For the first time in NBA history (71 years), the same two teams will meet in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive season. In fact, it’s the first time in 61 years that any major North American pro sport league will feature the same teams for the third straight year with a championship on the line.
It’s the rubber match between the Warriors and Cavaliers, who went a combined 24-1 in this year’s playoffs. The Warriors, who’ve won 27 of their last 28 games, are seeking revenge from last year’s infamous meltdown in the 2016 finals when they blew a 3-1 lead.
First things first: There are absolutely no excuses for either team entering the finals. Both teams are essentially at full health and fully rested.
There was a ton of complaining about this year’s playoffs. The competition was weak and predictable. But this is what we all wanted, anyway, and the road here couldn’t have played out better considering the above. Both teams are at full strength for a highly-anticipated finals, the first three-peat in league history.
I’m here to warn you that, like the playoffs, these finals may disappoint too. I think the Warriors have a chance to win this series in four or five games. I can’t say the same about the Cavs — it would be unfathomable for them to win this series easily. But that isn’t an indictment on the Cavs; they have enough pieces beyond the best player on the planet to win this series. I just think the Warriors are so ready to avenge last year’s collapse, and I can see them winning multiple games by 20 or more points. Again, it’s tough to say that about the Cavs.
The one thing, to me, that gives the Cavs a serious chance to win this series is their mental edge over the Warriors. In last year’s epic collapse, the Warriors were mentally drained. They missed wide open shots (especially Harrison Barnes), and allowed the Cavs to storm back to win the series. I question if the Warriors can win a close game against the Cavs, especially when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are playing lights out like they have recently.
- Kevin Durant came to Golden State for one thing: to win his first ring. He has been heavily criticized for leaving a Thunder team that let go of a 3-1 lead in last year’s Western Conference Finals against these same Warriors, only to join them. He must show up and take command on both sides of the ball.
- Steph Curry has a lot on the line. He was exposed in last year’s finals. Fully healthy or not, he came up small on the biggest of stages while his counterpart in Kyrie Irving hit the game-winning three in his face to basically seal the comeback. The two-time MVP must continue his hot shooting, or he and the Warriors are in trouble. Kyrie lives for these moments. Steph has to as well.
- Kevin Love, unlike last year, is playing his best basketball in a Cavs jersey. Will he be able to hold his end on the defensive side of the ball?
- LeBron has a serious chance to cement his legacy with another win. Going back-to-back against one of the most dominant teams ever would be incredible, and no one is under the microscope like he is.
- The Cavs and Warriors are two of three franchises to make 1,000 three-pointers in an NBA regular season. Everyone talks about the Warriors shooting, but the Cavs are right there with them. They have one of the best three-point shooters on their side, too, in Kyle Korver.
I have the Warriors winning this series in five or six games. If it goes to the seventh game, I seriously think the Cavs have the confidence to go into Oracle again and defeat the Warriors in their own building to seal back-to-back championships. I tend to think the former is more likely.