We take a look at the five things to notice in the NBA Finals, the league’s best-of-seven championship final which starts on Thursday.
HISTORIC FINALS TRILOGY
Golden State and Cleveland meet in the NBA Finals for the third year in a row, with the Warriors taking the title in 2015 but being dethroned in 2016 by the Cavaliers, who rallied from 3-1 down to win the best-of-seven series in the greatest comeback in finals history.
Each major North American sports league has now had a “Threepeat” championship round, the NHL between Detroit and Montreal from 1954-56, the NFL from 1952-54 between Detroit and Cleveland in the pre-Super Bowl era, and Major League Baseball in 1921-23 between the New York Yankees and New York Giants, who later moved to San Francisco.
The Warriors seek a fifth NBA title in franchise history on the 70th anniversary of their first, which came in 1947 when the team was based in Philadelphia.
The Cavaliers seek their second NBA title overall and in a row. It comes 10 years after Cleveland’s first NBA Finals appearance, when the team was coached by Mike Brown, the Golden State assistant coach who has guided the Warriors in the playoffs due to complications following back surgery for Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
HOT PLAYOFF START ROLLS ON
Golden State became the first team in NBA history to start the playoffs 12-0. Eight prior teams have reached the title round unbeaten, but none had so many games to win to get there.
And three of those clubs then lost the finals. The most recent prior team to enter the NBA Finals unbeaten was the 2001 Lakers, which went 11-0, lost the opener of the finals, then won four in a row to defeat Philadelphia.
On that Lakers squad was current Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue.
Cleveland went 12-1 in this year’s playoffs after entering the post-season on a four-game losing streak to end the regular season. It’s the first final with teams having a combined one loss since the 1950s.
If the Warriors win in five or the Cavaliers sweep Golden State, the champion would have the best one-season playoff win percentage in NBA history.
ALL-STAR PLAYER MATCHUPS
The NBA Finals feature seven of the past eight NBA Most Valuable Players — Cleveland’s LeBron James (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013), Golden State’s Kevin Durant (2014) and Stephen Curry (2015, 2016).
There are seven 2017 NBA All-Stars and 11 players who have been All-Stars in their careers, as well as winners of seven of the last eight MVP awards, the most in either category since the 1983 NBA Finals.
All-Star personal matchups will feature LeBron James against Kevin Durant at small forward, Kyrie Irving versus Stephen Curry at point guard, and Kevin Love against Draymond Green at power forward.
In an international matchup at center, Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson of Canada will go against Zaza Pachulia of Golden State, who could become the first player from Georgia to win an NBA crown.
Golden State’s Klay Thompson set the record for most points in an NBA quarter with a 37-point third quarter against Sacramento on January 23, 2015. Cleveland’s Kevin Love ranks second after a 34-point first quarter against Portland on November 23, 2016.
DURANT-JAMES RIVALRY SPARKS
LeBron James had not won an NBA title when he and Kevin Durant first collided in an NBA Finals.
That was in 2012 when James and the Miami Heat beat Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, giving “King” James his first crown.
James averaged 28.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the NBA Finals that year. Durant has not reached the finals since until now. This will be James’s seventh in a row and eighth overall, but he is only 3-4 in finals.
James has 17 NBA Finals game wins, two shy of the active leader mark of 19 shared by San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
LeBron James ranks seventh among all scorers in NBA Finals history with 1,079 career points, needing 98 points to pass Michael Jordan for third place on the all-time list, which would put him behind only Jerry West (1,679) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,317).
James passed Jordan as the top playoff scorer in NBA history last week. James is a three-time NBA Finals MVP, with Jordan at six the only player to win the award more often.
KORVER, WEST REACH FINALS
Cleveland’s Kyle Korver and Golden State’s David West are both 36-year-old former All-Stars who will each play in the NBA Finals for the first time in their careers. Each does so in his first year with his club.
Among active NBA players, only Utah’s Joe Johnson has played in more playoff games (112) without playing in the NBA Finals than Korver (104) or West (95).
Korver, in the top five among all-time NBA regular-season 3-point shotmakers, is one of only two active NBA players from the second round of the NBA Draft, the other being Golden State’s Pachulia.
Provided by AFP Sport