Kevin Durant and LeBron James

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Schmeelk: NBA Finals Preview, Other Notes From Around The League

Cavs Will Be Lucky To Win More Than 1 Vs. Warriors

John Schmeelk
May 30, 2018 - 11:26 am
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The NBA Finals start Thursday night between the Cavaliers and Warriors, the fourth straight years they're meeting. There won’t be any surprises in this series. Everyone knows the Cavaliers, who struggled through most of the season and remade their entire roster at the All-Star break, are heavy underdogs.

It would be foolish to say that LeBron James has no chance of winning, but it would take a Herculean effort from him that none of us have ever seen before, two of his teammates stepping up to play like All-Stars, or the Warriors playing terribly or suffering catastrophic injuries to make that happen.

Frankly, if James can win more than one game in this series, he deserves a ton of credit. Simply getting this far, even in a weakened Eastern Conference, is an impressive feat. The Warriors have Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Cavs have James, Kevin Love, George Hill and J.R. Smith. The talent levels aren’t even close.

Here are some random thoughts from the conference finals as well as some other items:

1. The NBA Finals schedule is ludicrous. There are two days off between every game in this series except between games 3 and 4, when there is one. There is no need for a seven-game NBA Finals to be stretched over a period of 18 days. No reason! They even scheduled Game 5 to avoid playing on the weekend. There’s no need for this, and it hurts whatever rhythm the series might have. It, however, does potentially help James, who will get plenty of rest between games.

MORE: Keidel: LeBron Wills Cleveland To NBA Finals In Spite Of Supporting Cast

2. I feel awful for Chris Paul. The Houston Rockets point guard is an awesome player who plays his butt off but has yet to reach the NBA Finals. He had to sit on the bench and watch his team lose two straight games to Golden State, including a Game 7 when his presence could have very well made the difference. Sometimes sports just isn’t fair.

3. The referees might not have decided Game 7 between the Rockets and Warriors, but they helped Golden State a ton. Five inexplicably bad calls took a made 3-pointer and seven free throws away from James Harden, took two free throws from Eric Gordon and allowed a Curry 3-pointer to count that should have been waved off because of one of the most flagrant moving screens in the history of basketball. What was a nine-point Rockets lead should have been closer to 20. The game could have gone a lot differently if that had been the case.

4. With both the Rockets and Celtics, two of the most analytics-driven teams in the NBA, having historically bad shooting games cost them Game 7 victories at home, there are fair questions to be asked about whether they made the right decision to keep shooting 3s despite that they kept missing. According to Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight.com, the math says the chances of the Rockets missing 27 straight 3s was 1 in 72,000. The makes will even out eventually, but it’s too late for that to matter. Teams needs to think about when and if it is a right time to start considering a different strategy if 3s stop falling. Was it simply random chance the Rockets and Celtics missed a ton of open looks in their Game 7s, or were they tight? Is that a real thing? Would an alternate approach have been better at some point? It needs examining as the NBA continues to trend toward the 3-point shot.

5. The Rockets switched all the Warriors screens, forcing them into more isolation plays than they normally run. Houston had enough good defenders to make that work. I don’t see the Cavaliers having the personnel to pull that off. I don’t see how the Warriors don’t run up 110-120 points per game in the Finals.

MORE: Schmeelk: The Death Of The Center And What It Means For The Knicks

6. I’ll do a full article on this later, but watching the conference finals made me think twice about drafting Oklahoma point guard Trae Young. Teams will hunt him on screen-and-rolls all day long, and I’m not sure he’ll even be good enough to make up for his liability as a defender. He would have to be a ridiculously high-level offensive player.

7. I probably won’t write my yearly column saying the LeBron vs. Jordan competition is a waste of time. Both guys dominated their eras in different ways and are two of the best who ever played. They are in the same conversation. That should be good enough for everyone, even though it isn’t.

8. The NBA made some officiating adjustments last summer, eliminating the swipe-through shooting foul. But there needs to be more calibration when it comes to illegal screens, which really need to be a point of emphasis, and contact in post defense versus on the perimeter. There is a different set of rules based on where the offensive player has the ball. It’s ridiculous.

9. Every time I heard Mark Jackson do analysis on the ESPN broadcasts I became happier and happier he is not the Knicks' coach. Also, no one loves Marv Albert more than I do. He is the best basketball play-by-play guy in my lifetime, but for the first time, some heat is off the fastball. He was making some uncharacteristic mistakes on foul calls during the TNT broadcasts this month.

MORE: Keidel: Where Will LeBron James Be Playing This Time Next Year?

10. The Bryan Colangelo story that The Ringer broke Tuesday night, which alleged the 76ers president used multiple secret Twitter accounts to criticize his own players, coach and other NBA figures, is truly bizarre. Either the Philadelphia 76ers president was extremely reckless and stupid and deserves to be fired or an enemy of his did an excellent job of framing him. It seems like the former, but it is nice to see another franchise other than the Knicks rise to this level of dysfunction for once.

You can follow me on Twitter at @Schmeelk for everything Knicks, Giants and the world of sports.​