The 2017 NBA Finals are set and the wait is finally over. The world gets to see the Golden State Warriors matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third-straight year in the Finals.
It is the grudge match of all grudge matches. Everyone has been waiting for this series since the season tipped off on Oct. 25, 2016. Some have been waiting for this since Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in July.
This third fight between the Warriors and Cavs will be bigger than the “Thrilla in Manila”.
How They Got Here
The Golden State Warriors went 67-15 this season following a record-breaking 73-win season in 2016. Golden State also broke the record for most wins over a three-year span.
This Warriors team is actually better than last year’s team thanks to the signing of Kevin Durant. The Warriors took it easy in the regular season because their goal all year was to meet the Cavs in the Finals.
Golden State made quick work of their playoff opponents. They swept all three opponents in a tough Western Conference. What the Warriors have done this postseason has been impressive and they sent a message. Winning the Finals is an obsession to them and nothing else is considered acceptable.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had it as easy as the Warriors. Cleveland went 51-31 and finished as the second seed in the East. The Cavs really struggled in the second half of the season. After Jan. 1st the Cavs went 26-24. They looked bad defensively and some started to question whether or not they were capable of another Finals run.
All those questions were put to bed quickly once the playoffs started. The Cavs easily swept the Pacers and Raptors before meeting the top-seeded Celtics in the conference finals. Cleveland then wiped Boston off their home-court in embarrassing fashion. Boston stole game three but all that did was delay the inevitable. Cleveland went on to finish the next two games easily to reach the finals for the third straight year.
Round One: Cleveland Hurt
The first year these two teams met in the Finals was in 2015. Kevin Love had been hurt in the first round and would miss the remainder of the playoffs.
Game 1 of the Finals dealt another injury to a Cleveland star. Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap in the first game of the series during overtime. Golden State would win that game and win the series 4-2 to capture its first title in 40 years.
Many called the Warriors title tainted claiming that they would not have won the championship had the Cavaliers been healthy. They were champions without respect and it was their mission to prove they were worthy of the crown.
LeBron had failed to bring a title to Cleveland and many were wondering if it was the right move to leave Miami. The criticism was high despite him averaging 35.8 points per game, 8.8 assists per game and 13.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 38.9 percent from the field. Just as the Warriors were determined to prove they were worthy of the crown, LeBron was determined to bring a title home.
Round Two: Suspension Sparks A Comeback
Cleveland and Golden State would meet again in the 2016 Finals for a rematch. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were both healthy for this matchup and many thought the Cavaliers would prove they were truly the better team. Coming into the Finals the Cavaliers had only lost two games in the East.
The Warriors had a much tougher road in the West. They had to comeback from being down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. Throughout the playoffs, Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala were dealing with nagging injuries. They played through those injuries but were not at full strength and expanded tons of energy just to get to the Finals.
In the beginning of the series, none of that seemed to matter. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead and had the largest combined margin of victory in NBA Finals history. Cleveland would win Game 3 and Golden State won Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. In that game, Draymond Green was assessed a flagrant foul, setting his playoff total to four, resulting in a suspension for Game 5. No team had ever come back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
Cleveland was able to win Games 5 and Game 6 to force an epic Game 7.
After six games the teams were tied in games won and total score. It was as close as a series as it could ever be and the final game of the year would truly decide a champion.
In Game 7, LeBron James blocked a late layup attempt by Andre Iguodala that set up a game-winning 3-pointer by Kyrie Irving. The Cavs won Game 7 93-89 and ended a 52-year championship drought in the city of Cleveland.
The Warriors had lost in the Finals and believed that had Iggy been healthier he would have dunked the ball. Golden State fans also believed that Curry wasn’t healthy and that if Draymond had not been suspended they would have won Game 6 and the series.
Round Three: Bragging Rights
Fast forward to now and here we are set for round three. The Warriors added superstar Kevin Durant to help them get back to the Finals for a third-straight season. The Cavaliers added minor pieces but have made it back to defend their title.
Golden State ended a 40 year drought and Cleveland ended a 52-year drought.
As mentioned earlier the Warriors enter the Finals 12-0 and the Cavaliers enter the Finals 12-1. Both teams sprinted to the Finals as fast as possible, and as rested as possible.
In round three, there are no excuses. Both teams are healthy and both teams will be rested. It is time to put up or shut up. It is time to make a mark on history.
Who’s era is it really? Without trying to predict too far ahead, it is unlikely these teams meet for a fourth straight Finals appearance.
Cleveland comes into the Finals averaging 116.8 points per game while Golden State comes in averaging 118.3 points per game. Both teams are great offensively but the team who plays the best defense will win this series.
There are so many fun matchups the world gets to see in this series as well. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson versus Kyrie Irving. Draymond Green versus Tristan Thompson, LeBron James or Kevin Love.
The most intriguing though is when Kevin Durant and LeBron James match up against one another. Two of the best players in the world will fight it out to be called the champion.
This series will go down in history. At the end of the day, the Warriors are going to win because they have just too much firepower. They lost last season by four points in Game 7. Adding Kevin Durant to the mix will just be too much. All eyes are on the Finals to see who really is the best between these two franchises.
The new greatest rivalry in sports will write the newest chapter this summer, changing legacies forever.
Prediction: Golden State Warriors 4-2
“From Our Haus to Yours”