Tonight is finally the night!! The NBA Finals get underway! This is the matchup that most of the NBA expected and wanted to see in the finals. Cleveland and Golden State will kick off this series tonight at 9 PM. In case you wanted a few reasons to watch, here are a few things to keep in mind.
These teams met in the finals last year. Last season’s finals were decided in six games with Golden State having too much depth for Cleveland’s depleted roster to contend with. Even with depleted health, Cleveland managed to keep the series close with toughness, good defense, and the great play of Lebron James. Now, the Cavaliers are healthy, they have the players they want, they have the coach they want, and they have a chance to take down the champs. The Warriors also want to see Cleveland because they have drawn criticism that their path to a championship last year was much too easy. Their opponents were injured for every series and the challenge factor was there, but it was not as strong as it was in this playoff run and in this finals. Both sides wanted this rematch and got what they want.
I also have a historical angle too. Take a look at my list of Top 10 NBA Finals, and you’ll see many series that are rematches. The atmosphere of a rematch is so much more intense because there is a sense of bitterness on one side and that allows for a real dislike of the opposition. The Celtics and Lakers don’t like each other because they have faced each other multiple times and have had years where there are direct rematches. So did the Lakers and Sacramento Kings in the playoffs in the early 2000’s, so did the Spurs and whoever LeBron is playing with. The atmosphere in general for a rematch is heightened and with the specifics of this rematch, it’s made even better and more meaningful.
2. Paying off the Record?
The Golden State Warriors set the record for the greatest regular season record in NBA history this year at 73-9. They set the standard every step of the way this year and reign supreme as the biggest draw in the NBA. But does their legendary regular season mean anything if they don’t win the championship? Well, yes and no. It’s still a remarkable accomplishment to win that many games and is still an all time mark. But the purpose of playing this game is to try and win a championship and Golden State has put themselves in as good a position as they possibly could. If they don’t win the championship, it will take a huge amount of luster off the Warrior’s season. The players all know that and they want to be known as the best team in NBA history. They will do whatever they need to do to win a title. The Warriors have a ton of pride in their craft and want to win badly.
3. Believeland’s Faith
I watched a documentary in ESPN’s 30 for 30 series called Believeland recently. It highlighted the depths of pain that Cleveland sports fans have hit. It showed how much the Cleveland fans have endured and how they still believe. They still believe in LeBron and his ability to carry the Cavaliers to a championship. It would be the first Cleveland championship since Jim Brown ran over the Baltimore Colts in the 1964 NFL Championship Game. Lebron has said many times over that he feels the pressure to win and knows the pain of northeast Ohio, as he grew up in it. He and the rest of the Cavaliers know exactly what a championship would do for their fan base, and they want to win for their home city.
This is a hard finals to call. The teams are well matched and both ready to go toe to toe. They have strong shooters on Curry and Thompson for Golden State and Love, Irving, Frye, and Smith for Cleveland. They play very similar styles of basketball, being the first and second ranked teams in making three pointers this postseason. They can also get inside. Draymond Green and Lebron James can facilitate their team’s offense from the inside, and they both have good post offenses to help their teams. These teams are very evenly matched up and down. Ultimately, it will comedown to who can control some momentum and who plays with more energy. Both teams have reason to be energetic and play hard, but I’ll ultimately have to pick Golden State for that. They have the momentum off a big victory in the conference finals over OKC, and have a little more depth than Cleveland. Not much, but just enough to eek out what will be an amazing seven game series.