As far as the NBA is concerned, 2017 has turned out to be a spitting image of 2016, and the year before that. With the Golden State Warriors having clinched their third NBA finals berth, and the Cleveland Cavaliers on the brink of doing so themselves, it appears as if basketball fans are going to get the grudge match they have been salivating over ever since Lebron James and the Cavaliers shocked Oakland and won the 2016 NBA Finals on the Warriors home court. With the record-setting Warriors having received the title over the Cavaliers in 2014-2015 and Cleveland getting revenge by winning seven games last season, both teams have a bone to pick with each other. It is not surprising that this year the Warriors and Cavaliers have proved to be the league’s two most electrifying teams. So far, the Cavaliers and the Warriors have blown by their opponents in the playoffs, going into game four of the Eastern Conference finals on May 23rd with a combined record of 22-1.
The Warriors entered the playoffs with the best record in the entire league, 67-15. Thus, it was not unexpected when the Warriors beat the eighth seeded Portland Trail Blazers in a best of seven series 4-0, then did the same to the fifth seeded Utah Jazz in the Western Conference Semi-Finals, and then to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
The Cavaliers entered the playoffs with a less pristine, but still impressive record of 51-31, landing them in the second seed for the Eastern Conference. Like the Warriors, the Cavaliers won each of their first two series 4-0, but are entangled in a 2-1 series in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The only team in the way of these two modern day basketball dynasties meeting in the Finals for the third year in a row is the Boston Celtics, the all-time winningest franchise in NBA history, with 17 team championships. The Celtics beat the Cavaliers out by one game to get the best seed in the Eastern Conference after the regular season, but the Celtics were still defeated in each of their first two games against the Cavaliers. However, even after losing their best player, five foot nine inch Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics bounced back in game three. Avery Bradley of the Celtics sunk a 3-point shot at the buzzer to knock off Cleveland on their own court, 108-111, bringing the series back to 2-1.
Regardless of the outcome of the Boston and Cleveland series (which determines who will face the Warriors), the NBA finals will be filled with thrilling storylines. Will the Cavaliers and Warriors settle their rivalry with one final series? Or will the Celtics, a lineup filled with young mediocrity after Thomas’ injury, make it back to the finals for the first time in almost ten years? Will Lebron James make a more compelling case for one of the best players of all time by winning his fourth NBA Finals trophy? Or will the Warriors make a compelling case for one of the best teams of all time by winning the NBA Finals for the second time in three years?
Graphics: Jessica Chang