Well, here we go again.
After facing unlikely and seemingly insurmountable odds depending on where you look, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off in the NBA Finals for the 4th straight season. Both teams overcame a grueling best-of-7 series in the Conference Finals and won Game 7 on the road.
Let’s run the numbers and see if anything will change this time around.
Two – the most telling number of them all. The Warriors already won two titles against the Cavaliers – one in 2015 and the other in 2017. They were even one game away from a potential back-to-back title win in 2016, but like all the tired-out memes said, Golden State blew a 3-1 lead.
This year, the Eastern Conference Champions are facing odds unlike ever before, as LeBron James will look to break his back even more to carry the Cavaliers to another title. The media already dubbed LeBron’s support cast as the weakest since 2007, and the Warriors still have Kevin Durant. You do the math from there.
"Other" Cavaliers in 1st Quarter: 2-9 FG 0-5 uncontested FG https://t.co/RNHD5myaIw — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2018
No, that is not LeBron James’ points per game (PPG) average. He’s currently at 34 PPG (points per game) – the 3rd highest playoff points average in NBA history.
The 33.4 mark is is the PPG average of the next 3 players in the Cavaliers roster combined, namely Kevin Love (13.9), Kyle Korver (9.8) and George Hill (9.7).
Not even the scoring of 3 players combined surpass one LeBron James. In comparison, Golden State, as usual, has no shortage of buckets from their ranks. Kevin Durant (28.7), Steph Curry (24.6) and Klay Thompson (20.6) all clear the 20 PPG mark. Throw in a Draymond Green (11.2) while we’re at it.
That sounds like a lot, but James averages 34.9 PPG in Game 7s, the most in NBA history. He already has seven games of 40+ points, one shy of tying the NBA record for a single postseason. https://t.co/zkSBKynRYH — ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 28, 2018
For clarification, plus-minus is a stat that determines how one team or player is better at scoring than the other. For example, if James Harden and Steph Curry play one-on-one and Harden wins 21-15, that means he is +6 while Curry is -6.
With that out of the way, here is the breakdown on the Warriors’ plus-minus as a team per quarter this postseason.
Warriors' cumulative postseason plus-minus, by quarter... 1st: +1 2nd: +9 3rd: +130 4th: +10 https://t.co/JeoDVj79zO — John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) May 29, 2018
Yes, the Warriors have outscored opponents in 3rd quarters in the playoffs by 130 points. That is not a typo and should scare the Cavaliers even more than they already are. Golden State is basically unbeatable coming off halftime. The Houston Rockets missed an NBA-playoff record 27 straight threes in Game 7 out of desperation to stop the predictable, factory line-like dominance of a regular Golden State third quarter.
It’s a long-standing fact that the Warriors, with Steph Curry in the lead, is revolutionizing the way basketball is played. It doesn’t matter whether the change is for better or worse. What matters is that Golden State is winning championships with their formula, which is basically play small and shoot threes.
This year, it seems that they’re taking small ball to a whole new level, as 15.4 is the combined playoff minutes per game (MPG) average of their established centers JaVale McGee (11.4) and Zaza Pachulia (4). This is the lowest MPG average of Golden State’s centers in the 4 years that they have been in the finals.
Every year, this number has decreased, from 39.1 MPG in 2015, to 33.8 in 2016 and finally, 23.4 in 2017 – a 10.4 MPG decrease after Kevin Durant hopped the bandwagon.
30 x 35. #DubNation pic.twitter.com/NePADSEBjn — NBA (@NBA) May 29, 2018
Mirroring the Warriors’ lineups may just give the Cavs a little boost matchups-wise. This means we might see more of Jeff Green and Larry Nance, Jr. while Tristan Thompson rides the bench a little longer.
The Cavs will need all the strategical advantages they can get, because pure talent (basically LeBron James) alone simply won’t cut it in another best-of-7 series. – Rappler.com