For all the talk about LeBron James and Steph Curry and who’s more valuable and who’s the face of the league, the NBA Finals may come down to each team’s third banana: Kevin Love and Draymond Green.
“I’m with you. I agree 100 percent,” CBS Sports NBA insider Ken Berger said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I agree with Love. I think he’s a key for Cleveland in that he’s kind of been a little schizophrenic throughout the year and has really been able to find his game and his niche throughout the playoffs in terms of playing inside-out and not just being a standstill shooter.”
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Love averaged 19.5 points in the Cavs’ four wins and 6.5 points in their two losses. That’s a 13-point difference. Which Love shows up may very well determine the outcome of this series.
Draymond Green, meanwhile, struggled in the Western Conference Finals, averaging 9.3 points and shooting 19-of-59 (32.2 percent) in his final six games against Oklahoma City.
“Draymond has been so steady for the Warriors the last couple of years,” Berger said. “He’s been a spark plug for them. He’s been a defensive ace for them, able to guard multiple positions. He knocks down threes, he gets them going in transition, and then all of a sudden he runs into the Oklahoma City Thunder and he forgets how to play basketball. He did play a little better as the series evolved, but the thing that interests me about him is he is now entering the Finals on the very edge of suspension. The Cavaliers know that, too.”
If Green picks up two more technicals or one more flagrant foul, he’ll be suspended for one game, per NBA rules.
“I think it’s a real issue,” Berger said. “If the Cavs can find a way to get him riled up and get his blood boiling a little bit and he makes a poor decision, that could change the outcome of this series in a big way. It doesn’t take much to get Draymond’s blood boiling. He’s pretty much in full boil when he walks onto the court. From the Warriors standpoint, he just needs to play better. He needs to just play his role and play the game that has been so effective for him and not get involved in all the other shenanigans.”
The Cavs, of course, have been red-hot from three-point range in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean they have to try to match the Warriors three-for-three in the Finals. In fact, it would be better if they didn’t try to do that.
“They shot and made more three-pointers per game in the playoffs to this point than Golden State, which is remarkable because Golden State, that’s their neighborhood,” Berger said. “They own that place, and the Cavs cranked it up. But if you try to out-Warrior the Warriors, it’s going to be a short series. They can’t do that. They have to use the other things that they do well in getting to the basket. They have two of the best rim attackers in the league in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. They have to exploit those. If they try to get into a three-point shooting contest with the Warriors, it’s not going to end well.”
Ultimately, Berger doesn’t see it ending well for Cleveland either way.
“I have the Warriors in seven – and the seven being the utmost sing of respect for LeBron James,” he said. “If you look all over the floor, I don’t think the series is all that close. I think the match-ups are really tough for Cleveland. I think they’re going to have a very difficult time guarding the Warriors and stopping them. I think they can score with them, but I don’t think they can stop them when they need to. So I’m going to say seven. LeBron took them to six last year pretty much by himself. I think the Cavs are certainly better this year. I just don’t see them beating Golden State.”