Like any professional sports league, the NBA loves a rematch.
And no rematch is as perfect as this year’s NBA Finals between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the two-time Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
Last year, the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in six games to claim their first title in 40 years. But the Cavaliers staunchly believe they would have won the series had they been fully healthy. Thus, they were craving a rematch with the Warriors this year.
Cavaliers forward Kevin Love missed the Finals last season after undergoing shoulder injury. And Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving had season-ending surgery after fracturing his left kneecap in Game 1 of the Finals.
That left superstar LeBron James to fend for himself against the Warriors, who used the shooting of Splash Brothers Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — along with the heady defense of Andre Iguodala — to take down the short-handed Cavaliers.
Here are five things to watch in the best-of-seven NBA Finals:
Stephen Curry or LeBron James?
The debate between who is the world’s (not just the NBA’s) best player takes on another chapter. Is the best player Golden State guard Stephen Curry, who is the league’s reigning two-time Most Valuable Player? Or is it Cleveland forward LeBron James, who won the MVP award in 2009, ’10, ’12 and ’13? James wasn’t at all pleased when he not only didn’t win this year’s MVP award, but he finished third behind Curry and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Curry became the first unanimous MVP winner in NBA history this season.
Draymond Green vs. Kevin Love matchup
Green has developed a knack for kicking, screaming at and trash-talking at his opponents. So how will the ultra-sensitive Love react when someone as menacing as Green is constantly agitating (or even kicking him)? While Green’s act is tiresome to opponents, it also is very effective. Especially because, during the Western Conference Finals against Oklahoma City, the NBA turned a blind eye to a few of his shenanigans.
LeBron James’ best chance to salute Cleveland?
Of the nine seasons James has spent with the Cavaliers, this is clearly his best chance to bring Cleveland its first world title since the Browns won the NFL championship in 1964. The Cavaliers are healthy and rested since closing out the Eastern Conference Finals against Toronto on Friday in six games. After some bickering and a coaching change during the season, the Cavaliers are 12-2 in the postseason and playing their best ball of the season. What could possibly go wrong this time?
Which team will play Nellie ball the best?
Credit former Mavericks coach Don Nelson for being way ahead of his time and pioneering the free-style 3-point shooting brand of basketball that has been the backbone to the success of both the Warriors and Cavaliers. Nellie ball earned the Warriors a title last season and will earn the Warriors or Cavaliers a title this season. In the Warriors’ case, the Nellie ball point forward is Draymond Green, and in the Cavaliers’ case it’s LeBron James. Whichever team makes the most 3s will likely walk away with the championship trophy.
Which young coach will crack under pressure?
Warriors coach Steve Kerr defied the odds and won the league title in his first season as a coach last year. That’s the path Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue wants to follow in his first season as a head coach. Lue took over for David Blatt 41 games into this season and coached the Cavaliers to a 27-14 record and ultimately a berth in the NBA Finals. Now, Lue is seeking the ultimate prize, while Kerr has been there, done that and is seeking a repeat performance.
Best-of-7; x-if necessary
Cleveland vs. Golden State
Thursday: at Golden St., 8 p.m.
Sunday: at Golden State, 7 p.m.
June 8: at Cleveland, 8 p.m.
June 10: at Cleveland, 8 p.m.
June 13: x-at Golden St., 8 p.m.
June 16: x-at Cleveland, 8 p.m.
June 19: x-at Golden St., 7 p.m.