The NBA has the match-up they want in the Finals…

The former MVP versus the reigning MVP.

The present versus the future.

The Cleveland Cavaliers versus The Golden State Warriors.

Although their journeys to the final match-up of the season have been different, the two most popular players have lead their teams to the biggest stage in the league.

Stephen Curry won this season’s MVP over James Harden and in the Western Conference Finals, showed why. Most fans think Curry is just a phenomenal shooter, which he is, but he’s transformed his game to another level this year. Criticized in the past for playing only one side of the ball, new head coach Steve Kerr challenged Curry to be a defensive stopper and that’s exactly what he’s become.

Photo: SF Examiner

 

People forget he’s Golden State’s point guard and besides being the most dangerous scorer on the court, he dishes out almost eight assists a game. The Warriors are primarily a jump shooting team, but what goes unnoticed is their defensive intensity. Golden State doesn’t go on huge runs without stops on the other end. Whether it’s Draymond Green, Andrew Bogut or Klay Thompson playing shut down defense, Kerr has enforced a defensive culture that was lacking under former coach Mark Jackson. The Warriors are known for their scoring ability, but in the playoffs they haven’t blown their opponents away, instead they’ve had to fight for close wins.

LeBron James is having the best postseason of his career and literally put the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back. Without an injured Kevin Love and hobbled Kyrie Irving, the Cavs went 12-2 in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. In a weak East, the Bulls were the only team to get any wins against Cleveland, while role players such as Tristan Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith have stepped up. Clearly outplaying their opponents, strategy went out of the door and the Cavs have competed harder and with more heart during their run.

Basically putting the ball in James’ hands and letting him dictate the pace of the game, only after being down 2-1 to the Bulls early did Cleveland ever look beatable. Head Coach David Blatt has ridden the coattails of James’ greatness as the Cavs have played a stifling defense that’s prevented their foes from getting in an offensive rhythm. Cleveland’s supposed lack of depth has risen to the challenge and they’re definitely the hotter team going into the Finals.

Photo: Getty

This season is a proverbial passing of the torch as not only did Steph Curry win the MVP, but he was also the leading vote getter during All-Star Weekend. LeBron James has ruled that distinction the past couple of years, but Curry’s shot making ability and zest for the game has fans enthralled with his every move. NBA fans have jumped on the Golden State bandwagon, but for good reason. In a guard dominated league, Curry and the Warriors play a game that is not only fun to watch, but also more relatable to by the average basketball junkie.

Golden State plays in the tougher Western Conference, so their road to the Finals has been more difficult, yet they still went 12-3 in the West. Ultimately they have too many weapons and the Cavaliers will need their entire team to continue to play at a high level to compete.

The Warriors will expose the Cavs shortcomings on both sides and will prevail in six games.

With the NBA Finals about a week away who do you have?

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Author, blogger, speaker & die-hard Lakers fan

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