Breaking down the NBA final

LeBron James is gunning for another title with his hometown Cavaliers.
LeBron James is gunning for another title with his hometown Cavaliers.  (Tony Dejak / The Associated Press)  

The same teams meet in a third straight NBA final for the first time in league history starting Thursday when the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers meet in a rubber match that’s been anticipated since last year’s seven-game series ended.

The Cavaliers are the defending champions, the Warriors had the league’s best regular season record and have strung together 12 straight playoff victories, it is truly a meeting of the two best teams in the league.

There are 11 players who have been named NBA all-stars in the series and between LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant seven of the past eight winners of the league’s Most Valuable Player award will battle it out.

There no injuries of note, each team has been off for a week to rest and prepare and there is an expectation it could be one of the best series of the era. Here’s a look:

NBA Final

Golden State Warriors (No. 1, West) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 2, East)

The schedule

Game 1 Thursday, 9 p.m., Oakland; Game 2 Sunday, 8 p.m., Oakland; Game 3 Wednesday, 9 p.m., Cleveland; Game 4 June 9, 9 p.m., Cleveland; x-Game 5 June 12, 9 p.m., Oakland; x-Game 6 June 15, 9 p.m. Cleveland; x-Game 7 June 18, 8 p.m., Oakland.

x-if necessary

About the Cavaliers

There is no debate about Cleveland’s offensive potency, especially with Kevin Love making about 48 per cent of the three pointers he tries. But defending against the Warriors is going to be the biggest and most important task. LeBron James on Kevin Durant? Juicy but it takes away from James playing something akin to a free safety in the middle of the court … Tristan Thompson will have to dominate the boards in his matchup with Zaza Pachulia and/or JaVale McGee to keep Cleveland rolling … James was out of this world good in the final three games a year ago and might be playing a higher level now … Cleveland’s bench — Deron Williams, Iman Shumpert, Kyle Korver — have to more than hold their own … Kyrie Irving’s ability to break down defences will be a key for Cleveland’s offence and getting open three-pointers off drive and kick plays … Cavaliers are fully healthy and well-rested but can’t get off to a slow start.

About the Warriors

This is what Kevin Durant dreamed about when he shocked the basketball world and joined the Warriors last summer and he gives Golden State a different look than they’ve ever hard … Stephen Curry has somewhat quietly put together his best post-season and is not nagged by injury as he was a year ago … The mercurial Draymond Green has to keep his emotions in check because he presents a matchup nightmare for the Cavaliers … Klay Thompson hasn’t been outstanding through the post-season but he has the ability to win a game on his own with his shooting if he gets hot … Warriors have adapted well to fill-in coach Mike Brown, the ex-Cavs coach looking for his own redemption against a franchise that fired him. But if Steve Kerr can somehow find his way to the bench, it will be a huge psychological boost for the Warriors.

What will happen?

We’re all hoping for epic, a great series of close games and legendary individual performances and a payback for a wretched playoff season of non-competitive series devoid, for the most part, of drama.

And maybe we’ll get it, maybe James will be even better than he has been and maybe Kevin Love will make every shot he looks at and Kyrie Irving will be brilliant.

That’s pretty much what is going to have to happen for the Cavs because as sometimes untrustworthy as the Warriors can be – leads relinquished, untimely turnovers committed, lapses in concentration – they are loaded. They score and defend and just have something about them. And if they stay out of their own way, this might not be quite as legendary a series as we’d like.

Warriors in five.