So, we meet again.
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For the first time in league history, the NBA Finals matchup will be the same for a third straight year, with both the Warriors and the Cavaliers arriving in impressive fashion — Golden State at 12-0 in the playoffs and Cleveland at 12-1. All season, there has been little doubt that the two teams would wind up here, but the way they dominated their conferences over the past month and a half is an aspect no one could have foreseen.
In a way, the rest of the regular season and the playoffs never really mattered much. The entire past eight months in the NBA pointed to this moment, to the rubber match between the Warriors, 2015 NBA Finals champions, and the Cavaliers, 2016 Finals champs. In fact, you could argue that this matchup was set in stone last July, when Kevin Durant opted to leave the Thunder, turn down the Celtics and land with the already-stacked Warriors.
James has sat a total of 35 seconds in the second half, and the Cavs simply can’t afford to sit him. Mark it down now: Cavs 102, Warriors 97 with 8:33 left. We’ll see what LeBron has left in the reserve tank.
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Green picks up his fifth foul with ten minutes to go in the game. Durant checks back in. Foul trouble has really limited him the past two games.
You might disagree. It didn’t hurt the NBA in the past, right? Hell, the Celtics won eight in a row from 1959-66. Chicago did it twice from 1991-93 and 1996-98. The Lakers did it in Minneapolis from 1952-54 and in Los Angeles 2000-02. Those Lakers teams with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal lost just three NBA Finals games in three years. The league survived.
The Lakers, however, weren’t playing LeBron James. The Warriors made the Cavs look like those 76ers, Pacers or Nets teams that Shaq and Kobe used to burn through. Boston, Chicago and Minneapolis had the best players in the game, too.