Cavs vs Warriors: A Renewed Rivalry
by Ashley Baker
THE SHAKE UP
Sometimes success isn’t as far as you think. Sometimes success is right across the bay. This is certainly the case for Superstar Kevin Durant who made Oakland, CA his new home after departing Oklahoma City, OK during this past NBA’s offseason.
When entering into a new relationship, it most likely means that you inherit the other’s good and bad baggage. This is absolutely the case with Kevin Durant as he has completely inherited the rivalry between the Warriors and Cavaliers. Most of you are thinking, rivalries are usually decades old, a constant tug of war between two parties and storied matchups. The Warriors/ Cavs rivalry, however, is brand new and only goes about two years back.
LET’S GO BACK IN TIME
In LeBron James’s first year back with the team who drafted him—the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was able to take the organization back to the NBA Finals after doing so once before during his seven-year tenor. With the acquisition of former Timberwolves star Kevin Love and the promise of clutch performer Kyrie Irving, this super team was without question favored to bring a Championship title to the city of Cleveland—something long awaited.
Across country was another city which longed for an NBA title, not experiencing the likes of one for 40 years. New life being brought to the city of Oakland consisted of three names: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green which had become a super team of their own. With the powerhouse style play of basketball the Cavs exhibited and the finesse fast pace the Warriors displayed, their meeting in the 2015 NBA finals was inevitable.
Luck happened to not be on the Cavs side as Kyrie Irving sustained a shattered knee in the first game of the seven-game series during overtime. While LeBron did all he could to rally his team to an upset, it would not be enough and he fell to the Warriors in game six. During the offseason, many people called the Warriors championship a “fluke” because the Cavaliers were not 100% healthy. Many people across the league believed this, including the Cavs themselves.
To silence the haters, the following season the Warriors opened up the year at 24-0, showing that no championship hangover was in sight. It was a direct message to the Cavs that they had every intention on a repeat. The Cavs responded and found themselves atop of the Eastern Conference at the end of the season, completely blowing past any competition during the playoffs and earned a spot in the NBA Finals rematch of the century, against the 73-9 Warriors.
The Cavs would ultimately get their revenge and overcome a 3-1 deficit to become the 2016 NBA Champions. Fast forward to present day? And the spotlight is now on the Warriors to erase any doubts that they are the best team currently AND historically if they had it their way.
A NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
While this rivalry is usually centered around six players in particular (Curry, Thompson, Green, Love, James and Irving), the Warriors added a piece—Kevin Durant who has, himself had his own rivalry against one Cavs player, in particular, LeBron James.
It’s no secret that it seems that Durant struggles in clutch moments against LeBron. He faced LeBron in his first and only Finals appearance back in 2012 and while with the Miami Heat, LeBron defeated Durant 4-1 in that series. Since that year, many have called Durant soft, and “not up for the task” whenever facing the four-time league MVP. In Durant’s first year with his new team, the Warriors—it seems as though it’s already a different Durant.
In the season’s first look at these two teams going head to head, the Warriors blew a 14-point lead on Christmas day, resulting in a 109-108 loss. The hero on the nation’s most celebrated holiday? None other than Uncle Drew himself, Kyrie Irving. He delivered the turnaround fade away shot with 03.4 seconds left in the game—as a similar blow to the Warriors from the 2016 NBA Finals. You can scratch the three straight wins by the Cavs against the Warriors. That play made it four straight. It’s safe to say the January 16th matchup where the Warriors won 126-91 was nothing short of payback for the last four humiliating showings.
In Durant’s first two meetings with his new team against Lebron, he has averaged 28.5 points, 10.5 rebounds. Now while this may sound like Durant’s usual numbers, the eye test is much more important in these scenarios. Durant appears much more aggressive offensively and defensively and doesn’t seem to shy away from the big moment.
Durant’s Response to Critics
While Kevin Durant’s move to Oakland was one in which a lot of people disagreed with, not many people understand how this has affected his game—for the better. There have been endless conversations on how Durant decided to take the easy route to a championship and wanted to jump on the Warriors bandwagon. That may not necessarily be the case.
Durant has placed himself into a perfect situation to help him grow in a basketball sense and personal sense. There are much more key pieces around him where he is not just one of two players where if the game is on the line, it all depends on him. That factor alone has probably relieved him of much stress and has allowed him to really let his game come to him.
One step out of their comfort zone is pressure enough. Imagine doing it with the entire world watching, knowing what the reaction will be. Durant openly admitted that he didn’t leave his house for several days after announcing he would leave Oklahoma and he knew it would cause a strain on the friendship he once had with Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
Sometimes all it takes is a mindset change. And it seems like that’s the case with Durant since he along with is former Thunder team blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals against his current Warriors squad.
Let’s take another fast forward past a hyperextended knee injury, running through the Western Conference with an NBA record of 12-0 in the playoffs to reach the NBA Finals and we find ourselves thirsting for “Act Three” between Durant’s new team the Golden State Warriors and The Cleveland Cavaliers.
The underrated rivalry between Durant and LeBron will soon be re-written. Perhaps a block of his own to prevent LeBron from repeating as world champion just as LeBron handed that same fate to Iguodala and the Warriors last June.
Just let your mind wander….
Follow me at @AshleyBaker_21