OAKLAND — Having survived their Game 7 test in Houston during the Western Conference finals, the Warriors are on the brink of history with a chance to win their third NBA title in four seasons. Oddsmakers are calling this one of the biggest Finals mismatches in history because the supporting cast surrounding LeBron James appears weaker than the Cavaliers teams the Warriors have faced the past three seasons.
But, while many believe the West finals decided the real championship, the Warriors can’t afford to treat their matchup with the Cavs like an anticlimax when they take the floor for Game 1 Thursday night at Oracle Arena.
Describing what it meant to prevail over the Rockets, who had the best regular-season record, last season’s Finals MVP Kevin Durant said, “It’s been exciting that we got the opportunity to go through [Game 7] and also get out of it being in the Finals again. But we’re not satisfied. We want to finish the job.”
Durant scoffed at the notion that a fourth straight Finals matchup between the same two teams, which never has happened in any major American pro sport, might be boring. “It may not be as suspenseful as a lot of people want it to be or as drama-filled, but that’s what you’ve got movies and music for,” Durant said. “I don’t feel like you should have any complaints because it’s a great set of players on both teams.”
The Warriors swept the two-game season series, winning at home on Christmas Day and in Cleveland on Martin Luther King Day. That Cavs team already was dramatically different from a year ago because of the offseason departure of free agent Kyrie Irving. But at the February trade deadline, they shipped out six more players and brought in four new faces.
“It’s a weird kind of dynamic thinking about this is the fourth time in a row we’ve played Cleveland in the Finals,” guard Steph Curry said. “Obviously, LeBron’s still there, and he’s Mister Everything for them. He’s been playing amazing the whole regular season and especially in these playoffs to will his team back here . . . Everything starts with LeBron and trying to put up as much resistance as you can.”
The Warriors will be without backup forward Andre Iguodala (left leg bone bruise), who has been their most effective defender against James, for at least Game 1 and maybe beyond. That complicates things for the Warriors, but Curry suggested their triumph over the Rockets actually generated momentum for the Finals.
“I think you saw that on all our faces after Game 7 of the Houston series where this means a lot to us,” Curry said. “There is an appreciation for the difficulty to get back to this stage, let alone try to win four more games and win a championship. We’re living in the moment.”