It’s here! After roughly a month and a half of formalities, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will clash in their third straight NBA Finals. No other teams in history have ever met in three consecutive finals in the National Basketball Association’s almost 70-year history including the Celtics and Lakers (whether those teams had Bill Russell going against Jerry West or Larry Bird squaring off with Magic Johnson) who have faced each other twelve times can say that. Despite that, this third act of the trilogy feels different in a decidedly negative way. The paths to the Finals taken by the two combatants were historically easy, with the teams going a combined 24-1 through the first three playoff rounds, winning games by such large margins it made their series’ worthless to watch for entertainment. The league has never been more lopsided in its history. At least during the Celtics-Lakers dominated 1980s you had teams who could give them both bad times (the Philadelphia 76ers, Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets come to mind respectively). The reasons for this lack of parity which has sucked the joy out of the postseason after a fun regular season are ironically clashing against one another in this series at the small forward position; LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

With James’ move to Miami in the summer of 2010 and his move back to Cleveland 4 years later the modern super-team of bonding high-level free agents or free agents to be was born with his co-stars being Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami and Kevin Love with Kyrie Irving in Cleveland. Golden State took the LeBron model of superstars bonding together and perfected it when they added to their three All-Star starting five (Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and two-time Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry) another MVP winner in Kevin Durant. Although Golden State drafted three of those four All-Stars, it has not made Durant’s decision any more popular or made it any easier for fans to watch their teams get destroyed by thirty points on a nightly basis by the “Death Lineup”. Durant’s incessant whining about being mistreated or unfairly being singled out by fans has done little to help matters in the Court of Public Opinion.

Concerning the actual basketball to be played, the Warriors had a stronger regular season, and have a stronger starting five but the Cavaliers bench is much deeper than Golden State’s so if the “Death Lineup” gets tired this may become an issue. The most important match-up of the series will be the one between James and Durant who have met in the Finals once before as combatants when the older James crushed the then 23-year-old Durant and his Oklahoma City Thunder in five games in 2012. If James gets a significant edge on Durant again, Golden State may once again allow for the Larry O’Brien trophy to take residence in the “City of Light, the City of Magic” to quote Randy Newman. Another match-up to watch is the one between Klay Thompson on ball defense while Kyrie Irving is attacking (there is no way Tyronn Lue lets the reverse match-up become a regular thing, lest he want Thompson to break his shooting slump as Irving’s defense is one of the worst in the league in terms of Defensive Points Saved). A side note is I don’t see anymore historic 3-1 series leads being blown by either squad. If James and Irving can beat their men, the Cavs will repeat, if not we may be in for a short series. in between these two outcomes is the coronation of a new Evil Empire of Basketball, which unfortunately for the other 29 fanbases may not come to an end anytime soon. Being that I am a pessimist, I think Golden State will do just that in six games.

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