- Cleveland only came second in the Eastern Conference after losing form towards the end of the regular season, but they have been back to their best in the playoffs. Following 4-0 series victories over Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, they also swept aside top seeds Boston Celtics 4-1 to clinch the Conference title.
- Golden State’s record has been even more impressive. They finished the regular season with the best win percentage of any team in the country and cruised to the Western Conference title without losing a game as they whitewashed Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs 4-0.
- The two sides only faced each other twice during the regular season, winning one game apiece, but know all about each other from the past two NBA finals. Cleveland triumphed 4-3 last year, having lost 4-2 in 2015. This is the first time in NBA history that the same two teams have made it through to three successive finals.
The Warriors have the slight edge with the bookies after another blistering season. They have won all 12 of their matches in the postseason and the way they demolished San Antonio Spurs - a team with a superior record to Cleveland in 2016/2017 - was particularly ominous. They have dominated most of the team stats this season, including the most points, assists, steals and blocks per game, and have a superbly-balanced starting lineup. They surrendered a 3-1 lead last season but are stronger now, with Kevin Durant coming in alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green.
Golden State will also have home advantage in four of the seven matches, including the first two fixtures and the decider if the series goes the distance. If Cleveland are to get at least one win on the road and prevail overall, they will need to be defensively tighter than they have been throughout the playoffs. While the Cavaliers’ postseason form has been scintillating, they have still conceded more than 100 points far too often and that will prove costly against the Warriors. However, if the talismanic LeBron James can replicate his recent stunning performances then anything is possible. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving are also potential match-winners and Tristan Thompson’s role in trying to cut off Golden State’s air supply will be vital.
It is a rivalry which has become legendary and a close series would befit the occasion. Cleveland will take great confidence from last year’s win and cannot be ruled out, but Golden State appear to be almost unstoppable and it would not be a surprise to see them seal a slender 4-3 win on a magical final night at Oracle Arena.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Golden State to win 4-3 - 7/2
*Please note, odds may fluctuate.