Poole's 2017 NBA Finals prediction: Only two games in Cleveland

Poole's 2017 NBA Finals prediction: Only two games in Cleveland

OAKLAND -- The series for which we have yearned has arrived, and about as quickly as possible. The speed with which the Warriors and Cavaliers spent the playoffs racing toward each other speaks to the inevitability of their collision.

Now that it’s here, the sheer volume of storylines and backstories and fabricated stories will threaten to overrun us all, from LeBron vs. KD to Steph vs. Kyrie to The Land vs. The Town to the full-circle trek of Mike Brown.

And, of course, there is the historical significance of this being the very first time the NBA Finals featured an uninterrupted trilogy.

This time, however, there are no excuses coming in. Both teams are hot, the Warriors 12-0 this postseason, the Cavs 12-1. All significant hands are healthy, unlike the past two Finals. So Warriors-Cavs Part III is the series that may -- or may not -- determine, once or for all, which team is better.

Here is our preview of the best-of-seven NBA Finals.


POINT GUARD: Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving. This is the tastiest duel in the series, two players with the best combination of shooting, ball-handling and general offensive ingenuity in the NBA. That the teams have split the last two Finals is largely due to the efforts of Curry and Irving. Both are on a roll. Neither can guard the other, and neither will spend much time trying. The man who has the best series almost certainly will get the ring. EDGE: Curry, by a razor-thin margin, for his superior ability to increase the value of this teammates.

SHOOTING GUARD: Klay Thompson vs. JR Smith. These two have plenty of similarities, mostly because each is capable of getting hot enough to single-handedly carry a team to victory. Though neither has been a consistent offensive force in these playoffs, Thompson’s defense has been crucial to the success of the Warriors thus far. There is your difference. Well, that and the absolute lock that Thompson at some point will punish the Cavs with his shot. EDGE: Thompson.

SMALL FORWARD: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. They have dramatically different physiques and styles but are widely considered, with justification, the two best players in the game. Insofar as Durant’s teams are 5-18 when they face James’ gangs, this battle will be the most watched and debated and analyzed of the series. Both have been terrific during the postseason, though LeBron’s production has proven more essential to the cause of his team. As the teams split two games in the regular season, Durant put up better numbers. EDGE: James by the slightest margin, for his preternatural aptitude to find a way in big games and the monumental achievement of entering seven consecutive finals.

POWER FORWARD: Draymond Green vs. Kevin Love. Both are All-Stars but there is stark contrast in their games, with Green being multidimensional at both ends and Love almost totally reliant two skills: rebounding and 3-pointers. Green was a pivotal player in the 2016 series; his absence due to suspension in Game 5 helped swing the series toward the Cavs. Love is playing great ball, the best since he arrived in Cleveland. EDGE: Green, for being able to impact the game in more ways than perhaps any player in the NBA.

CENTER: Zaza Pachulia vs. Tristan Thompson. The Warriors realize Thompson is such a high-octane offensive rebounder he demands a specific game plan. Pachulia will be the first to try to ensure Thompson isn’t giving his team second- and third-chance shots that can demoralize a defense. Pachulia will have a lot of help from his partners in the center rotation. He’s going to need it. EDGE: Thompson.

SIXTH MAN: Andre Iguodala vs. Kyle Korver: Iguodala is a true utility man, a Swiss Army Knife of a veteran. He’s a playmaker on offense that was voted 2015 Finals MVP largely for the impact he made on defense against James. Iguodala is a player that finds a way. Korver is one of those players who can shoot it with the best to ever play. He is, however, utterly one-dimensional. If his shot isn’t falling, he isn’t helping. EDGE: Iguodala.

BENCHES: The Warriors have a mix of young and old, from Pat McCaw and Ian Clark to JaVale McGee and David West and Shaun Livingston. They also can go deeper, sending out their 12th and 13th men (Matt Barnes and James Michael McAdoo). Cleveland’s reserves are veterans all the way, from Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert to Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson. The best that can be said of the Cavs is they have shooters. The worst is that they are short on defense. EDGE: Warriors.

COACHES: The Warriors essentially have co-coaches at the top of the chart, with head coach Steve Kerr heavily involved while acting head coach Mike Brown tries to implement plans chiefly determined by Kerr. The Cavs also have co-coaches, with head coach Tyronn Lue sharing duties with player-coach James. EDGE: Warriors.

HOME COURTS: Oracle Arena in Oakland and Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland are two of the loudest joints in the NBA, though some of the noise at the Q is generated by sheer PA volume. There is no denying, though, that each team loves its house. The Warriors have the best homecourt advantage in the NBA, 114-9 over the past three seasons, including a league-best 36-5 in the playoffs. The Cavs are 95-28 over that same span. EDGE: Warriors.

PREDICTION: Warriors in five.

Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays


Steph Curry knows it comes with risk, but he's not going to change the way he plays

OAKLAND -- When he returns to the Warriors, likely on Friday, Stephen Curry will alter nothing about his game despite coming off a four-month period during which his surgically repaired right ankle endured multiple aggravations.

He’ll be the same Curry that fans have come to know, diving into passing lanes on defense while firing up 3-pointers and darting in and out of paint traffic on offense.

It’s the only way he knows how to play, and he’s played long enough to accept that it comes with risk.

“When I wake up in the morning I’ll know the difference between my right (ankle) and my left,” Curry said Thursday after practice. “But that won’t stop me from being who I am on the floor and having confidence in myself when I get back out there.”

Curry missed 11 games after spraining his ankle on Dec. 4 in New Orleans. He missed two games after tweaking it in shootaround on Jan 10. He missed no games after tweaking it March 2 in Atlanta. He has missed the last six games after tweaking it on March 8 against the Spurs.

“I’ve been very durable over the course of my career,” said Curry, who is listed as probable but fully expects to play Friday against Atlanta. “It’s just that I’ve had three untimely, freak accidents happen.”

Curry stepped on E’twaun Moore’s foot in New Orleans, on Zaza Pachulia’s foot in Atlanta and Dejounte Murray’s foot against the Spurs at Oracle Arena.

Not once in the previous five regular seasons did Curry miss significant time due to his tricky ankle. He missed a total of 16 games during that span, never more than four in a season, and six of those were for reasons of rest.

This season, however, has tested Curry’s patience like nothing since 2011-12, after which he had his second ankle surgery. He concedes that being in and out of the lineup has left him at times feeling “boredom, monotony and frustration.”

Though some of that can be attributed to the rehab process, there is no doubt part of that stems from watching the Warriors from the sideline.

With Curry out of the lineup this season, the Warriors are 13-8 (he missed one game with a hand bruise, another with a thigh bruise). That they are 40-10 when he’s in the lineup illustrates his importance.

It’s not just that he’s important. Curry is the catalyst for the offense and he can only be that if he is playing without regard for the possibility of injury. A hesitant Curry can’t be an effective Curry, so full throttle is the only way to go.

"If we’re trying to win a championship, I need to be out there,” he said. “That’s a given. We want every single guy out there, healthy and available, myself included. That’s the ideal situation.”

If he gets hurt along the way, so be it. As man of faith, he believes that anything that happens is influenced by a higher power.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting 3s or pullups are going into the lane or playing defense, that’s liable to happen any time,” Curry said. “Other than those instances, I haven’t had anything to worry about on the injury front. We are prisoners of the moment when it comes (playing the game). I don’t feel like I’m at a point where I have to change anything based on me being a durable player and being on the court consistently.

“Down the line, if you ask me about it in three of four years, there might be something I might need to change. But not right now.”

There is a segment of fans, worried about Curry’s health and realizing it is tied to the fate of the team, who would like him to dial back his aggression. Maybe avoid the paint and settle for more jump shots. He’s heard the advice and is not unwilling to launch a few more shots from deep.

But Curry is going to go where he sees daylight, and the best chance to make a positive play. He’ll take his chances because hesitation has no place in his mind or his game.


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'


How Iguodala helped Looney get career on track, 'I finally listened to him...'

Back in late October, the Warriors declined their $2.3 million team option on Kevon Looney for the 2018-19 season.

How did that make him feel?

"It was kind of a let down," Looney told Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson on the Warriors Plus/Minus Podcast. "I knew it was up in the air. It was going back and forth, back and forth. When they didn't pick it up -- they told me why, I understood, I've been here for three years, I've seen a lot of players come and go; I know basketball is a business -- I was kind of let down.

"But I knew I was going to try and make the most of it. Now I'm playing for my contract for next year. I just wanted to go prove myself. I knew this summer there was a lot of doubts about what I could do. People were doubting if I would even be in the NBA still ... I knew what I was capable of."

Looney underwent surgery on his right hip in August 2015, and appeared in just five games during his rookie season.

He then had surgery on his left hip in April 2016, and appeared in 53 games (8.4 minutes per night) during the 2016-17 season.

This year, he's averaging career highs in points (3.5), rebounds (2.9), blocks (0.7) and minutes (12.0).

"This summer, I decided I just wanted to try go back to the way I played in college. It's been working for me," Looney explained. "I lost about 30 pounds this offseason and it's really made me a lot faster and a lot quicker. And I've been staying healthy."

How did he drop all that weight?

"A lot of broccoli and turkey and plain food. Food that wasn't that good but it's something that I had to get used to," Looney said. "Taco Bell, fried chicken, I was eating that on the regular ... coming off of injury, you can't eat like that. It's a different level of intensity in the NBA.

"I had to change my diet. Andre (Iguodala) was in my ear for two years about it. I finally listened to him and it paid off."

Looney will become an unrestricted free agent in July.

Although the Warriors declined the option, the 22-year old could return to Golden State -- but the max amount the Warriors can offer him is $2.3 million.

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller