Although I refrained from my usual pre-season two-part predictions column, I did make time for predicting an NBA champion this year, and to my knowledge, was the only person to put in writing that I had the Golden State Warriors before the season began. While they’re still four wins away from fulfilling that prediction, it’s worth pointing out that (as you can see in the comments), I was told at the time that I was “out of [my] mind.”
Now here we are, with what could be one of the most entertaining Finals in a good while. When you have LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Klay Thompson on the court at the same time…well, as Jalen Rose would say, you are giving the people what they want. And as someone that clearly has a vested interest in crowning the Warriors champions, here are my four keys to the Golden State Warriors winning the 2015 NBA Finals.
Throw different players on LeBron
The Warriors started off the Western Conference Finals with Klay Thompson as the primary defender on James Harden. Klay has proven to be an extremely capable defender this season. His length and sneaky athleticism messes with many two-guards in the league. However, MVP runners up James Harden and LeBron James are not “many two-guards.” Even though the Warriors have the NBA’s stingiest defense, they are not precluded from allowing scoring outbursts from the league’s best players.
Harden did have a 3-for-16 Game 2 and a 2-for-11 Game 5 to contrast with a 45-9-5 show in Game 4. Sometimes you have nothing you can do besides let great players be great…as LeBron said of Curry in a recent interview.
LeBron when asked how do you slow down Steph Curry: "The same way you slow me down ... You can't."— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 29, 2015
The goal is to limit greatness, and the Warriors have found success in doing so by switching their perimeter core onto the opponents best players. Put 2015 All-Defense First Team player Draymond Green on LeBron, and allow Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguodala to close his airspace as much as possible. If one of those four has particularly good luck slowing the four-time NBA MVP, then you have your matchup. If not, different looks is the next best thing.
Let Draymond Green be a playmaker on offense
One of the more interesting individual matchups will be Tristan Thompson vs. Draymond Green. In an old school vs. new school-esque battle, Draymond has proven he has the size and will to battle anybody. He gave Dwight Howard and Terrence Jones a run for their money in the Western Conference Finals and is clearly one of the league’s most versatile defenders.
Offensively, his game has grown tremendously as well. His outside shot has been a weapon when teams close-in on Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, but his ability to run the fast-break is a secretly dangerous tool that allows Curry and Thompson to spot-up. Leandro Barbosa is a stealthily creative finisher in transition and those four do the most damage off of defensive rebounds. Draymond is so unique because he can do rim-runs…as a ball handler. Eliminating the outlet and allowing guards to get a head-start is almost unfair.
This advantage needs to be exploited in the NBA Finals in particular because Tristan Thompson simply can’t keep up with Draymond on a fastbreak. 4-on-3 or 3-on-2 situations will lead to lay-ups…whether that comes in the form of two points or (often for the Warriors) three points.
Stick to the Steve Kerr’s script - don’t try to get too fancy
Steve Kerr has been reinforcing with this team that it’s just a basketball game. Just because it is in the NBA Finals doesn’t mean there are different rules. Steph Curry is still the best shooter in the game. Klay Thompson can still heat up at any moment (assuming his concussion does not have lingering effects). Draymond’s energy fires up Oracle Arena like nothing else. Bogut and Ezeli are valuable rim protectors. Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa are critical veteran playmakers off the bench. 67 regular season wins and 12 post-season wins later, that is still all true. So rather than re-hash all of the obvious keys, it comes down to sticking to the script. Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors know what works. The question is can they stick to it for one more series.
Convince Lil B to curse LeBron James
It’s a thing. And whether it works or not, you’ll take all the mojo you can get. If Lil B cursed Harden and it worked, then if he decides to follow through on his threat…well then why even play the games, right?
Sending a warning to lebron James Kyrie jr smith and iman shumpert yall stealing swag Lil B cooking dance what yall doing #warned - Lil B— Lil B From The Pack (@LILBTHEBASEDGOD) May 27, 2015