The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have combined for 33 championships and 52 NBA Finals appearances. If you are old enough to remember, it felt like Larry Bird and Magic Johnson played in practically every Finals in the 1980s.
However, no two franchises have met in three consecutive Finals until now. Warriors vs. Cavaliers Part III. The Trilogy. Rubber Match, whatever you want to call it. Golden State is a -240 series favorite at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com with Cleveland at +200.
In the 2015 Finals, the Cavaliers had star point guard Kyrie Irving for just one game due to injury and Kevin Love not at all. The Warriors won that series in six games for the franchise’s first title since 1975.
Last year, Golden State set an NBA record by winning 73 regular-season games. Might that push for history have worn them down a bit come the postseason? The Dubs had to rally from a 3-1 series deficit in the Western Conference Finals against Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder.
Golden State then led Cleveland 3-1 in the NBA Finals, but lost Draymond Green for Game 5 due to suspension. That opened the door for the Cavs to win that game in Oakland and eventually become the first team to ever rally from a 3-1 series deficit to win the Finals.
So here we are again. The 2016 season ended on the night of June 19, and ever since then the Warriors and Cavaliers have been betting favorites to get back here. Frankly, the NBA’s regular season was almost a waste of time. The Warriors added Durant in free agency – Does KD leave Oklahoma City if he beats the Warriors in last year’s West Finals? – and won 67 games.
In many statistical categories, this year’s team was superior to the record 73-win club. For example, the 2015-16 Warriors had a season point differential of plus-10.8 and a net rating of 11.8. This year’s team was plus-11.6 and had a rating of 12.1. When you sub out Harrison Barnes for Durant in your starting lineup, you should be better.
LeBron James, meanwhile, essentially cares less about the regular season, but he’s in an unprecedented seventh straight NBA Finals overall and eighth career. He’s 3-4 in the previous seven. In these playoffs, James has passed Michael Jordan, the one player he is most compared to, for the most postseason points ever. LeBron also has three NBA Finals MVP Awards, trailing only Jordan’s six.
Cleveland is 12-1 in these playoffs, winning by an average of 13.6 points. Its only loss was Game 3 of the East Finals vs. Boston when James was fighting an illness and held to a shocking 11 points. Golden State is the first team to start a postseason at 12-0 and is winning by an average of 16.3 points. That’s the highest in history for a minimum of five playoff games. The Warriors have won all but two of their games by double digits. No team has finished a postseason unbeaten.
For Game 1 on Thursday, the Warriors are 7-point betting favorites at home with a Finals
record-high total of 227. The favorite in the opener of the NBA Finals has covered 11 of the past 12 years.