When the NBA season started many pundits had the Warriors and Cavaliers meeting in the Finals again. It’s not often that everybody is right on. If it was, nobody would leave Las Vegas empty-handed. The only other time in recent memory that so many people were correct was when virtually the entire world predicted the Patriots and Eagles would meet in Super Bowl XXXIX, which is exactly what happened.
The Warriors went 73-9 in the regular season, adding excitement to an otherwise lackluster year. There was criticism of the lack of competitive teams in the league but there is hope that this matchup will make up for it. The Thunder almost threw a wrench in the plan, taking a 3-1 lead over Golden State, but the Warriors came back to win three in a row.
It’s the second straight season of Warriors-Cavaliers and Curry-LeBron. LeBron James is playing in his sixth NBA finals in a row and now he gets Golden State again, the team that came back from 2-1 last year to win three in a row and celebrate on Cleveland’s home court.
Stephen Curry is the defending two-time MVP and arguably the most popular player in the league. In James and the Cavs, Curry has his rival. “To be in a position now where we can create legacies and have memorable series like last series against the Thunder and now in The Finals, that’s pretty special for me to be in that with my teammates and hopefully do something special things as well,” Curry told the media on Wednesday.
Curry’s father, Dell, played in the NBA for 16 years, including one with Cleveland, so Stephen has an understanding of the history of the league and its rivalries. “His first year was the year I was born, so I remember a lot of his career,” Curry said. “But as a fan of the league, you might not have watched those series live or seen Magic and Michael play and Bird and all those guys, I didn’t see them play live, but you watch all the stories about what went down and how they advanced the game of basketball and just the high level of competition that it was, and that’s inspiring, for sure.”
The love-him or hate-him James is looking to avoid dropping to 2-5 in the Finals and bring the city of Cleveland its first championship since 1964.
The Warriors are trying not to join the 2001 Mariners and 2007 Patriots as the greatest teams not to win a title. Golden State has answered every challenge over the last two seasons. They proved a jump-shooting team could win a title in 2015, they won when head coach Steve Kerr missed half of the season and they won three in a row against the Thunder when some were leaving them for dead.
Last year, Golden State won 67 games when nobody else in the West won 57. After winning the title, the Warriors became the hunted.
“The last time we were like the Cinderella story,” said Warriors forward Harrison Barnes. “Everything we did was new and exciting. It was like wow, we’re going to the NBA Finals – something we always dreamed of. This year it was a little different being the defending champs. There was the expectation for us to be here. We ourselves wanted to get to this point. Now that we got here, it’s like, OK, there are still four games to win.”