In a development that surprised absolutely no one, the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are set to meet in their third consecutive NBA Finals, with Game 1 beginning Thursday.
The Warriors claimed the title two years ago, while LeBron James and the Cavaliers emerged victorious in 2016, setting up a rubber match that, depending on what side you're coming from, is either long-awaited or overplayed.
Golden State heads into the Finals having set an NBA record for starting the playoffs 12-0 after sweeping each of its series leading up to this point:
Meanwhile, defending champion Cleveland has only lost once en route to the Finals.
Let's take a look at the full schedule for the series and project which team will emerge victorious once the dust has settled.
2017 NBA Finals Schedule
(Note: All times are ET and all games are on ABC.)
Game 1: June 1, 9 p.m., at Warriors
Game 2: June 4, 8 p.m., at Warriors
Game 3: June 7, 9 p.m., at Cavs
Game 4: June 9. 9 p.m., at Cavs
Game 5 (if necessary): June 12, 9 p.m., at Warriors
Game 6 (if necessary): June 15, 9 p.m., at Cavs
Game 7 (if necessary): June 18, 8 p.m., at Warriors
Warriors vs. Cavs Projection
There's no question that, since the last time these two teams met in the postseason, the Warriors have gotten a lot more deadly—have become the kind of team that seems highly unlikely, for instance, to blow a 3-1 lead.
After signing Kevin Durant in July, Golden State was off to the races, finishing the 2016-17 regular season with the best record in the NBA (67-15) to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
Meanwhile, though the Cavs would go on to defeat the Boston Celtics to claim the Eastern Conference, they did so as the No. 2 seed, having gone 51-31 (and only 8-8 in the division).
So it's no secret that the Warriors are favored—heavily—heading into Thursday's clash, per OddsShark:
When one measures the strength of this Warriors team, it's hard to take their series against the San Antonio Spurs—the best defensive team in the NBA this season—completely at face value. After all, the Spurs were without Kawhi Leonard for three games.
Still, the Spurs were hardly able to give Golden State any trouble at all, and that doesn't bode well for Cleveland.
The Cavaliers might have a more robust offense than San Antonio, but there's no universe in which their defense measures up.
That alone could be the mismatch that skews this series heavily in Golden State's favor.
And while Durant has been a huge factor in why the Warriors have looked so deadly, Stephen Curry deserves his fair praise.
The reigning MVP is averaging a postseason career-high 28.6 points per game and is also going a postseason career-best 43.1 percent on three-point attempts.
Likewise, don't sleep on James. (Said no one ever.) Somehow, LeBron is playing the best basketball of his career at 32 years old. The veteran has nothing left to prove, and it shows in his demeanor.
He's simply here to be the best player in the NBA, and that's something the Warriors will have to grapple with. If they can't contain him, the Cavs could pull off the upset.
Projection: Warriors in 5