Here’s a quote from LeBron James after the Cavaliers went down 3-0 in the NBA Finals by losing to the Warriors on Wednesday in Cleveland. In it, James says the Warriors probably have the “most firepower” he’s faced in the NBA:
LeBron James on 2017 Warriors: "Probably the most firepower I've played in my career. ... You got to play like A++ [to beat them]." pic.twitter.com/BZBnblA4n9— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) June 8, 2017
“I said it after the Eastern Conference Finals that we’re getting ready for a juggernaut. It’s probably the most, most firepower I’ve played in my career,” James said. “I played against some great teams, but I don’t think no team has had this type of firepower.”
In addition to being the best basketball player of his time, James is among the smartest. He doesn’t need any numbers to back up his opinion of the talent the Warriors have collected. But anyway, they do. The Warriors are just too much.
This year’s Warriors team is in some respects better than the 73-9 outfit that Cleveland shocked in last year’s Finals in seven games. Their defense has been almost identically stingy, with an efficiency rating just decimal points higher than last year’s. The offense has improved slightly, which isn’t surprising given the addition of Kevin Durant. It turns out adding an all-time scorer to your roster is a helpful thing.
James knows a thing or two about playing against firepower.
His previous playoff runs have brought James face-to-face with great teams, both in the Finals and the Eastern Conference half of the bracket.
His first trip to the Finals resulted in a sweep at the hands of the 2007 Spurs, who were at the peak of their excellence fueled by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker.
He lost to the Celtics in 2008, when Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Rajon Rondo rolled through the league.
He had to beat the Thunder in 2012, when they had a dominant Durant and nascent superstars in Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
He lost to another incredible Spurs team in the 2014, also with the Heat.
He had to conquer the Warriors last year, but then, they didn’t have Durant.
These Warriors are a different beast altogether.
Steph Curry is still Steph Curry. Durant is at the height of his genius, and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are still singular talents in their own rights. There’s depth behind them, and there’s nothing the Warriors can’t do. LeBron is simultaneously a dominant force and totally helpless. That’s a compliment to Golden State.