What do you do during a Cavaliers playoff game? Midway through the second quarter of basically every contest during the Cavs’ sweep of the Raptors, I found myself getting rid of the clutter in my bedroom, calling an old college friend to catch up, or planning out a grocery list to pass the time until the inevitable conclusion.
At least Cavaliers games are on during normal hours for East Coasters, though. During Warriors games, I find myself beginning to doze off during halftime, only to wake up to a thunderous JaVale McGee dunk and a 20-point Golden State lead after midnight.
The 2017 NBA playoffs have not lacked excitement, but at no point since the start of the season has it felt more inevitable that we are headed for a three-match between the Cavs and Dubs in the Finals.
Cleveland became the first team in NBA history to start 8–0 in back-to-back postseasons with its sweep of Toronto. It’s hard to imagine the Cavs dropping more than two games before the Finals, with good-but-not-elite teams like the Celtics and Wizards struggling to take control against each other. If Boston can’t slow down Washington, what will Brad Stevens do when the Cavs start launching three after three? And if the Wizards have no answers for Isaiah Thomas, how will Scott Brooks deal with LeBron James, who is in the middle of one his best playoff runs ever?
The Cavs have been typically explosive on offense during the playoffs, thanks in large part to James, who is averaging 34.4 points, 9.0 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game with a 66.3% true-shooting percentage. Cleveland’s defense has also shown signs of improvement, posting the second-best defensive efficiency in the playoffs since the start of the conference semifinals. This is the best the Cavaliers have looked all season, and their best is leagues ahead of the other teams in their conference.
Golden State has had more dominant looking stretches than their undefeated start in the postseason. The Warriors, who now lead the Jazz 3–0, almost seem to be having fun responding to challenges during the past few weeks, with injuries to Kevin Durant and Shaun Livingston and the absence of Steve Kerr providing blips of excitement in what’s largely been a methodical dismantling of the opponent in front of them.
That the Warriors likely have another gear in them is a frightening proposition considering how they’ve made the playoffs look as intense as a late-morning pancake run. The Death Lineup had only played 20 minutes together entering Monday, which means the Kevin Durant-Steph Curry-Klay Thompson-Andre Iguodala-Draymond Green group hasn’t even had proper time to wreak havoc yet.
A month ago, the playoffs didn’t feel quite as predictable. Golden State and Cleveland were still heavy favorites, but you could have asked legitimate questions about Durant’s health and the Cavs’ defense and how those issues could have held each team back. Now? The Warriors look like title favorites even without KD, and no East team looks capable of hanging with the Cavs’ offense, rendering their defense—improved or otherwise—moot.
There was definitely some wishful thinking on the part of SI writers when it came to the Finals this year. Four of us picked the Raptors to end the Cavs’ reign on the conference. (This is why I didn’t make a pick, guys.) And at least nine different times in the last two weeks, I’ve tried to convince myself the Rockets could get hot enough to outshoot the Warriors in a conference finals. But the idea of competition and the hope for the unpredictable are as appealing as they are impossible.
The rest of May will provide plenty of time to knock out chores and catch up on sleep. Because come June 1, the Cavs and Warriors will clearly be facing off in the Finals. No one is standing in their way.