Last summer, LeBron James got payback on Stephen Curry, and the Cavaliers finally brought a championship to Cleveland. The storylines were dramatic, and the series went the distance.
It’s almost time for Part III.
This is history in the making. The same teams never have met in three consecutive NBA Finals.
The Golden State Warriors, the Western Conference champions, now wait for the Cavaliers to finish their business in the East. The trilogy is set to tip off June 1.
Kevin Durant poses the biggest difference between the teams from a year ago. It was July 4 when Durant declared his independence from Oklahoma City and committed to the Warriors as a big-ticket free agent. He’s chasing his first title.
James will be headed back to the Finals for the seventh consecutive year.
It’s time to take a look back and look ahead.
Golden State was a 2-1 favorite going into last year’s NBA Finals, but there were plenty of Cleveland believers who took plus-175 on the series price. The Warriors could be priced as high as minus-250 this time.
In last year’s Game 1, the Warriors were 5½- to 6-point home favorites, and the total was 210. The point spread will be similar for this series opener, but the total is projected to open around 225. It should be noted that none of the seven games last year reached 220 total points.
A review of the 2016 Finals:
Game 1: Golden State, 104-89
The Cavaliers led 68-67 in the third quarter before the Warriors busted loose. Curry and Klay Thompson combined for only 20 points, but Shaun Livingston came off the bench to score 20 for Golden State. James finished with 23 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. Kyrie Irving, lost to a knee injury in a Game 1 overtime defeat in 2015, scored 26 points for the Cavaliers.
Game 2: Golden State, 110-77
Draymond Green was the star for Warriors, hitting five 3-pointers and scoring 28. Curry had 18 points and Thompson 17. James totaled 19 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and seven turnovers. Golden State recorded the highest winning margin (48 points) in the first two Finals games, and the Cavaliers looked like a lost cause as the series headed to Cleveland.
Game 3: Cleveland, 120-90
The Warriors were adjusted to minus-900 favorites to win the series. But the Cavaliers, who opened as 1-point underdogs, scored the game’s first nine points and led 33-16 after the first quarter. Kevin Love sat out with a concussion, but Cleveland did not miss him. James scored 32 points and Irving had 30. Betting on the home team in a 2-0 hole paid off.
Game 4: Golden State, 108-97
Curry finally found his shooting touch, sinking seven 3s and scoring 38 points. The Warriors made 17 3-pointers, a record for a Finals game. Still, the series took a turn in the game’s closing minutes when Green and James got tangled up, and Green hit James in the groin area.
Game 5: Cleveland, 112-97
Green was suspended and not allowed in the arena in Oakland. James and Irving each scored 41 points, the first teammates in Finals history to score 40 or more in the same game. Teams with a 3-1 lead in the finals were 32-0 all time, but the Warriors’ lead was cut to 3-2 and their frustration was surfacing.
Game 6: Cleveland, 115-101
The Cavaliers closed as 2-point favorites and ran the Warriors off the floor in a 31-11 first quarter. James finished with 41 points and 11 assists. In the fourth quarter, he blocked a shot by Curry and taunted him, and Curry later fouled out and threw his mouthpiece into the stands. Steve Kerr, Golden State’s normally calm coach, lost his cool and ripped the officials. Curry’s wife, Ayesha, alleged on Twitter the series was “absolutely rigged for money … or ratings.” (A side note: After Game 2, ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith boldly said Cleveland had “zero chance” to win the series, and suddenly the Cavaliers had a big chance.)
Game 7: Cleveland, 93-89
The teams entered Game 7 with the same total points (610) through six games. Golden State was a 5-point home favorite, and the total was 206½.
After six unpredictable double-digit blowouts, the seventh game was predictably suspenseful. Las Vegas bookmakers reported several six-figure wagers and heavy two-way action on possibly the biggest-bet NBA Finals game ever.
There were 20 lead changes and 11 ties in the only game of the series decided by fewer than 10 points. James blocked a layup attempt by Andre Iguodala with the score tied, and Irving made a go-ahead 3 in the final minute. Green led the Warriors with 32 points, while Curry was held to 17. James, the series MVP, had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists to become the third player in NBA Finals history to record a triple-double in a Game 7. James played 47 of 48 minutes in the game.
During the series, Golden State was posted as high as a 40-1 favorite at the Westgate sports book. After a Hollywood ending, James said it best: “Against all odds.”
The 2017 Finals schedule:
Game 1: Thursday, June 1, at Golden State
Game 2: Sunday, June 4, at Golden State
Game 3: Wednesday, June 7, at Cleveland
Game 4: Friday, June 9, at Cleveland
Game 5: Monday, June 12, at Golden State
Game 6: Thursday, June 15, at Cleveland
Game 7: Sunday, June 18, at Golden State
NBA Finals MVP odds
(Posted by William Hill sports books)
Kevin Durant, Warriors 7-5
Stephen Curry, Warriors 8-5
LeBron James, Cavaliers 2-1
Draymond Green, Warriors 17-2
Kyrie Irving, Cavaliers 10-1
Kevin Love, Cavaliers 15-1
Klay Thompson, Warriors 25-1
Tristan Thompson, Cavaliers 60-1
J.R. Smith, Cavaliers 150-1
Kyle Korver, Cavaliers 150-1
Andre Iguodala, Warriors 300-1
Deron Williams, Cavaliers 500-1
Iman Shumpert, Cavaliers 500-1
Channing Frye, Cavaliers 500-1
Shaun Livingston, Warriors 500-1
Patrick McCaw, Warriors 500-1
David West, Warriors 500-1