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NBA Finals 2016: Golden State Warrriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers Stories - Downbeat #1925

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The NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron and Steph. Threes. Perception. And Game of Zones!

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

A full downbeat looking at the NBA Finals, NBA History, and barely any Utah Jazz news! (The next downbeat today will be all Utah Jazz news though!)

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So the NBA Finals starts tonight. It's the 57 win Cleveland Cavaliers up against the 73 win Golden State Warriors. In order to make the NBA Finals you have to win three rounds to get there. An alternative way to look at the two teams would be by the number of losses they accrued on their journey to the NBA Finals. In this case the underdog Cavs have lost only two games, while the media darling Dubs have fallen six times. In fact, the Warriors have lost one more game per series than the series before. So in the first round they lost one game, in the second round they lost two, and in the third they lost three. So that's some interesting trivia there if you care for that type of thing.

The Warriors are more tested and playing at a higher level right now -- and have been for most of the season as well. After all, you are going all out if you go for 73 wins. The Cavaliers kind of sleep-walked through the season, with their best players being injured or taking days off for rest. They still won enough to get the #1 seed in the Conference, and pretty much took a more manageable route to the NBA Finals. Golden State has played in four more games than Cleveland.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cavs lose game one. They have had more time off, and time for rust to set in. And they have not yet played their best basketball. The Warriors on the other hand have been playing near perfectly for months and months. It's going to be interesting to see what happens.

I may be over-using "interesting" here, but I can hope that things are at least worthy of being an NBA Finals rematch.

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Speaking of rematches . . .

How can we forget the Utah Jazz / Chicago Bulls series in 1997 and 1998? NBA.com 's Lang Whitaker writes:

In the previous Finals: The Bulls beat the Jazz 4-2 in The 1997 Finals to win their fifth title of the Jordan era.

The rematch: Bulls again eliminate Jazz in Game 6 to win their third straight title and sixth overall.

How it went: The Bulls had reeled off championship runs in each of Michael Jordan's previous five seasons, but they had never faced the same Finals opponent in consecutive years. Until now.

Led by future Hall of Famers Karl Malone, John Stockton and coach Jerry Sloan, the Utah Jazz were running out of opportunities to get a title. The Jazz had an easier road to the 1998 Finals than the Bulls, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference finals while the Bulls and Indiana Pacers endured a rough seven-game battle in the Eastern Conference finals.

With the rematch set, the Jazz and Bulls split the first two games. As the series shifted to Chicago, the Bulls took control, blowing out the Jazz 96-54 in Game 3 and eventually taking a 3-2 series lead.

Back in Salt Lake City for Game 6, the Jazz held an 86-85 lead with seconds to play, when Jordan stole the ball from Malone, dribbled to the other end, crossed over against Bryon Russell and drained a now iconic jumper from the left side of the key, giving Chicago the title.

It was Chicago's sixth title in eight seasons, and for Jordan, who averaged 33.5 points per game in The Finals, his sixth NBA Finals MVP award. A few months later, Jordan would retire (for the second time), and the Bulls' dynasty would be summarily dismantled. Since the 1998 Finals, neither the Jazz nor the Bulls have returned to the NBA Finals.

- Lang Whitaker, NBA.com, 2016

While there's a video, I don't know if that write-up gives the Jazz enough credit. But who am I to complain . . . right? (Yet, I will till my dying day say that there should have been a Game 7.) Whitaker also talks about five of the other interesting NBA Finals rematches:

So it's worth the click if you are a fan of NBA History. NBA.com's John Schuhmann also adds that:

I didn't know that.

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The Cavs and Warriors are both teams that embrace fluid defensive schemes that attempt to minimize pick and roll mismatches and offensive explosions from three point land. Teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, previous champions, used to put up a lot of threes but they were systematic threes that were a consequence of moving the defense around. Such that dribble penetration or post presence necessitated defensive shifts or doubles -- and a reversal of the ball to an open man allowed for an open three. This is the conventional "stimulus / response" type of basketball that many of us grew up watching on CBS / NBC back in the 80s and 90s. That's not today's game though.

The Dubs and Cavs have a green light to shoot from deep. Even beyond that of the "7 seconds or less" Phoenix Suns.

The Warriors shot 1077 / 2592 from deep over the regular season, that's making 41.6% of their shots and shooting 31.6 threes a game. Golden State got 1st place ranks for all of those values. The Cavaliers shot 880 / 2427 from deep, making 36.3% (7th best), but still managed to shoot 29.6 threes a game (3th) -- not great, not bad, and not far off from the Warriors.

The Top 6 shooters on both teams this 2016 Playoffs break down as the following:

Player Pos G M A M/G A/G 3PT%
1 Klay Thompson 2 3 17 77 172 4.53 10.12 44.77%
2 Stephen Curry 1 11 48 118 4.36 10.73 40.68%
3 Draymond Green 4 5 17 25 72 1.47 4.24 34.72%
4 Harrison Barnes 3 4 17 17 47 1.00 2.76 36.17%
5 Andre Iguodala 3 2 17 18 42 1.06 2.47 42.86%
6 Marreese Speights 5 4 17 14 33 0.82 1.94 42.42%
Dubs Top Six 17 199 484 11.71 28.47 41.12%
Player Pos G M A M/G A/G 3PT%
1 J.R. Smith 2 3 14 49 106 3.50 7.57 46.23%
2 Kevin Love 4 5 14 41 92 2.93 6.57 44.57%
3 Kyrie Irving 1 14 36 79 2.57 5.64 45.57%
4 LeBron James 3 4 14 19 59 1.36 4.21 32.20%
5 Channing Frye 4 5 13 26 45 2.00 3.46 57.78%
6 Matthew Dellavedova 2 1 14 7 25 0.50 1.79 28.00%
Cavs Top Six 14 178 406 12.71 29.00 43.84%

That's pretty equal, all things considered. The Dubs are top heavy, while the Cavs share the wealth.

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Ultimately, this series will be determined by stars, so let's take a closer look at LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

Lots of people HATE LeBron for a number of reasons -- mostly that he was always hyped up to be good, and then as a pro, he's been nothing but one of the best ever to play the game. He changed teams as a free agent, won some rings, and return to the team that drafted him. He's in movies, in commercials, but what we see of him is only his public, manufactured image. He appears to be a hugely devoted family man and father to his children. He has made so much of himself that his family will never HAVE to be professional athletes in order to get the opportunities he did not have growing up. His dad was a professional ball player, but he was raised in a single parent home, poor, and now is worth about a billion to the companies he works for -- one of which includes the NBA.

On the other hand, lots of people LOVE Stephanie, who is somehow called a scrappy underdog after being a NBA's player's son who also has another brother currently in the NBA. I think it boils down to more than just their history but also the media perception of the two. And at times, that is a very black and white thing. As a non-white person who has lived on five continents in my life (sorry Australia / Oceana) my perception of this issue may be slightly different than a white person who may have lived in a while-majority place their entire life. But that's what makes things worth discussing -- for our shared experiences.

LeBron is a monster, historically, and still today. Behold:

As for Steph . . . . well, this is really worth reading.

Michael Eric Dyson, PhD., wrote that article. And man. Mann. It may help educate sports fans on the dichotomy that exists in American sports, media, and entertainment a little more. LeBron, in full-color, is the enemy. Someone to unite against because not only is he powerful, but we fear him for various sub-conscious reasons.

Steph? Everything we know about Mendelian inheritance tells us that he's more white than not. Sociologically less so (somehow, because society doesn't always adhere to science), but no matter what you take out of this issue -- you can't deny that one of these two guys apparently can't do any wrong.

Pictured: Stephen Curry [Ed. This is actually Jimmer Fredette]

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Also, it's time to catch up on our "Game of Zones" everything from Kobe Bryant 's last game to the NBA Finals:

Once again, no Utah Jazz players. But hey, we're meme-competitive. (A play on the adage that our team is playoff-competitive . . . . which is a fancy name for "doldrums".)