In early March I predicted a Cleveland-Golden State NBA Finals, and seeing one game of Round 1 is all I need to reaffirm my admittedly chalk pick. But I also said I didn’t think Stephen Curry was then a shoe-in for MVP, and that’s a pick I’ll now renege on.
No. 1 seed Golden State beat No. 8 seed New Orleans 106-99 in Game 1, but the Warriors led by 25 in the third and the game wasn’t ever close. Curry dropped 34 and willed the win over Anthony Davis and the Pelicans with the help of a team field goal percentage of 45.7 and 47 team rebounds.
Davis, who leads the league in blocks, was locked down nearly the whole game by Draymond Green (15 points) and Andrew Bogut (12 points) underneath, but he managed to score 20 late in the fourth that made it seem more of a contest than it was.
With Curry shooting lights out and backed by the league’s best defense, nothing but a meltdown could obstruct the Warriors’ championship-bound path.
Golden State is 39-2 in Oakland this year and has won its last 19 home games, so the top seed should bolster its lights-out performances.
I’m sticking with the Cavs as my pick from the East as well. The No. 2 seed topped seventh seed Boston 113-100 in Cleveland’s first playoff game since Game 5 in 2010 when the Celtics ended LeBron’s shot at a hometown title run.
But James is back with a vengeance now, scoring 20 to accompany Kyrie Irving’s playoff-debut 30 points and Kevin Love’s 19 points and 12 rebounds. It’s not the “Big 3” Miami had, but 69 combined points to start the playoffs is a good omen.
Cleveland led by 20 late in the third and 15 going into the fourth. Boston’s point guard Isaiah Thomas had 22 points, though, his performance was overshadowed by the Cavs win.
LeBron has played in 158 postseason games, which is more than the Celtics’ entire roster put together. Experience and all-around better players will help the Cavs zoom through Round 1.
The Cavs and Warriors are the odds-on bets to make the Finals; however, I see the No. 1 seed Atlanta in the East and the No. 3 seed LA in the West testing both teams in the conference finals.
The Clippers are led by power forward Blake Griffin’s 21.9 points per game and point guard Chris Paul’s 10.2 assists per game. LA’s younger talent will wear out the Spurs in Round 1, and No. 1 seed Houston won’t have enough fire power to oust the Clips, who are second in the league in points and assists per game.
James Harden has scored or assisted on 42 percent of the Rockets’ points, but I can’t see him shouldering his team to the Finals with LA standing in the way.
So I’m calling the Round 2 upset in the West. But that’s as far as I’m letting the underdog go; The Golden Suns will put down LA in five.
The 1-2 matchup in the East shouldn’t disappoint, and I’ll take the Cavs over the Hawks in six.
Paul Millsap, who is coming off a shoulder injury for Atlanta, will be forced to man up on LeBron. Millsap leads his team with 7.8 rebounds a game, and the Hawks are 28th in the league in team rebounding.
Thus overmatched in the paint, the Cavs should bully the top seed out of the playoffs.
I had expected Curry to slow down at this point, but right now he’s built up a full head of steam that he’s looking to charge into the Finals with.
Although I’m putting all my eggs in the Curry-for-MVP basket, you still want the ball in LeBron’s hands during crunch time.
James is too good, and Cleveland needs this championship too much to roll over before claiming it.
Cavs over the Warriors in seven.