NBA Playoffs: Finals Game 4 Preview, Long Live the King

The NBA playoffs are grinding down, as LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers hold a 2-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. Heading into the series, many were predicting the Warriors, who finished the season with an eye popping +10.10 point differential and who faced little adversity throughout the playoffs would make quick work of the Cavs, and that was before Kyrie Irving went down with a knee injury in Game 1. On paper, it seemed a safe bet for the Warriors to continue the dominance they have shown throughout the NBA playoffs.

But unfortunately for Golden State and reigning NBA MVP Steph Curry, on the other end of the floor is two-time NBA Finals MVP LeBron James. Through the first three games of the NBA Finals, LeBron has poured in a record 123 points. King James has been head and shoulders the best player on the court in each game of the NBA Finals so far and has looked good throughout the playoffs. However, it hasn’t been all LeBron, Cleveland has just been the hungrier team. Kobe Bryant weighed in last night on the compete level he saw on the court.

With LeBron James’ historic NBA Finals performance so far, momentum has swung in Cleveland’s direction. There are three key storylines heading into Game 4.

1. Urgency and Energy

So far in NBA Finals, LeBron’s Cleveland squad has had more urgency and energy than Golden State. The Warriors have yet to win a first quarter in the series and they seem to be somewhat awestruck by the big lights of the NBA Finals, something we haven’t seen from them all playoffs. In an interview with Bruce Jenkins of the San Fransisco Gate, Steve Kerr stated, “I didn’t like our energy. I didn’t like our body language for much of the first three quarters. This is what we have to fight through.” Golden State has been out rebounded every game but the first, and LeBron’s Cavs squad holds a +10 rebound advantage so far. Golden State needs to be better rebounding on both ends of the floor if they don’t wan’t their playoffs to be remembered as a disappointment. Watch for Golden State to come out and show the same energy they showed throughout their run in the playoffs.

2. Pace

Perhaps the most important factor thus far in the NBA Finals has been LeBron and Cleveland’s ability to dictate the pace of play. Largely, this has been thanks to the Cavaliers offensive rebounding and running iso schemes through James. The defence of the Cavaliers has been able to disrupt the Warriors offensive flow. The Cavs are the first team all playoffs to slow down the NBA’s best offence, doing so by smothering Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, daring Golden States’ tertiary options to beat them. Watch for David Lee, Harrison Barnes, and Andre Iguodala all to be more involved in the Warriors offence, freeing up some easier looks for the best backcourt in the NBA.

3. The King

It seems pretty obvious that a player averaging 41 points and 12 rebounds through the first three games of the NBA Finals would be a major storyline heading into Game 4. What to watch for is not whether LeBron will continue to dominate, but rather to see if King James shows fatigue. LeBron has played 142 of a possible 154 minutes through the first three games of the NBA Finals. On top of that, this is LeBron’s fifth straight NBA Finals appearance, meaning he has played a lot of games with minimum offseason rest over the past half decade. Cleveland’s depleted roster has seen LeBron account for over 60% of their total offence so far in the series. James’ historic play has equated to massive ratings for the NBA and has been breathtaking to watch night in and night out. In order for Cleveland to continue their success, they will need LeBron to continue playing at this current level. Given the amount of minutes James has played over the last five years, his video game like numbers may be unsustainable. Watch for the King. Thats it. Just watch him.

You can watch Game 4 of the NBA Finals on ABC at 9:00 p.m EST.

[Image via Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images]

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