For the fourth time in four years, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves facing off with the NBA Championship on the line. It’s a new-age rivalry that has blossomed with the Stephen Curry-led Warriors winning in 2015 and 2017, while LeBron James inspired the Cavs to a title in 2016. Before the part four of this intense rivalry begins on Friday, here’s a look at some of the most interesting storylines around the 2018 NBA Finals:
The importance of LeBron James
The importance of LeBron James to this Cavs outfit — widely called as the worst team the 33-year-old had taken to the NBA Finals — is widely stated. But he also has the stats to back that up. Playing in his 15th season, James averages 34.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the playoffs coming into the NBA Finals. For both points and assists, he’s the Cavs’ leader. He’s also racked up 612 points in the first three series of the 2018 postseason — 16 more than any other player has scored at this stage in the playoffs historically.
Tellingly, the 33-year-old also leads the playoffs charts for: points per game (34.0), points scored in the clutch (35), double-doubles (13), triple-doubles (3), secondary assists per game (1.3), points per game scored on drives (12.1), and free throw attempts per game (9.7).
Warriors dominated matchups during season
The two times that the Cavaliers and the Warriors came face to face in the regular season, the latter won. In their first matchup, on Christmas Day, they lacked talisman Stephen Curry due to an injury. But Draymond Green stepped up with his first triple-double of the season as his side won 99-92. Disturbingly for the Cavs, they just could not score for the final 1:58 while the Warriors racked up seven points in a row.
A month later, in a match played on the Martin Luther King Jr Day, Cavs came racing out of the blocks and ended the first half with a seven-point lead. However, the Warriors caught up soon enough and then left them in a trail of smoke as they won 118-108.
Unfamiliarity reigns among familiar opponents
With the two teams having met successively for three straight finals, one would assume that the teams know each other like the back of their palms. Yet, thanks to a trade deadline day upheaval from the Cavs at least, their side bears a much different look and feel than the one which took on the Warriors even during the regular season in December 2017 and January 2018. They traded players like Jae Crowder, Dwyane Wade and Isaiah Thomas while bringing in George Hill, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance among others.
Among friends and family
While the Cavs versus Warriors matchup is now becoming one of the most talked-about modern rivalries, there are a lot of sub-plots too involving the two teams.
Take Kevin Durant and Cavaliers’ Kendrick Perkins for instance. The duo was on the same team, Oklahoma City Thunder, for five seasons. Durant even called Perkins “one of the best teammates I’ve ever had” during his memorable acceptance speech on winning the 2013-14 NBA MVP Award. He recollected late-night calls and texts of encouragement from Perkins during the speech.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr was a teammate of Larry Nance Senior for just over three seasons while he was a player at the Cavaliers. Kerr’s team will face Nance’s son, Cleveland’s Larry Nance Junior, in the Finals.
Cavs’ Kevin Love and Warriors’ Klay Thompson were childhood friends, who grew up in Oregon. They played on the same Little League baseball team, almost making it to the Little League World Series. Interestingly, Klay’s brother Trayce is now an outfielder for the Chicago White Sox. Klay’s other brother Mychel Thompson played for the Cavaliers in 2011-12. Steph Curry’s brother Seth Curry also was with the Cavs in 2013-14.
Cleveland’s George Hill and Golden State’s David West were part of the core of the Pacers, who made it to the Conference Finals in 2013 and 2014, losing twice to LeBron James and the Heat.
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Updated Date: May 31, 2018 13:28:23 IST