29 May, 2017
The reigning champion Cavaliers and the 2015 victor Warriors will battled for the crown for a third straight year in the best-of-7 starting at Golden State on Thursday. The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions. The streak is a first in National Basketball Association history, and a rarity in general in American sports. It's the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well. "So having that team like Golden State over there who is always pushing us, I know from on this side, it's great for us and it's great for the game". Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on January 16. This year they crushed the Celtics, the No. 1 seed that fell behind No. 8 seed Chicago, 2-0, in the first round before winning four games after Rajon Rondo went down.
"I wear the number because of Mike", James said. "I think maybe people just fail to realize that you just have two great teams and don't appreciate that. We need to understand the privilege that we have and the opportunity that we have to play in the Finals again, to have the opportunity to win a championship".
After the team returned from Boston in the wee hours Friday morning, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue didn't go to bed and immediately began working on a game plan to stifle Golden State's powerful, multi-faceted offense. "We're in the NBA Finals". But perhaps the player with the most legacy juice on the line is the newcomer to the already developed Cavs-Warriors rivalry. I respect how Hornets owner Jordan steers clear of the subject.
Cleveland certainly deserved the Cavs' title and the Indians' World Series appearance for so many years of failure from its teams.
"Honestly we didn't want IT to go down", Irving said. "We have to be ready for the challenge".
James, a three-time Finals MVP, is next at 2-1. James thwarted Durant's attempt at eternal glory in five games. His first chance at etching his name in stone as a champion came back in 2012 when his Oklahoma City Thunder faced off against James' Miami HEAT.
While comparisons were, and continue to be, drawn to the time James took his talents to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade and the HEAT, the situations aren't particularly similar.
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"When you're growing up and you're seeing Michael Jordan, it's almost like a god, so I didn't ever believe I could be Mike", James said.
They'll collide again, starting next week. They got a big scare in late February when Durant had a left knee injury, but he's back and the Warriors have rolled since.
Yes, the Eastern Conference isn't much better, but that's a little different.
"I'm just proud of the work we've put in from the beginning of the season", Durant said following the sweep of the Spurs.
However, after blowing their 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals just a year ago, to the Warriors no less, Durant made a decision that will forever shape his career.
The Warriors/Cavs dominant run was also protected against, but the more predictable runs coupled with the unbelievable winning margins has been hard to guard against, and the underdog bets would cost you dearly in the last two playoffs. "It's kind of in our minds that that's who we were going to see".
The storylines are many.