The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season after each team won seven-game conference-final series during Memorial Day weekend.
The 2018 NBA Finals will have a much different look from last year even though the teams are the same. The Cavaliers have undergone a significant overhaul, with eight players on the current roster joining the team within the past 12 months.
The Warriors are largely the same from last year, although it is unclear when or if guard/forward Andre Iguodala will return, as the veteran has missed his last four games with a left leg lateral contusion. Golden State does have two notable additions to its rotation in energetic rookie forward Jordan Bell and veteran shooting guard Nick Young.
Here's a look at the NBA Finals schedule in addition to two notable X-factors (one for each team) and predictions for this year's championship bout.
NBA Finals Schedule
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Game 1): Thursday, May 31 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Game 2): Sunday, June 3 at 8 p.m. on ABC
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Game 3): Wednesday, June 6 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Game 4): Friday, June 8 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Game 5, if necessary): Monday, June 11 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers (Game 6, if necessary): Thursday, June 14 at 9 p.m. on ABC
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (Game 7, if necessary): Sunday, June 17 at 8 p.m. on ABC
All Times ET.
Kevin Love's Status
Cleveland Cavaliers big man Kevin Love is in the NBA's concussion protocol after banging heads with Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum early in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final. Love missed Game 7, and his status for Game 1 of the NBA Finals is unknown at this time.
The Cavs were able to win Games 6 and 7 against the Celtics without Love thanks in part to LeBron James' super-human abilities, some excellent defense and key contributions from players such as Jeff Green and Tristan Thompson. However, Boston also shot just 34.1 percent from the field in Game 7, while the team combined to make just seven of 39 three-pointers.
Cleveland can't depend on Golden State getting nearly that cold in the playoffs thanks to the Warriors' trio of All-Star scorers in Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. The three players combined to score 72.8 points per game during the regular season, with each Warrior shooting no worse than 48.8 percent from the field or 41.9 percent from the three-point line.
The Cavs would already be underdogs even with Love fully healthy, but without him, Cleveland's chances look even bleaker.
The Cavaliers are no strangers at beating the Warriors in Oracle Arena during the NBA Finals, having done so twice in the 2016 championship series. However, circumstances are much different this time around, with the Cavs' roster turning over, Warriors forward Draymond Green missing Game 5 that year due to a suspension and Kevin Durant still a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Speaking of KD, the Warriors have been near-unbeatable at home in the playoffs with him on the court, winning all but one of their home postseason games over the past two seasons. Their lone loss was a close 95-92 defeat to the Houston Rockets in Game 4 of this year's conference finals.
The Warriors' home crowd provides an incredible home-court advantage, making it one of the hardest places for a road team to play. It was a massive factor in the team's huge upset victory over the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, and that prevalent energy has been there for the Warriors' postseason efforts ever since.
Furthermore, Cleveland has a .500 record on the road this year (including playoffs), sitting at 25-25. Given that mark plus the Warriors' home playoff success, it's hard seeing Cleveland taking a game in Oakland.
The Cavaliers are massive 27-4 underdogs in this series, per OddsShark, and they are also on the wrong end of a 12-point spread for Game 1. However, the Cavs have the best player on the floor in LeBron James, who can make a case for being the best player in basketball history.
James has been remarkable during this playoff run, averaging 34.0 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. It's certainly not impossible to see him will the Cavaliers to victory for a game or two.
That being said, the Warriors simply have too much firepower, and their home-court advantage here will be too much to overcome. Look for James to have a phenomenal game in Cleveland to give the Cavs one win, but the pick here is the Warriors in five.