Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Tonight is the start of the NBA Finals, featuring the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors for the fourth straight year. It is quite obviously a lopsided matchup, but I'll break down what I think will eventually happen and what'll guide both teams to victory. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow, and make sure to comment any questions or topics you'd like to hear about.
Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:
I think that the biggest thing to understand when looking at this series is that nothing is a given. Injuries happen, sloppy play happens, and miracles happen. A family member of mine reminded me of a Finals not too long ago where there was a situation sort of similar to this one, when the Shaq-Kobe Lakers (the heavy, heavy, favorites) were stunned by the Detroit Pistons, who were led by Chauncy Billups. The Lakers housed four future Hall of Famers, and yet couldn't win the series. What I see in this series is four Warriors Hall of Famers, and one LeBron James. LeBron, being LeBron, can pull this off if the Warriors aren't careful.
Along those same lines, I think that the ball is in Golden State's court right now; they can either get together as a team and say "We are going to sweep this pathetic Cavs roster," or they can lose interest, take their position for granted, and find themselves tied 2-2 in a week and a half. I see the Warriors entering this series with the former mindset, but we've seen this team lose interest this year, costing them games. I think the media's doubting of the Warrior's dynasty after a close call in Houston will inspire a killer mindset in the Warriors though, so I'll let you know right now, I have them winning in five games. I think it has to be pointed out though, that teams in their position have made terrible mistakes in the past.
Now that my digression is out of the way, I'll talk about what I see as being the keys to victory for both teams. On the Warriors end of things, I think it's simple: play defense. LeBron is going to be LeBron, but it's his supporting cast that will decide games. If the Warriors can close out on the Cavs three point shooters and not allow James any help, then there is no way Cleveland comes away with this series. Kyle Korver can be deadly and change the course of games, so making sure he and the other shooters (like my man J.R. Swish) don't heat up is important.
The Warriors also have to avoid doing something I talked about in a previous post, which is playing hero ball. Kevin Durant had a ton of isolation plays against the Rockets, breaking the fluid ball movement and three point shooting tendencies we always see out of the Warriors. That can't happen in this series, and the more the Warriors play their game, the more likely they are to win. Someone will be hot every night so keeping the ball moving will ensure that everyone gets a few wide open looks, and the hot hand gets more quality looks. I'm okay with Durant getting the iso call when it's time for a dagger, but otherwise I think more ball movement gives the Warriors a win.
On the Cavaliers end of things I think one thing and one thing only decides this series: three point shooting. LeBron James is a playmaker, and his ability to dish out the ball when driving to the basket to open shooters is incredible. If the supporting cast can knock down those shots it takes some of the scoring load off of James, allowing him to spend more energy on the defensive end. That would be huge for the Cavs since they'll need all of the help they can get trying to stop the four All Stars of Golden State.
Since I feel bad about being so concise with the key for the Cavs victory, I'll mention something that I think will help Cleveland immensely this series. His name is Caughta Cheater...wait sorry Tristan Thompson. Thompson, despite his complicated off court love life, is a beast on the basketball court, and I think one of the best offensive rebounders in the game. He's also a bruiser and a big body, which Golden State has trouble defending against. When Houston said they were built specifically to beat Golden State, a big part of that system was Clint Capela. Having a dominant center against the Warriors, who have a serious hole at center, is a big plus, and I think Thompson could have a big series. Part of the reason he's on such an expensive contract is because of his great play in the Finals against the Warriors a couple years ago, so I think getting him the ball on offense and his defensive presence could be huge.
Just to reiterate what I said earlier, I see the Warriors taking home the Championship in five games. I think that both teams are capable of winning the Finals, and what I said about the Cavs could very easily happen, but I'm not willing to pick against possibly the best scoring lineup ever created. I think that the keys I brought up for the Warriors are much more attainable for them than those I brought up for Cleveland, just because of what I've seen so far this year, making me much more inclined to take Golden State in a lopsided victory. Hopefully I'll have time to break down a lot of the games as this series progresses, but if not at least you can keep an eye out on how what I've brought up impacts the series.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals have made their way through four games in the respective series, so now is the time to look back at what's worked and what hasn't for each of the four teams. With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics tied up at two apiece, and the Golden State Warriors and Rockets also in a 2-2 deadlock, the Conference Finals have now become a best of three series. I'll be looking at what can be done by all four teams to emerge victorious, and also give my updated predictions for who will be moving on to the Finals. Make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow, and leave a comment if there is anything you want me to discuss in the next article.
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:
This series is much easier to break down than Rockets Warriors, because this series isn't a combination of analytics and great basketball balancing each other on the two most talented rosters in the NBA; this is one incredibly coached team having to deal with one more-than-incredible player. That player, LeBron James, has caused a lot of talk the past two weeks. This series, after the first two games in Boston, was called "over" and "finished" and "done" by varying people on national television. Boston, with a two to nothing lead, was already being called victorious, and people were predicting which team LeBron would go to next. Now, though, it's tied up at two apiece and the talk has shifted to whether Boston has a shot to pull this series out. I, during this media overreaction, sat calmly and laughed, because apparently people who dedicate their lives to analyzing sports don't understand how sports work. NBA series are designed to give the better team the advantage of starting the series with the lead, but then giving the worse team a chance to tie things up, although the pressure will be on: that's the whole basis behind the 2,2,1,1,1 home court system. Boston was supposed to come out with a two game lead, because THEY had home court advantage, not the Cavs. So now that the Cavs won their two home games, I can confidently say that everyone needs to chill out, because you know what's supposed to happen next--Boston is now supposed to reclaim the lead. This series isn't over by any stretch of the imagination, and since my prediction was Cavs in seven, I'm not going to freak out whichever way this next game goes. Boston, by design, should win since they're at home, but if not, they, being the "better team" (based on seeding), should be able to win in Cleveland and force a Game 7. So I guess my message, before I break down some specifics from the first four games, is that everyone needs to chill out; by design these series are built to last seven games, and although certain games hold series implications, we've seen comebacks on multiple occasions throughout NBA history.
Okay, so onto why this series is sitting at two games apiece. Like I said earlier, LeBron James is a one man wrecking crew who can singlehandedly ruin a teams chances of winning any given game. Right now, we are witnessing that happen. LeBron in the last two games understood that it was time for Cleveland to respond, and he turned things on. In Game 4 LeBron had 44 points and shot 61% from the field. In case you didn't know, that's ridiculous. LeBron had a more pedestrian first two games, and the Celtics provided the pressure defensively. These last two games though the Cavs have shot out to huge leads at the beginning of games. The Celtics, being a well coached team, have fought back, but some of the deficits they are seeing are too much to surmount. The Celtics need to be better defensively in transition at the start of games to stop the huge scoring burst in the first couple of minutes, and they need to just shake some of their nerves. The Celtics roster is incredibly young, and some of their most important players are just out of college. This is a big stage to have to perform on, and you can see the small discomfort at the beginning of games.
For the Cavs, in order to keep winning, which I think they'll be able to do, their role players need to keep showing up. LeBron is great at driving to the basket and kicking the ball out to shooters for open threes, and if the Cavs can keep sinking them (they made 50% in Game 3 and 36% in Game 4) then things will be a wrap. The Celtics are great defensively, but LeBron takes a lot of attention to guard, so if everyone else makes Boston pay for their lack of attention on the role players, than the Cavs will be set. Big performances from LeBron and solid backing from another two or three players is enough against this young Celtics team. Cleveland should be confident heading in to these final three games.
I've already mentioned it, but I'll say it again. I previously picked the Cavs to make the Finals, and then to beat the Celtics, and I'm still sticking by that. I can't go against LeBron James right now, and especially since it's a three game series, I don't see James losing. He just needs two more huge games, and he'll be back in the Finals. I'm sticking with my pick of Cavs in seven, and no matter what happens in Game 5, I'll keep that pick. Hold me to it.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors:
I really hate it when people blatantly lie, knowing well that everything they're saying is false. You can see it on their face a lot of the time too--it's in their facial expression that they know what they're saying is blatantly not true. I keep seeing that facial expression in Mike D'Antoni's post game press conferences. After a Rockets loss, D'Antoni sits their and says how the Rockets will continue playing their style of basketball since he knows it can beat the Warriors. Game 2, which was an impressive defeat of Golden State, was followed by D'Antoni telling everyone how nothing changed. I'm dead serious when I say this: I laughed out loud. The Rockets went from playing all iso basketball, James Harden hero ball, and shooting late in the shot clock to ball movement, early shots, and spreading the ball around. They played like the Warriors basically. It was easy to see while watching the game, and then D'Antoni followed it up by pretending like it was "his" system that beat Golden State, when really they just emulated what had previously beaten them. Game 4 was the same situation. After a disgusting 41 point blowout victory for Golden State in Game 3, the Rockets came out and once again reverted to Warriors style basketball. The ball was spread around (James Harden was basically the entire offense in the first half, but when it came down to crunch time everybody was getting their touches, and it was Chris Paul who hit the big shots), and the Rockets had their best defensive game of the season. The defensive intensity at the end of the game was nothing I've ever seen out of the Rockets (it's something I see out of the Warriors all the time), and their willingness to spread the ball around the perimeter and dish the ball off of drives to the basket was not a page out of their own book. Of course, Houston went on to win an incredible game by three points, tying the series at 2-2. I lost a lot of respect for Mike D'Antoni because of his unwillingness to admit his change in coaching style once he saw they couldn't win the way that they usually play.
Someone I am gaining respect for, though, is James Harden. He has, time and time again, come up small in the Playoffs, but in Game 4 he came up huge in the first half, helping the Rockets avoid being blown out. Another person I'm gaining respect for is Chris Paul. He also just had one of the biggest moments of his career, as he closed out the Warriors who were surging backing into the game late in the fourth quarter. Paul hit a lot of huge shots, and played like the big time player he is. I'm not fans of either of these players, but they deserve respect for their respective performances in the Rockets wins this series.
On the Warriors end of things, they just need to keep doing what they do best. Steph Curry has looked great these last two games, and the Warriors need to keep running the offense through him. If they can execute their fluid ball movement more often, then I think things are a wrap for Houston. The issue has been when Curry and/or Thompson is off the floor, and the Warriors try to isolate Kevin Durant too much. KD has been spectacular, playing incredibly pretty much every night of the Playoffs, and his isolation game has been incredible this series. The issue, though, is that eventually he's going to have to miss a couple of shots, and those are the possessions that the Rockets take advantage of and grow their lead. When Durant is taking every shot, everyone else is getting out of sync offensively and the shot quality decreases. If the Warriors can avoid falling into this cycle again, than the team should perform more consistently offensively.
As for my pick right now, I'm sticking with my selection of the Warriors. I think that they can win another one in Houston, but last night's Game 4 loss was a huge blow. They had the win in their grasp but lost it, meaning that they have to win two out of four games in Houston this Playoffs. I don't care who you are, but winning anywhere outside of your home court twice in the course of one series is difficult, and the Warriors are going to have to do that. I still believe in their ability to come up big though, and if Steph, Klay, Dray, and Durant can continue their excellence and play with fluidity, than they should be able to take home the win in seven games.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. After a very quick round of Conference Semifinals series, all of which ended in at most five games, it's time for the NBA Conference Finals. In the East, the Boston Celtics continue to surprise the league with their incredible play despite not having their two best players, and the Cavaliers continue rolling behind LeBron James's incredible play. In the West, the inevitable match up of the NBA's two best teams, the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, will be possibly more watched than the actual Finals. Both should be very interesting series, and at least one should come down to seven games. Today I want to give my predictions and my preview for both series, and hopefully inform some of you who are on the fence about who to pick yourselves.
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers:
This series has serious implications for the future of the NBA. Boston, without their two best players, has been so good that they're one of the top four teams in the NBA right now. With the return of Kyrie and Hayward, this team could be possibly the best in the NBA. If LeBron manhandles this young roster, though, we could see some acquisitions for more established players in the NBA. On the Cavs side of things, if this roster can't beat a cripples Celtics team, then LeBron James will 99% not be returning. The Celtics with Kyrie and Hayward would kill this Cleveland team, so there will be zero reason for LeBron to return if they can't beat Boston right now.
Back to the present, this series should be incredibly fun to watch. I think it's going to go seven games, and I think it should be close every night. The biggest concern for the Cavs has been players besides LeBron stepping up and scoring the basketball, but in their sweep of the Raptors, on multiple occasions other players were helping take on that scoring load. If they keep that up in this series, LeBron will have a lot less pressure on his shoulders, allowing him to be more present defensively. On the Celtics end of things, they should be a little worried about what happened to the Raptors. I thought that the Toronto Cleveland series was going to be close because of Toronto's depth counteracting LeBron, but their depth didn't do anything to help. I think partially DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry's underwhelming play had more to do with the Raptors struggles than the depth, but what does that say for the Celtics? The Celtics don't have star players at all, and if depth isn't effective against Cleveland than Boston is rendered ineffective. Boston does have one thing going for them that the Raptors didn't though, which is why I'm calling this a seven game series. That thing is Brad Stevens.
Brad Stevens (incoming: hot take) is the best coach in the NBA right now. I don't care what people say, but Stevens is doing more right now with what he has than what Gregg Popovich did with the Spurs, who I think have a better roster right now than the Celtics. Pop still had star players like LaMarcus Aldridge, while Stevens is working with a ton of people on rookie contracts. Stevens ability to draw up plays and prepare his team in the final moments of games has been incredible these Playoffs, as we've seen on multiple occasions. Stevens should keep Boston in this series, especially with his great game planning going up against LeBron. There is no way to stop LeBron James, but the way Stevens creates matchups to hinder star players is incredible; his placement of Al Horford on Ben Simmons defensively made it hard for Simmons to finish inside (cause Simmons can't shoot for his life) and it left the more athletic players to guard the other shooters on the court surrounding the passing proficient Simmons. Philly was minus 63 when Ben Simmons was on the floor in that series. Yeah. If he can do anything to slow down LeBron or the surrounding members of the Cavs, then Boston can win this series.
I'm personally picking the Cavs to win, since they were my pick to go to the Finals out of the East from the beginning. I don't like Boston being treated like the underdog though, because people need to remember how poor the Cavs looked just a week or two ago against the Pacers. That version of the Cavs could show up at any moment. I just can't pick against LeBron, though, so I'm taking Cleveland in a thrilling series.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors:
Welcome to the NBA Finals everyone...wait what?...the two best teams aren't playing in the Finals?...why are they playing in the Western Conference Finals?...that must mean the East is garbage...oh the East is garbage...okay thanks. So yeah, the real matchup of the leagues two best teams in now, not later. The Warriors, who everyone hates now for some reason, and the Rockets, who I think are way more hatable, are facing off in what should be an intense series. Houston and Golden State play very different styles of basketball which to me is funny since the Rockets claim to have been built specifically to beat Golden State. Golden State is one of the top assisting teams in the NBA, as well as one of the top defensive teams in the league. Houston is near the bottom in both categories. Houston shoots more threes than anybody else, and they play more isolation basketball than the rest of the NBA. The Warriors are obviously known for their three point shooting, but don't shoot as many as Houston, and they also are towards the bottom of the NBA in iso basketball.
When thinking about who to pick, this difference in style of play made things easy for me. The Warriors without intentionally doing so, are built to beat the Rockets. The reason the Warriors were so successful and historic was that they brought in a new wave of basketball, which was high percentage three point attempts and makes. This along with their selfless system destroyed teams built on iso basketball since they could outscore them for days, and the Warriors defense was also huge for them. Against the Rockets, at team with two Hall of Fame guards, things will not be so easy, but the general ideas surrounding what made the Warriors work was that they were the opposite of iso heavy teams.
This is not to say that this series won't be close though. This series is going seven games, and I think there won't be a game decided by more than ten points, but there are issues with what the Rockets are right now. James Harden has been given a huge pass from the media this Postseason, as he has been producing considerably less then what he did during the regular season. His field goal percent has only been 40%, and his three point sits at 34%. He's still averaging 28.5 ppg, but he's struggling shooting the ball, and against a really good defensive team like the Warriors, thinks could get shaky. One thing I love for the Rockets right now, though, is Clint Capela. The Warriors most effective lineup is "The Hamptons Five" which consists of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Iguodala, and Green. This lineup should struggle defensively against someone as good as Capela though, especially since Capela is a great post player. If Capela forces the Warriors to use a center a lot, and "The Hamptons Five" says off the floor, Houston will have a better chance against Golden State.
Overall though, I just like the Warriors more in the series. The style of play, the inconsistency with Harden, and the overall pedigree of Golden State point to them winning this series. When I first made my Playoff picks I reserved the right to make my pick until now since I said everything depended upon Steph Curry's health, and to me he looks great. He's playing at what seems to be 100%, and the effect that has on everyone else is amazing. Warriors, in an incredibly close seven game series, move on to the Finals for a fourth straight year against LeBron James and the Cavs.
Welcome to the Truda Report everybody. Today I want to talk a little bit about some of the bigger stories related to the NBA Conference Semifinals. If you want any specific topics for the next article comment them down below, and also make sure to share this article as it helps TTR grow.
Brad Stevens vs. The Process:
This Celtics vs. Sixers series is going to be really fun. Honestly, it shouldn't be though. If the Celtics were anywhere close to healthy, they would destroy Philadelphia. The teams two best players, both All Stars, are injured. If you want to accept that Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward are injured though, then think about this as well: if anyone but Brad Stevens was the Celtics coach, the Sixers would be destroying the Celtics. Brad Stevens has coached up possibly the best defense in all of the NBA, and despite having a crippled roster, the Celtics continue to win. There is no denying that the team's young role players have stepped up in huge ways, but this is more than just individual performances. Guys like Terry Rozier, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford all deserve their due respect, but without Brad Stevens at the helm this team would not still be in the Playoffs. The Milwaukee Bucks were not an easy out, and watching the Celtics handle their business in Game 7 of that series says a lot about Stevens as a coach. Getting a young, inexperienced team to play like polished veterans is not easy, but he's making it work. Also, when you watch the Celtics play, at least three or four times a game I can't help but say, "That was an incredible play call" (or design). Stevens has done an excellent job with this team, and he has the looks of an early-stages all time great coach.
Quickly, I think I should address the Sixers. I said in my Playoff predictions that I had the Sixers beating the Celtics in this round, but I'd like to specify here that I think this series is going seven games. I also think that each team is going to have to win a game on the road this series, because although Boston is great on their home floor, the Sixers are by far the more talented team. Having just said that, I think now would be a good time to tell everyone to stop being suckers and hop off of the Sixers bandwagon. All that I've been hearing since Kyrie Irving went down injured was how the Sixers have been spectacular, and how the Sixers are the next great Eastern Conference dynasty, and how they don't need LeBron James to be great. Just so you know, I laugh hysterically every time I hear an analyst say something like that. Brad Stevens is the best coach in the East, and a top two coach in the league, and the Celtics roster is the third best in the league when fully healthy. We are seeing right now how good they are without their best players, so once you those two back into the equation, not only will they be a great starting five, but they'll be deep. So, if the Sixers are going to struggle with THIS Celtics team, there is no way they are what everyone is hyping them up to be. I'm still taking Philly to win in seven, but after Game 1, I'm not very confident in that pick. Game 2 will be telling.
LeBron Got Help?
The Cleveland Cavaliers stole Game 1 last night in Toronto, and despite LeBron James's triple double, he didn't take over in the way he usually does. He didn't really need to. For the first time all Playoffs, it looked like the Cleveland Cavaliers were playing, not LeBron James and four bums. When this team helps out LeBron, Toronto is going to struggle. The Raptors strength is their depth while the Cavs strength is that they have arguably the best player ever, so when the two teams hold those molds it's a pretty even match up. If the Cavs role players are going to keep stepping up though, then Cleveland can easily win this series. They already stole a game in Toronto, so now it's the Raptors with the pressure on their shoulders. I had the Cavs winning this series in seven games in my initial picks, but I was starting to question that after the way Cleveland looked in the first round. If the Cavs can replicate what they did last night though, then I stick with my pick, and I like the Cavs season continuing on.
Steph Curry's Return:
I saw a lot of panicking about the Warriors-Pelicans series, with people saying that New Orleans was going to take this seven games. People overreact a lot, because they only look at what is directly in front of them. They saw a Warriors team that isn't their best self (because of an injured Steph Curry) playing a New Orleans team that looked like the best they've been all year. I saw Curry being out for one game, and then coming back to help the Warriors end the series in five games. Right now, I'm hearing a lot of that from everybody else as well. After Curry's incredible return last night (28 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, +26 plus minus, all in 27 minutes) now suddenly people are realizing what the Warriors are again. This team in practically unstoppable when everyone can play, and although the Rockets are going to pose a challenge, the Pelicans aren't the Rockets. Curry doesn't have to play 40 minutes against new Orleans to have an impact, because clearly what he did last night was enough. Everyone needs to chill out with their impulsive reactions, and go with what history has shown us. What history tells me is that the Warriors are more than fine, and Steph Curry is going to take this team far into the Playoffs.
High School Senior from Connecticut obsessed with sports stats, facts, and management.