Finals Rematch Completely Different Than a Year Ago

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For the second straight year the NBA Finals will feature the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers,  and the NBA’s MVP. As the 2016 NBA Finals tips off tonight in the San Francisco bay area, many of the stories leading up to the series surrounded a number of the same names as last year. However, these are not the same two teams we saw a year ago, let alone four months ago, when Golden State blew out Cleveland on their home court.

The Warriors, while compromised of the same core group of players from last season, have seemingly found a new level of play this year. Their record setting regular season and improbable series comeback against Oklahoma City prove that. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson continue to amaze viewers on a nightly basis with unreal three-point barrages, Draymond Green continues to be an x-factor in Golden State’s success, and every one else seems to contribute at just the right time.

The Cavaliers on the other hand, will (hopefully) be a much different team this time around. With a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving playing at high level, Lebron James will have the sidekick power he lacked for much of the series last year. The biggest difference in Cleveland from this year to last is the man standing on the sidelines.

Tyronn Lue took over as head coach mid season, after Cleveland’s embarrassing midseason loss to Golden State. In the January 18th meeting, the Cavs failed to contain Curry, who went off for 35 points in just 28 minutes of play. Last year’s Finals MVP Andre Iguodala added 20 off the bench, thanks to 4-5 shooting from behind the arc.

It was all smiles for Curry, who sat the whole 4th quarter, and the Warriors on their January 18th win over Cleveland

It was all fund and games for Curry, who sat the whole 4th quarter, and the Warriors on their January 18th win over Cleveland

The issues for the Cavs following that game are the same question marks heading into this series. Can any Cleveland guard, whether it be Irving, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, or even Matthew Dellavedova contain the Splash Brothers? And how effective can Love be against the smaller, faster line up of Golden State? In their two losses to Golden State this season, Love struggled to get into any rhythm offensively. He tallied a mere thirteen points combined points off 6-21 shooting, though he did haul in 18 rebounds on their Christmas Day matchup. In the January 18th blowout, Love also struggled defensively and let Draymond Green blow past him and pick apart the rest of the Cavalier defense en route to 16 points and 10 assists.

Kyrie Irving has provided the support King James lacked in last year's NBA Finals

Kyrie Irving has provided the support King James lacked in last year’s NBA Finals. Will his support be enough this time around?

The addition of Channing Frye should help Cleveland stretch the floor on both ends of the floor. After coming over from Orlando, Frye really found came into own in the Eastern Conference semifinals, providing efficient minutes off the bench and shooting 58% from three-point range. Last season the Cavs went big with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov anchoring the paint down low. With Mozgov seemingly buried on Lue’s bench, Frye could be the answer for Cleveland’s match up struggles.

Yes, the names on the front are the same as last year. And yes, a majority of the names on the back are the same. But these are not the same two teams we saw a year ago; they are better. Can the Cavs match up with the small and quick line up of Golden State? How will Golden State handle a hot Kyrie Irving? Is Anderson Varejao guaranteed a ring now matter who wins? One thing is for sure, we cannot wait to find out.

2016 NBA Finals Series

Game 1 – Thursday, Cavaliers at Warriors, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 2 – Sunday, Cavaliers at Warriors, 8 p.m. on ABC

Game 3 – June 8, Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 4 – June 10, Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 5* – June 13, Cavaliers at Warriors, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 6* – June 16, Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 7* – June 19, Cavaliers at Warriors, 8 p.m. on ABC

*if necessary

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