A few weeks ago, this was a genuine question. The Cavaliers were stumbling, their defense nonexistent on most nights, with the Celtics and Wizards proving to be real threats. The Warriors, while rolling through the West, still faced one significant obstacle in the Spurs. But as the postseason’s first and second rounds have gotten rolling, the question of whether we’ll see a Cavs-Warriors Finals is no longer a question.
Though somewhat unconvincingly, the Cavaliers swept the Pacers in the 1st round. Their defense was still pathetic at times, but they showed that they can still flip the switch when they needed it most. Exhibit A being Game 2, where they fell behind 26 points in the 3rd quarter, and only then decided to flip the switch and ended up winning.
The second round has more or less proven this thesis. The first round was merely a tune-up, only flashing their potential in spurts, just enough to get them by. They’re rounding into form in the second round, with the goal being to peak by June. They’ve been levels ahead of the Raptors in both games in Cleveland.
The Wizards and Celtics still pose a threat, and have been viciously battling it out in the other Eastern Conference Semifinal. But it’s never been about them. While it was once possible that they could upend Cleveland, it was more a matter of Cleveland falling apart than those two beating them outright.
There was never such concern internally with the Warriors, on the other hand. They’ve been dazzling all season, finishing with 67 wins. They’ve always been heavy favorites in most NBA simulation algorithms, even after Kevin Durant was injured.
The Spurs were always a lurking threat out West, though, but in the aftermath of Tony Parker’s injury, that threat has been alleviated. It would’ve been a long shot anyway, as the Spurs have totally relied on Kawhi Leonard this postseason. In fact, if it wasn’t for his heroics in round 1, the Spurs would be golfing. But it was those heroics that kept hope alive in San Antonio. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to pull off a LeBron-esque performance to upend the Dubs. But those hopes are now done and dusted.
All that’s left for the Warriors to conquer out west is either a depleted Spurs or a Harden-led Rockets, who, for as great as they are, aren’t on the same level as Golden State. Not even close. A 2015-esque Conference Finals beckons if we get that matchup.
If you ignore the Cavaliers-Raptors and Warriors-Jazz series, there are some pretty exciting matchups in the NBA postseason. Washington and Boston and (literally) brawling it out, and it’s a dog fight out west between the Rockets and Spurs as well. But enjoy those two series at your own peril. Whether you like it or not, this year’s installment of the NBA Finals will be the same for the third year running, with the series tied 1-1.