The NBA Finals everyone predicted is here. But is inevitable dominance good for the league?

As Kevin Durant walked off the Pepsi Center floor back in December, a Nuggets fan riding the wave of Denver’s resounding upset victory over Golden State had some parting words for the Warriors’ newest star.

“We’ll see you in the playoffs,” the fan shouted above the noisy crowd.

The edited version of Durant’s colorful response to the fan: Prepare to be swept.

The Nuggets, of course, missed the playoffs. So the Warriors instead swept Portland, the team that chased down Denver for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. Then they dispatched Utah in four games. The Spurs were swept next, unable to provide any resistance in the superpower’s prodigious playoff march.

Durant’s words to the Nuggets fan weren’t a prediction. They were a forecast of an unimpeded path to a title shot, with a 99.9 percent chance of Mr. June, LeBron James, landing on the other end. So you can call it a trilogy. You can call it the “threematch.”

Or you could call the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers, which begin Thursday, the most foregone conclusion in league history.

The two teams are a combined 24-1 in these playoffs, with Avery Bradley’s game-winner for the Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals representing the only blemish on the collision course everyone saw coming when the season began at the end of October. The Warriors have an average margin of victory in the postseason of 16.1 points, and have won by fewer than 10 points only once. The Cavaliers found a different gear after their first-round sweep of the Pacers, with two of their four wins against the Celtics coming by more than 30 points.

Never have two teams been so dominant on their respective paths to the Finals.

This is the first time the same two teams have met to decide a title in three consecutive seasons. And the utter ease with which the latest iteration of this rivalry formed begs the question: Is such dominance in a 30-team league supposed to be this inevitable?

“I don’t know what much we could do about it except for just enjoy it,” said Chris Webber, the former NBA all-star forward and Turner Sports analyst. “You can change divisions, do all these other things. But when you have great players like Curry and Durant on the same team, and then you have LeBron, there’s not much you can do.”

LeBron factor

The NBA’s championship eras have long been built by its biggest stars. The Celtics won 10 NBA championships from 1959 to 1969 behind Bill Russell and John Havlicek. Magic Johnson and the Lakers constantly battled Larry Bird and the Celtics for titles in the ’80s. Michael Jordan won six championships with the Bulls in the ’90s. As the league prepared to enter a new century, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers dominated before giving way to Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

James has carried that torch for his generation, a human roadblock for the better part of a decade for frustrated Eastern Conference opponents. No team from that conference without LeBron James on its roster has reached the Finals since midway through Barack Obama’s first term as President, in 2010.

“You take LeBron out of the East and the parity — Washington, Boston, Toronto — you could have a different team every year,” Turner Sports analyst Kenny Smith said. “It’s kind of like the Michael Jordan era in the Eastern Conference. Those six years, you’re not getting into the Finals. The Larry Bird era, the Magic Johnson era in the West, you’re just not getting there.”

DeMar DeRozan may have summed it up best earlier this month after a 51-win season for the Raptors was abruptly ended by way of a James-led sweep in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“If we had LeBron on our team, too, we would have won,” DeRozan told reporters. “We could say that all day, time, everything. But we didn’t. It happened. We got swept.”

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