And so it is written…the Golden State Warriors will once again face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. For the fourth consecutive season, the ‘best’ of the Eastern and Western conferences of the NBA will do battle for the ultimate crown. The problem here is that the rubber match happened in 2017, with Golden State winning the best-of-7 series in just 5 games, dispatching LeBron James and the Cavaliers with extreme prejudice. The signature moment of the series was Kevin Durant calmly bringing the ball up-court and finessing the sweetest 3-point shot in the face of the reigning NBA champion at the time, King James. One game later, Golden State moved ahead in the annual series 2-1.
For those who may be a tad late to the party, I’ll catch you up on the series history. In 2015, the Warriors won the championship in 6 games with Andre Iguodala hustling his way to the series MVP award. 2016 saw James and Co. redeem themselves by riding a historic comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to snatch a victory in game 7 and spoil the 73-win season of the Warriors, buoyed by a sensational chase down block by LeBron. James added his 3rd finals MVP to his trophy case and his 3rd NBA title as well. The biggest headline leading into the 2017 season was free agent Durant joining a 73-win team and after Draymond Green placed a teary-eyed call to him following game 7 (Denied by Durant for legal reasons; see tampering). The union would not disappoint. While there wasn’t a race to 74 wins to best their previous season, there was a feeling of dominance and unstoppable force with the new look Warriors. Gone was Harrison Barnes who disappeared in the 2016 finals, replaced by the lanky sharp-shooter known as KD. More than willing to share the spotlight, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Green, and Iguodala got to work feeding Durant the rock, making him feel right at home. As if predestined, no one was surprised when round 3 of the head to head series came to fruition. As previously mentioned, it was much ado about nothing. Even with an unstoppable James and amazing Kyrie Irving, the Cavs did not have enough firepower to compete with the Bay Area ballers. In the end, Durant had redeemed his Finals loss versus LeBron and Miami Heat back in 2012.
And here we are, mere hours away from round 4 and frankly, this doesn’t feel quite right. After two thrilling 7 game series that saw the away team win on the road to advance, fans should feel a bit cheated. Many may feel like I do, the best team moved forward but the best match-up is not the result. The excitement that should surround this round of the playoffs is tempered by the fact that we’ve seen this movie before and the last time we watched it, we realized it wasn’t as good the third time around. In this fourth installment, neither team appears as dominant as last year’s version but this still favors the Warriors. A slightly less dominant Golden State will still control Cleveland in many facets. The Warriors offer more consistent shooters across the board, even down to the bench, combined with solid defense and transition basketball. The Cavaliers enter with one less chess piece (Irving) than last season and have relied on the likes of George Hill and Jeff Green to support James as holdovers Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Tristan Thompson have either been absent or physically present while making little impact on a consistent basis. The notion that Golden State will sweep a Lebron-led team is laughable as it is evident that James won’t be denied at least 1 win in a best-of-7 series.
I’m calling it now, Golden State in 5 with the Cavs actually stealing one in The Bay to tie the series at 1-1 before 3 straight Warriors wins to close the series out back in Cali in front of their home crowd. Until then, we’ll all watch this slow walk to the inevitable with our minds made. But hey, enjoy the series good people!