It’s Groundhog Day in the NBA.
For the fourth straight season, NBA fans will see the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers dueling for the title, the first time two teams have met in the championship for four straight years.
Some fans will complain that we’ve seen this movie before, but that doesn’t make it any less intriguing. There’s always the possibility of some unexpected plot twist, which is highly likely with the experience and expertise that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson bring.
We know — well, we think — the Cavs can win, as they did in 2016. We assume the Warriors will win, as they’ve done two of the last three years. Golden State is the overwhelming favorite once again, amid some casual fans reaching for the remote to tune out before another episode of Warriors-Cavs.
But this is what most experts thought we’d see since the beginning of the season: The same thing we saw at the end of last year.
It’s the road to get there that has been most interesting.
Both the Cavs and Warriors needed wins in Games 6 and 7 in their series to make it back to the rematch. James had to have yet another virtuoso performance to get this newly constructed cast of Cavs past the Celtics. The Warriors got something of a boost with Rockets guard Chris Paul missing the final two games of the Western Conference Finals because of an injury.
And here we are again, with the LeBron backers looking for another piece of ammo in the discussion of the greatest of all time. The Warriors fans, likewise, are looking to erase the what-if conversation of what could have been if the Rockets hadn’t imploded in Monday’s series finale.
There’s still plenty of intrigue in the series.
Even though the Finals ended up with the same two teams for the fourth straight year, don’t lose sight of the treat everyone got: some gripping, high-level basketball in each of the conference finals. Even in the midst of the Rockets’ abhorrent shooting that allowed the Warriors to rally in the third quarter Monday, it still took some amazing play by Durant, Curry and Thompson to get them there.
The Warriors showed that they’re always must-see TV in overcoming double-digit deficits in the last two games to get two wins that might shine a new light on their legacy. James is back in the Finals with a bunch of misfit Cavs, even without Kyrie Irving and without the injured Kevin Love in Game 7.
Would another title in this imbalanced Finals give more credence to the suggestion that James is reaching the level of Michael Jordan's greatness? No.
Does it mean that James is really good? Absolutely. Look at that as part of the motivation to watch, more than any foolish comparison to Jordan. It doesn’t matter now — and won’t matter later, no matter how many titles James eventually wins. Abandon the cross-generational comparisons and focus on the excellence that James is exhibiting now, as the greatest of his era — and that’s good enough.
For those who wanted to see either Houston or Boston — or both — in the Finals, there’s still some upside for both teams. The Celtics will get Gordon Hayward and Irving back from injuries next year and James will be a year older, possibly in position to fold before a potential fifth iteration against the Warriors.
The Rockets still could be a threat in the West for years to come and showed that the Warriors aren’t infallible.
So, as everyone preps for another go between the Warriors and Cavs, understand that’s it’s not just the same old Finals — no matter what the result is.
All games on ABC
Thursday: Cleveland at Golden State, 9 p.m.
Sunday: Cleveland at Golden State, 8 p.m.
Wednesday, June 6: Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m.
Friday, June 8: Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m.
x-Monday, June 11: Cleveland at Golden State, 9 p.m.
x-Thursday, June 14: Golden State at Cleveland, 9 p.m.
x-Sunday, June 17: Cleveland at Golden State, 8 p.m.
x – If necessary