OAKLAND -- After a full week of hype, The Trilogy at last arrives Thursday night when the Warriors and Cavaliers clash at Oracle Arena for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
After the Warriors took out Cleveland in six games to win it all in 2015, the Cavs roared back in 2016 by becoming the first team in Finals history to overcome a 3-1 deficit and emerge as champions.
These teams have history. You might say they represent the Ali-Frazier of the NBA.
Warriors by 7
MATCHUP TO WATCH
Stephen Curry vs. Kyrie Irving: Even though they won’t frequently defend each other, these two elite point guards are in better position than anyone else to dictate the action, as well as the direction of games and the series. Both are explosive on offense and excel in big moments. Simply put, the one with the best series gives his team the edge in the series.
Warriors: None reported.
Cavaliers: C Edy Tavares (R hand fracture) is listed as out.
ROAD TO THE FINALS
Warriors: Posted a 67-15 record in the regular season to earn the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs. Swept Portland in four games in the first round, swept Utah in four in the Western Conference semifinals and swept San Antonio in four in the conference finals.
Cavaliers: Posted a 51-31 record in the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Swept Indian in four games in the first round, swept Toronto in four in the conference semifinals, defeated Boston in five games in the conference finals.
The teams split two games in the regular season, the Cavs with a 109-108 victory on Christmas Day in Cleveland, the Warriors a 126-91 win on Jan. 16 in Oakland. Postseason included, the Warriors are 11-8 against the Cavs over the past three seasons.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
KD vs. LeBron: In terms of basketball stature, the marquee matchup of the series. Both have MVP awards. Both have won scoring titles. Both are headed to the Hall of Fame. Only James has won championships, and he has three. Each will spend some time guarding each other, and every eye in the building will be captivated. With pride on the line, expect each to try to bring his best defense.
Klay’s Shot: Klay Thompson has earned praise for his work on the defensive end through the first three rounds, but his shooting touch has been well below his standard. The Warriors say they aren’t worried. Thompson says he isn’t worried. Both will be thrilled to see him go on the kind of tear we’ve seen before. He can get hot enough to carry a team to victory.
Draymond’s Rage: Draymond Green generally loves to scrap in the paint with bigger players, and he’ll see plenty in this series, from Kevin Love to Tristan Thompson and James. It’s a tremendous challenge, and Green’s ability to hold up under these conditions is crucial for the Warriors.