The cream has risen to the top both in the East and the West once again. LeBron single-handedly willed the Cavs to win the East and the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers proved that there still are no equals in the NBA.
The stage is set for the Cavs vs the Warriors for the 4th consecutive year to determine the 2018 NBA Champion. Two teams meeting for a championship four years in a row has never happened in any professional sports until now. LeBron’s teams have reached the NBA Finals 8 years in a row, a feat that may never be replicated. Despite critics who say they are bored with watching the same teams battle it out again, both teams deserve to be in the Finals… Because they happen to be the best teams in their respective conferences… period…
I also believe that the Celtics and the Rockets were the 2nd best teams in the East and West. Both teams showed their grit by taking the Cavs and Warriors to a seventh game showdown. Both the Celtics and Rockets hosted the seventh game and both started the game strong. In the end, the Cavs and Warriors had the will and the heart and the stamina to finish the job to achieve their goal.
In the East Finals, the Cavs won Game Seven 87-79 after the Celtics got off to a 12 point lead. The Celtics finished the game shooting 34% (29 for 85) while shooting 18% from the 3-point line (7 for 39). Their two hottest 3 point shooters Terry Rozier (0 for 10) and Jaylen Brown (3 for 12) went ice cold. The Cavs shooting wasn’t much better but LeBron carried them to the East Title. The Cavs shot 45% (30 for 66) while shooting 26% (9 for 35) from the 3-point line.
In the West Finals, the Warriors won Game Seven 101-92 after the Rockets started red hot and quickly built a 15 point lead. The Rockets finished the game shooting 40% (36 for 90) while shooting 16% from the 3-point line (7 for 44). This after beginning the game shooting 6 for 14 from the three. From the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. On the other hand, the Warriors shot 49% (39 for 80) and 41% (16 for 39) from the 3-point line.
In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. This is an astounding stat but not totally surprising as the Warriors have repeatedly performed like champions in must-win situations.
Some negative comments that I have regarding the Rockets… They are a bunch of sore losers, from Morey down to their top players. I didn’t see any congratulatory messages from Morey to Lacob. Also, Harden, CP3, and Ariza walked off the court after losing without congratulating the Warrior players. And, when Draymond tried to help Harden off the floor after a fall, Harden shoved him away. Instead of congratulatory messages, the Rockets said that they would have won if CP3 had played. It doesn’t register with them that if Andre Iguodala had played, the Warriors would have won the series in 5 games. In sports, you play with the players that are available to play and may the best team win. In this case, the best team won.
In the Finals, the Warriors are heavy favorites. Having said that, one can never count out a LeBron lead team. May the best team win !!!
Already looking forward to 2019, what will the title pretenders do?
Houston Rockets: Chris Paul (CP3) is 33 years old. He is a premier point guard but will be a free agent. GM Daryl Morey (in his obsession to unseat the Warriors) did a great job this year to build a team capable of competing with the Warriors. The Rockets are at the salary cap and have no draft picks. It’ll be very interesting to see if they offer CP3 a max contract at his age. Additionally, he has a long history of leg injuries proving once again that he can’t endure the rigors of a long season. If they commit to CP3, it will limit what they can do to sign another super-star like LeBron or Paul George. My take on the Rockets is that they will remain as a top competitor in the West but don’t appear likely to unseat the Warriors anytime soon. Also, their philosophy of ISO and live-or-die-by-the-3 makes them an exciting team to watch but in a long series, the better team will figure them out.
Boston Celtics: The Celtics may have over-achieved this year in the playoffs by making it to the East Finals. They did so without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With the return of Kyrie and Hayward and the other young studs that they have (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum) they have the inside track to win the East next year.
There are other good teams who will continue to make the playoffs and make some noise but still aren’t at the same level as the Warriors…
The Cleveland Cavs will literally fall apart if LeBron leaves. They may not even make the playoffs in the weaker East Conference.
The Philly Sixers are an up-and-coming team and will compete against the Celtics for the East Title. This can become a reality if LeBron decides to sign with them. Note: It will not be wise for LeBron to join a team in the West Conference. It’ll break his streak of 8 consecutive years in the Finals.
The NOLA Pelicans can make some noise next year when DeMarcus Cousins returns. He with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are an awesome trio but they have little else.
The OKC Thunder struck out trying to build a super-team with the signings of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Good individual players but sucky team players.
Finally, you know that the Warriors will not stand pat. They will keep their core four together (Steph, KD, Klay, and Draymond) but everyone else (including Andre) may not be on the team next year. Do not be surprised if they go after free agent DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers. They need a dominant Center and Jordan is a great fit for the Warriors’ pick-and-roll style of play. DeAndre and KD are best friends so I’m sure there are some player recruiting going on. Zaza, JaVale and David West likely will not return next year. To make room for DeAndre, the Warriors may have to sadly say good-bye to Andre and Shaun. The three young players that the Warriors will likely retain are Quinn Cook, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell. I would love to see the Warriors do something to keep Kevon Looney, but he may have played so well, he’ll command a good payday from another team. Back in October of 2017, they decided not to pick up Looney’s 4th year option for 2.2 million but did pick up Damien Jones’ 3rd year option for 1.5 million. The 700k financial decision may come back to haunt the Warriors but at that time, they had no idea that Looney would have such a positive impact. Regardless, the Warriors are the team that all other teams will be chasing for years to come.