NBA Finals 2017: X-Factors for Both Teams
We are less than a day away from Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will face-off for the third straight year. With the addition of Kevin Durant, the Warriors have a better shot of dethroning the defending champions despite finishing with a worse record than the previous year. Leading up to the NBA Finals, most of the chatter has been surrounding LeBron James’s legacy and Durant’s need to finally win a championship, but there are still other aspects of this series that need to be discussed for either team to their second title in three years. It is obvious that this series will be highlighted by the matchups of LeBron James and Kevin Durant as well as point guards Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry. If we cancel out the play of these four superstars, we must find someone else to be the X-factor in this series for both teams.
Cleveland very well may have had the same X-factor throughout their entire postseason run in center Tristan Thompson. Thompson has proven throughout his young NBA career to be a scrapper down low and fight for every rebound that comes near him whether it is on the offensive or defensive glass. Cleveland went 1-1 during the regular season against Golden State and the major difference between the two games was Cleveland’s ability to grab offensive rebounds. In the win, Cleveland accumulated 18 total offensive boards, six of which were from Thompson. In their 35-point loss , they only grabbed six offensive rebounds. One of Golden State’s weaknesses is their size disadvantage down low. If Thompson can solidify his position underneath the basket for the Cavaliers, the Warriors may be in some early trouble this series.
With superstars, seemingly across the board for the Warriors, most people watching this series will be expecting the Warriors to have no issue scoring against Cleveland’s defense. Instead, the most crucial matchup and X-Factor Golden State fans need to watch out for is Andre Iguodala guarding LeBron James. Kevin Durant and LeBron James will be discussed as the key matchup throughout this series, but for Cleveland to have any advantage, they must run James with the second team. In previous years, the Warriors have allowed Iguodala to guard James throughout their NBA Finals matchups and he has done fairly well for the most part. The problem as of now is his lingering knee injury that has held him to limited game action. If he is deemed healthy enough to play in Game 1 of this series against James and the Cavaliers, it will be one of the deciding factors as to who will come out on top in this series. LeBron James has steamrolled his way through the Eastern Conference during these playoffs and put up astronomical numbers along the way due to the opposing team’s inability to guard him. When Durant heads to the bench and LeBron stays on the floor, it will be interesting to see how Iguodala’s knee responds. If his knee holds up and he plays his normal type of hands in your face defense, than there is no reason for the Warriors not to end this series early and finally put a championship ring on Kevin Durant’s finger.
With both of these X-factors being crucial to their team’s success, it will be interesting to see which one prevails over the other and helps lead their team to another NBA Finals victory.