NBA Finals with Joe Hawkes Beamon: Warriors-Cavs III: By the numbers

May 28, 2017

Golden State Warriors, NBA

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James dons a cap after winning 135-102 against the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the NBA basketball Eastern Conference finals, on Thursday, May 25, 2017, in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Like the rest of the sports world, I myself can’t wait for the start of the NBA Finals between the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.

Both teams enter the Finals with a combined 24-1 record, first in NBA history.

Golden State buzz-sawed their way through the West seemingly untested by Portland, Utah, and San Antonio to a 12-0 record, the first team in NBA history to do so; while Cleveland went 12-1 in the East with their only loss coming in the conference finals against the young Boston Celtics, minus superstar Isaiah Thomas.

To be perfectly honest, both of these teams used the playoffs as a warmup for a Finals series that no true sports fan will miss a second of.

ABC, who has broadcasted the Finals since 2003, is hoping that Golden State and Cleveland provides another classic series for the ages.

According to viewership data obtained from Nielsen Ratings, the last two meetings in the Finals by Cleveland and Golden State have been the two-highest rated championship series broadcasted on ABC.

In 2015, an average of 19.94 million viewers per game watched Golden State win its first title in 40 years on the Cavaliers’ home floor by derailing LeBron James and Co. 4-2, with super-sub Andre Iguodala becoming an unlikely series MVP largely due to his defense on James.

Last season’s rematch did was no different, as an average of 20.28 million viewers per game tuned in to watch Cleveland return the favor by crawling back from a 3-1 deficit to steal the title from Golden State on the Warriors’ home floor in Game 7 last season.

Kyrie Irving’s dagger 3-pointer from the right side of the floor over Stephen Curry to seal the Cavaliers’ first championship in franchise history will forever live on in Finals’ lore.

Oracle Arena will no doubt be electric when the ball is tipped for Game 1 on Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. PDT between the two teams that many of us thought would be playing for the Larry O’Brien for a record-setting third year in a row.

When you dive into the numbers for both teams journey through the playoffs, they are nearly identical.

Offensively, Golden State had no trouble scoring points as they led all teams with 118.3 points per game. Cleveland was second in playoff scoring with 116.8 points per game. The Warriors, who love sharing the ball, is averaging 27.8 assists per game in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers were tops in field goal percentage (50.7), while Golden State were second in shooting at 50.2 percent from the floor.

Even though the Celtics made more three-pointers in the playoffs than any other team with 229, Cleveland is second with 190, followed by Golden State with 145.

With all due respect to Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, the guy that Cleveland will need to stop will continue to be the aforementioned Curry, who in my estimation, is still the key that turns the engine on for the Warriors.

Think about this stat from NBA.com’s John Schuhmann, the Warriors have scored 122.5 points per 100 possessions with Curry on the floor and just 97.4 with him on the bench. The 25.1-point differential is the largest on-of differential among players who have logged at least 100 minutes in the playoffs.

Curry dropped 36 points in Golden State’s 129-115 victory in Game 4 of the conference finals against San Antonio that propelled the Warriors into their third straight Finals appearance.

For Cleveland, it usually begins and ends with James, who leads all Cavaliers players in points (32.5), assists (7.0), steals (2.2), and blocks (1.4), but Irving is just as vital to a Cleveland repeat as is James.

When James was forced to the bench with four fouls in the first half of Game 4 of the East Finals, Irving stepped up and took over the game like no other.

With James on the bench, Irving scored 19 points in under five minutes and 33 during a 19-minute stretch with an array of easy layups and pull-up 3s.

Even after rolling his left ankle in the game, Irving finished with a playoff career-high 42 points en route to a 112-99 victory that gave Cleveland a commanding 3-1 before ending the Celtics’ season in five games.

Cleveland’s 44-point win in Game 2 of the East finals at Boston is the highest margin of victory in the playoffs this year.

According to NBA.com, James (16) and Irving (12) have taken 28 of the team’s 35 shots in the clutch and are a combined 9-for-28 (2-for-10 from 3-point range). James is also just 4-for-9 on clutch free throws. His assist rate is more than twice as high in the first quarter (25.9 assists per 100 possessions used) than it is in the fourth (12.7). Irving’s assist rate is 23.0 in the first quarter and just 2.5 in the fourth. He has one assist in 59 fourth-quarter minutes.

It’s only four days away, but it feels like an eternity waiting for one of the biggest collisions in sports to arrive.

Take plenty of notes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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