Geltzeiler: Cavs Can Beat Warriors

It won't be easy, Brian Geltzeiler said, but "there’s no way LeBron is going to get run over" in the NBA Finals

Taz and the Moose
May 29, 2018 - 11:33 am

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win their third NBA title in four years. In fact, for many, the question isn’t, “Will the Warriors win?” It’s, “How many games will they need to do it?”

HoopsCritic.com NBA analyst Brian Geltzeiler, however, believes that Cleveland could absolutely win this series.

“I do,” Geltzeiler said on Taz & The Moose. “I don’t think they will, but I think there is a scenario that you could see play out where the Cavs win this series. Listen, the Cavs were the second-worst defensive team in the NBA this season. They have been far from that here in the playoffs. They have played very good defense in the playoffs. As a matter of fact, their defense has been their calling card and where they’ve had issues has been scoring in certain spots.”

The Cavs scored 87 points or fewer in three of seven games against Boston – and still won the series.

“I think it’s a slim chance,” Geltzeiler said, “but I think there’s a path and an avenue for them to win this series through playing big and controlling tempo. Houston killed (the Warriors) on the offensive glass, and that’s a place where the Cavs are very, very strong.”

Geltzeiler expects a big series from James, sure, but he thinks Jeff Green could be the Cavs’ X-factor. Green had 19 points and eight rebounds in Cleveland’s 87-79 Game 7 win over Boston on Sunday.

“Watch him be an enormous part of what they do in this series,” Geltzeiler said. “LeBron is going to have to play 45-plus minutes every single game in this series. I don’t want him touching guarding Kevin Durant. I’m fine with him on Klay Thompson. I don’t want him touching Kevin Durant. Your best Durant defense outside of LeBron is going to be Jeff Green: big, physical. He’s going to be a really key guy on both ends in this series for the Cavaliers.”

If the Warriors play their best ball from start to finish, the Cavs have little chance. But Golden State has rarely played its best ball – and when it does, it’s usually not until the second half.

“Their effort for the first half of that game was garbage,” Geltzeiler said of Golden State’s Game 7 win over Houston. “It was garbage. For a Game 7, it can’t be that way. As good as Harden is and as well as they played in the absence of Paul, that’s not LeBron James on the other end. That's James Harden, who’s never won an NBA title and (has) been to one Finals as a third banana. This is LeBron James. This is a guy who hasn’t come this far to let you guys just walk all over him and drain a ton of threes on him. They’re going to play with some mental toughness.”

The Warriors swept their way through the Western Conference last season before beating Cleveland in five. The road to the Finals this year has been decidedly tougher.

“This is not that same Warriors team,” Geltzeiler said. “They’re not playing with the same selflessness, the same level of energy. There’s a boredom among them at times, and it's really been hard for Steve Kerr to get their attention when he needs to get their attention. I think (that’s) going to be pretty dangerous in this series.”

Geltzeiler didn’t have the Cavs in the Finals, but now that they’re here, anything is possible.

“Coming into the playoffs, I thought it was going to be Golden State and Toronto – and if you told me Cleveland was going to be back, I would have told you it was going to be easy for the Warriors,” he said. “But right now, with the way the Warriors have played up until now, nothing will be easy for them. The Cavs have had tough mental test after tough mental test here and LeBron and his crew that he’s pulled along have passed every single one. I actually think it’s going to be a much tougher series than people think, and I think part of the reason is Golden State is not the mentally tough team that we’re used to seeing with them.”

The Warriors, it is worth noting, could be without Andre Iguodala, who missed the last four games of the Western Conference Finals with a knee injury.

“I don’t know that we’re going to see Iguodala in this series, and that’s their best LeBron defender,” Geltzeiler said. “The Warriors are going to have some problems here. It’s not going to be easy, and I don’t know if Steve Kerr is going to be able to step on their head enough to get them to do what they need to do at the right times.”

Ultimately, Geltzeiler believes the Warriors will win the championship, but he thinks they’ll need seven games to do it.

“I’m picking Golden State in seven,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a seven-game series. I think there’s no way LeBron is going to get run over in this spot, just with the fact that Golden State is playing far from their best basketball. In the end, I do think that they win the series, but I think that’s going to be a dog fight. It’s going to be a very hard-fought NBA Finals.”

Game 1 is Thursday at 9 p.m. ET.