Will Cleveland retain their NBA championship?
A budding rivalry
Golden State and Cleveland have already created history with this being the first time in the NBA the same two teams have faced off in three consecutive Finals.
They are the undisputed powerhouses of today’s NBA. Back in the 1960s and 1980s it was the LA Lakers and Boston Celtics who dominated the sport which created some of the most historic match-ups such as Wilt Chamberlain v Bill Russell or Larry Bird v Magic Johnson.
Now it’s LeBron James v Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. And nobody truly knows what to expect.
That’s not being harsh on Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love but James, Curry and Durant have shared seven of the last eight NBA MVP awards.
James has tried to deny there’s a rivalry but when the two best sides meet in the NBA Finals for three straight years – it’s a rivalry. And the best the sport has seen in a long time.
Golden State won the NBA title back in 2015
The Cavaliers-Warriors is rivalry is just what the NBA needs right now
‘Cupcake’ Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant is THE difference for this match-up from the last two Finals for the obvious reason that he wasn’t there.
Durant became NBA’s No 1 villain when he left Oklahoma for Golden State last summer.
He was lambasted for chasing rings instead of creating a legacy at OKC.
And he is seemingly in a no win situation. If he does get a ring, critics will say that was expected. Lose to the Cavaliers and questions will be asked whether it was worth it.
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Durant proved in the regular season matches against OKC, where the hatred and pressure on him was immense, that he can more than hold his own. He scored 34, 40 and 39 points in the three matches he played against his former team.
But this is different. This is when it matters most. He left a contender to join an already star-studded team. And while the likes of Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will be crucial to the Warriors’ push for the title, it’s Durant who has to deliver on the big stage.
LeBron James v Michael Jordan debate
It’s bound to come up. It does every year and for good reason.
There’s no debate that gets NBA fans talking more than the question – Who is the greatest of all time? James or Jordan?
It resurfaced in last year’s Finals when James turned extraterrestrial in Cleveland’s historic fightback from 3-1 down against Golden State.
And last week ‘The King’ surpassed Jordan to become the all-time playoff leading points scorer.
The debate pales in significance to what the two sporting icons have done for NBA as a whole but it’s one basketball fans are divided over.
If James can beat the star-studded Golden State Warriors to pick up his fourth NBA title can he once and for all be regarded as the GOAT?
Kevin Durant is the big difference in this year's Finals
Three point shoot-out
For the past couple of years Curry and the Warriors have completely torn up the record books on shooting from deep.
But the Cavaliers have quietly knocked Golden State off their perch as the NBA’s elite long-range shooting team this season
The Cavs lead the playoffs in three-pointers made per game and per 100 possessions and they are No 1 in three-point percentage.
The comparisons between LeBron James and Michael Jordan will more than likely come up again
That being said, Steph Curry has led the league in three-points made during the regular season for the past five seasons and he is capable of going unconscious from behind the arc.
Of the players in this year’s Playoffs to have attempted more than 53 three-pointers, only seven players have shot better than 41% – five of those are from either Golden State or Cleveland.
And that’s not including J.R Smith (44.9%), Kevin Durant (41.7%) or Channing Frye (52.6%).
Expect to see a paragon of three-point shooting in this year’s Finals.
Expect to see a three-point shooting masterclass from these two teams
The best one yet?
Kevin Love missed the entire 2015 Finals while Kyrie Irving missed the last five games due to an injury in Game 1.
And Draymond Green’s suspension in Game 5 last year cost Golden State dearly while Andrew Bogut was also a huge loss in the final two games
This time though Green has reined in his foul trouble and all the superstars are healthy.
Will the super-team in Golden State live up to their hype or will LeBron James further his legacy by upsetting the odds again?
Whatever the outcome, this promises to be an unforgettable series that could possibly go down as one of the greatest rivalries in NBA history.