Editorials — June 4, 2015 17:53 — 0 Comments

NBA Finals Predictions Game 1

Willie Fitzgerald, Spike Friedman, Shaun Scott and I (Jake) love basketball and love the NBA. We’ll be riveted tonight watching the first game of what could be one of the greatest Finals matchups in recent history. Leading up to the show, we couldn’t help but offer our predictions. Here they are:


Willie Fitzgerald: Right off the bat: who ya got in this series? This game? Let’s preserve our foolishness for posterity.

Spike Friedman: This interminable week of pre-Finals hype has revealed this to be amongst the lowest stakes NBA Finals for me as a neutral. Both of these franchises are long suffering, the stars involved are all decent guys with extraordinary skills (I never much cottoned to the post-Decision LeBron lambasting), the coaches are Steve Kerr and the most important Jewish member of the NBA outside of the commissioner’s office. I mean, what is there to root against here?

Well, a short series for one.

This year’s Golden State team has treated us to a magical season; I abhor the thought that we will not get at least 6 more games of Warriors basketball. And I don’t want to bank on the being the same team next year.

The recent run of Seahawks success aside, I’m no sports optimist. The Warriors may be well constructed to continue their run for at least another year, but I remember how fragile Steph’s ankles were, how close Klay was to getting dealt to Minnesota, how fragile Bogut is, how much of a diva Harrison Barnes can be, how entropy dominates the universe etc. Everything we love about this Warriors team could evaporate like so many thunderclouds above Oklahoma City. We must suck all the marrow of joy out of the bones of this Warriors team now. A Steph Curry Finals game in the hand is worth two hypothetical Stpeh Curry Finals games in a profoundly uncertain future. So I’m rooting against a W’s sweep.

I guess I should back up… I think the Warriors will win comfortably. Everything about this matchup has a Seahawks/Broncos feel to it. The stats say the Warriors are historically great, they’re the healthier team, they have an offense designed to pick apart the strengths of the Cavs, and without Kevin Love stretching the floor I don’t see how the Cavs can open up the interior of Golden State’s defense. Sure, LeBron could happen in a seismic way, or an injury could happen, or I could be an idiot. But even all three of those factors coming into play may not be enough to derail the W’s. That’s how good they are.

I’m sure the W’s want a sweep. And I’m sure they’re capable. But I’m greedy and selfish. W’s win tonight, but take the series in six.

Jake Uitti: My heart says LeBron and the Cavs in 7, but my brain says Warriors in 6. I find myself pulling for James – for some reason I want him to get ring after ring and finish with 6 or 7 championships. Maybe so that I can say I saw him do it, maybe so those people who criticize him for the Heat press conference way back when will hush up. I remember being a kid and not pulling for Jordan’s greatness (maybe partially because I was a Utah Jazz fan, oddly enough) so it feels weird in a way to want it for LeBron.

On the other hand, Steph is as fluid with the basketball as anyone ever. He would leap into the conversation of best point guards and he seems like a great dude. I’m gonna go with my mind and say Warriors in 6 but my heart will be pulling for LBJ.

Oh, and I got Cavs tonight in a razor close game. 97-95.

Shaun Scott: I’m pulling for LeBron as well, and my reasons are political: he’s gone to bat repeatedly for a definitive Civil Rights issue of the 21st century by unapologetically brandishing black hoodies and “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts these last few years. When the Heat won their second championship, he made a point to self-identify as “a kid from inner-city Akron.” As a kid from inner-city Queens, that meant a lot to me.

I think historians will look back on all the flack he took for exercising his right to work wherever he pleased as a generational referendum: for once, in the throes of neoliberalism, a (Millennial) athlete figured out how to use his talent to game a system that was meant to keep him on a series of short-term, exploitative contracts. The rest of us temps should all be so lucky. Like James, a lot of us have to play multiple roles/positions at work because management is too cheap to spend a little more money for employees who’ll round out the team. Why sign a competent point guard, small forward, or head coach when LeBron can fulfill all those roles at a discount? I think James is a transcendent persona on more levels that we suspect.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I want to see Ohio’s redemption narrative fulfilled with a token achievement like an NBA Championship. I’m reminded of how Drew Brees’ triumph in the Super Bowl in 2009 was sentimentally linked to Hurricane Katrina as a feel-good football story. I can already see the “Prodigal Son Fulfills Regional Promise” headlines about a Cavs championship, and all the ways that major media will invite us feel better about deindustrialization’s ravages in the midwest. Just picture Don Lemon reporting live from the championship parade on the streets of downtown Cleveland, “where obviously, the smell of marijuana is in the air.”

So for equally political reasons, I kinda want to see the Cavs smashed to pieces. Life in Cleveland is hell for many because of chronic joblessness and federal abandonment. All the better if their basketball team loses to the Warriors, who play in The Bay Area, and therefore represent the tech capital of the world. I want the narrative to be clear: blue-collar cities are at a disadvantage in the 21st century information economy, because the rules of capitalism have changed irrevocably. Cleveland needs a Green Jobs program, not rings. Warriors in 6.

WF: I think we’re all on the same page with Lebron — he is, simply put, the best player I’ve ever seen (I have mostly hazy memories of peak MJ; like you, Jake, I hated his seemingly endless domination, but I was also 12, and the most important thing to me then was Dragonball Z). The temptation to see LeBron’s year-to-year domination — to, ahem, WITNESS his mind-boggling run of five straight Finals appearances — it’s powerful. Count me as a LBJ apologist/stan/whatever.

And Shaun, I think that’s a brilliant point re: his taking advantage of a system that’s designed to exploit him. If we were to let the “market” decide LeBron’s worth per season, what would it be, even now as he approaches the tail end of his prime? A hell of a lot more than the $20 million or so per season he’s getting paid now. I admire as well LeBron’s willingness to use his platform for civil rights. He doesn’t seem like the type of guy who’d ever shrug and explain that Republicans buy sneakers, too.

I have friends who complain incessantly that LeBron’s overmarketed — they hate the hype, the constant media attention, the #brand of it all. They claim it feels “inauthentic.” In a time when everything is marketed to within an inch of its life (full disclosure: I’m a copywriter), those sort of complaints always feel willfully shortsighted to me. I think its important to marvel at the fact that here is, yes, an “inner-city kid from Akron, OH” who said, with a straight face, that he wants to be a billionaire and a “Global Icon.” Check mark for the latter; he’ll reach the former sooner or later.

(Also a first draft of this email included a long eulogy for the LBJ-Heat teams — that was some of the most astounding basketball, both on offense and defense, that I think we’ll see for a very, very long time).

As for this matchup: I think the Warriors just have too much: their coaching is too good, their lineups are too flexible, and they’ve got a much higher top gear than the Cavs.

The Cavs have already undergone an incredible transformation, on the fly, to a defensive grinder and rebound-gobbling monster. But there’s only so much you can wring from one all-timer, five good players, and Dellavedova & James Jones Oh My God How Is He Still Playing. I really believe that Blatt can coach, and I think we’ll see that this series. But Kerr has the roster, the talent, and the Draymond Green to match him move-for-move and, ultimately, outmaneuver him.

Also I will admit that I keep waiting for slender demigod Steph Curry to go “cold.” I now realize that “cold” is a relative term — I don’t think Steph will ever have back-to-back games where he shoots less than 40% from three. It just seems impossible.

I think the Warriors win in six, which seems to be our consensus. So I’ll go a little further: I think the Cavs and Warriors split four close games. And I think the Warriors win two blowouts — the type of games where Steph Curry melts eyeballs and crushes spirits. The Cavs weren’t tested in the blindfolded sack race that was the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Even with LeBron at the helm, I think the wheels are gonna fall off for at least a game or two, and the Warriors are going to go full Doof Warrior on all of us.

PS This is not the last Mad Max reference I will make.

PPS Sorry you hate joy, Spike.

SF: This is the NBA Finals. There are no word counts. There is only Tesh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_h7Lm7C9Nk

WF: I could watch be-vested Rik Smits clone John Tesh pantomime dribbling a basketball for the rest of my days.

JU: What’s further interesting about LeBron is that every time, including the Warriors, scheme to defend him much more than any player in the league. Is it a coincidence that Golden State has more than a handful of guys 6’5″-6’8″ to throw at him? That’s not for Kevin Durant or James Harden, it’s for LeBron.

The keys will be, can J.R. Smith get hot and sustain and can LeBron get triple doubles and will the Cavs defense hold the perimeter. All three of these aren’t likely and as we saw last year, any team known as the LeBrons can still get blown out.

The Cavs are the grind it out team but the rules and structure of the NBA WANT a team that’s fluid, can dribble and shoot to win. Charles Barkley be damned!

WF: Hmm I gotta disagree. The Warriors — especially their second unit, full of those 6’7″ guys you mentioned — is designed to facilitate switching across positions and neutralize some of the scrambling and defensive hiccups that happen during pick-and-rolls. That’s not the same as guarding LeBron. Like, if LeBron gets a switch onto Shaun Livingston, he’s going to eat that guy for lunch and then write a very self-involved Yelp review about it. There’s only ONE dude in the entire league who I think can go toe-to-toe with LBJ, and his team got bounced by the Clippers in the first round.

The Dubs do have two credible LBJ defenders in Harrison Barnes & Draymond Green. It’s weird to say that Steph Curry isn’t the most valuable player on his own team, but it might actually be true: If Green can stay out of foul trouble, the Warriors are a shapeshifting nightmare. If he guards LeBron and LeBron takes him to the block and gets a couple slap and shove calls here and there, that changes things.

JU: I agree that Green has to stay on the court. If I was on the Cavs, I would structure my offense in the beginning quarters to get him into trouble. Steph is the most valuable but Green can’t be lost for the game. I would argue that Iggy is also a LeBron defender very capable of going stretches against the King. Your point about Livingston is well taken, but having Barnes, Iggy, Green and Klay going at LeBron for an entire game sounds exhausting…

SF: I’ve been thinking about what Shaun said about LeBron and want to add one thing…

LeBron’s Decision was functionally only choice you cannot make in the upper echelon of our society: exchange money for time before you’ve already earned it. He tried his best to make the choice palatable; he (well, Maverick Carter, but whatever) staged the event in the Boys and Girls Club of Greenwich Connecticut, the sort of place where titans of industry cut big checks to assuage their guilt. “Look,” he said to men he considers to be his peers, “you do this all the time, please don’t turn on me!” But they did turn on him, and then everyone else turned with them, and then we had all turned and LeBron was still unstoppably good at basketball, so after a while we turned back.

I like LeBron. I like Steph Curry more though. And he’s only less interesting within the context of this matchup than Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green because what he does offensively exists outside the realm of contextual analysis. Curry exists, and he executes, and not even Tony Allen could stop that for more than a game. It doesn’t matter what the Cavs throw at him, Curry is going to Curry (unless of course he doesn’t, in which case that will likely be the result of the capricious hand of fate rather than the hand of a hobbled Kyrie Irving). That’s what happens when your skill is shooting shots worth more points than all the other available shots more quickly and accurately than anyone else in the world.

Curry right now is irrefutable, and that’s boring when you aren’t watching him play. Fortunately he is about to play, and that won’t be boring.

Wait, shit, Cavs in 4


SS: Kanye’s prediction:





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