1) LeBron James’ legacy
You have heard it for days now, “Is it time to put LeBron in the Jordan category?” Many have argued both ways with yours truly leaning slightly towards yes. James currently owns a Finals record of 3-4 which means this series will swing it to 4-4 or 3-5. While we like to pretend it won’t make a difference, when we look back and see five Finals loses for LeBron, that is something that is going to be remembered. But a win, not just any win, a win against a team that he is a significant underdog to, would launch him into the ‘1A’ and ‘1B’ conversation with Jordon. I know James recently said that he doesn’t have anything left to prove, but I hate to break it to you King, but you are wrong.
2) Kevin Durant’s decision
It all comes down to this. When Durant made the decision to head into the Bay Area, this is what we all wanted he wanted. He now gets what he wanted which means he has everything to lose and little to gain. Anything other than a championship for this Durant-led team is a failure unless he averages 40 points per game and they still lose, he is rightfully going to get the blame. You can’t be the second best player in the world and go to a team that came within a game of winning it all last year and not win it. If he wins, he will be talked about has a top 20 player of All-Time, but if he loses, his legacy is tainted forever.
3) Steph Curry’s redemption/Kyrie Irving’s sustainability
Other than the obvious two (James and Durant) we also get the pleasure of watching two of the most prolific ball handlers and shooters in the league: Curry and Irving. While they are obviously similar in a lot of way, they come into this series with very different public perceptions. Curry on one hand, despite what a quick glance at the boxscore says, has not been at his best in the past two Finals. It drives me crazy to see any player get down to when it really counts and not be able to perform up to the standard that they have set. While the past two finals can relatively be forgotten with a sharp performance this time around, another disappointment will be attached to his name for years to come.
It couldn’t be much different for Irving. Despite having the best player in the world on his team, the guard is known as the closer for Cleveland which has been on full display with his game-winning three in game seven. Even more recently against the Celtics in game four when LeBron was struggling and a loss would have tied the series at two a piece. A continuation of what we have come accustom to seeing from Irving is necessary for the Cavs to beat the best team is basketball over the past three years.
4) Brewing rivalry
All week long, both teams have been making snarky comment after snarky comment. It all started with Coach Lue saying that the Celtics are harder to defend than the Warriors. Coach Brown proceeded to answer back by saying, “that’s cute.” The latest comes from Richard Jefferson who said today, “Our team was more posed last year…that’s why we won.” Is he wrong? Of course not, not factually, but I wouldn’t be giving the Warriors any more motivation if I were on the Cavs. Between all the comments made, and playing each other in Finals for the past two years with mostly the same players, I fully expect it to get chippy.
5) Draymond Green vs Kevin Love
Even though this isn’t getting a lot of attention heading into this series, if I am Golden State, I match Green up against Love as much as possible. We all know Green has the ability to get into people’s heads in a clean or dirty manor. While I do expect him to be more careful because of last year’s suspension, do we really think it is hard to get inside Love’s head? I certainly don’t. If the Warriors want to stop Love from playing like he did in Minnesota, Green could very well be the answer. Plus, from an entertainment standpoint, who wouldn’t want to see these two get into it a bit?
-Article by Nick Friend
Tomorrow: Podcast, video, and article reacting to NBA Finals game 1