The NBA Finals start tonight in Oakland as the Warriors try to repeat against the Cavs. The series is full of story lines: Can the Warriors beat the Cavs at full-strength? Can Lebron finally bring a championship to Cleveland? Will Lebron fall to 2-5 in the Finals? Was last year’s Warriors championship one that will have an asterisk next to it because of all of the Cavs injuries? Will Lebron or Steph establish themselves as the face of the league and best player on the planet? I’m sure Lebron and Steph will both be great, but the series will largely be determined by what everyone else does. For basketball lovers, this is going to be a lot of fun. I wanted to see if I could find any key stats to watch during the Finals. Here’s what I found:
We all know that the NBA game is obsessed with the 3-ball, so it should not surprise you that there are several things that will determine the outcome of this series, but none more than 3-point shooting. Did you know that the Warriors and the Cavs made more threes than any other team this season? These Playoffs the Warriors have outshot their opponents 212-164 from three (including two of the best three point shooting teams in the league in Houston and Portland largely without Curry), while the Cavs outshot their opponents 202-126 from deep? Both teams averaged right around 12.5 three-point makes per game so far these Playoffs. Something to keep in mind, if the Warriors shoot more than 30 threes and shoot less than 37%, they will lose. They are 0-3 in the Playoffs when this happens. Pay attention to the Warriors shooting themselves out of games against the Cavs.
J.R. Smith and Lebron James 3 point shooting. In last year’s Finals, these two shot a combined 28 for 93 for 30.1%. This year they will have more help and Kyrie attacking the rim will surely result in a few more open looks for both of them. Smith shot a respectable 35.9% in last year’s Playoffs and has been scorching this year at 46.2%. Lebron was terrible from deep in last year’s Playoffs at 22.7%. He has brought that up so far these Playoffs to 32.2%. Lebron is a career 31.9% Playoff 3-point shooter (34% regular season) and Smith is 35.2% for his career in the Playoffs (37.5% regular season). If J.R. Smith and Lebron shoot less than a combined 35% from three, the Cavs will lose.
Klay hit 12 threes in last year’s Finals in 6 games. He hit 11 in Game 6 of the Conference Finals and hit 30 in the series. Nobody in the game heats up faster than Klay and the degree of difficulty is crazy. People forget, right before he went off for his NBA record in Game 6, he was just 3-10 in the first half. Then he caught fire. He finished with 41, 19 in the fourth on 5-6 from deep. If Klay stays hot and makes at least 4 threes per game, the Warriors will win the series.
Watch to see if Lebron gets support. At the beginning of the season I researched this issue and found that if Lebron was the leading scorer on his team with how many minutes he has played in his career and he led his team to a Championship, he would be the first perimeter player to do so. Check out the full article here: http://legendgrows.com/watercooler/2015/09/how-many-titles-…win-in-cleveland/. The stat to watch? If Lebron leads the Cavs in scoring, the Cavs will not win the series.
I said it last year, that the Warriors would have won the series even with Kyrie and Love, but the style of play would have been different. With Kyrie and Love on the floor the Cavs are definitely better on offense than when Delly and Thompson are on the floor. They are also worse defensively. Whether Lue goes offensive (with Kyrie, Love, and Smith) to try to out score the Warriors or to go defensive (with Delly, Thompson, and Shumpert) in hopes to slow the Warriors down will be very interesting. Either way, the Warriors are too good in a 7-game series, but it may take all 7 games.
No matter what happens, we are in for a treat, but watch for these things and it will determine the winner.