Back in October, I tuned in to watch the opening night of the NBA season. Sitting next to me, my roommate declared that there was no point in watching this game (Warriors – Spurs) or any regular season game for that matter because we all knew who was going to be in the Finals. “Start the Finals tomorrow, it’s obviously going to be Golden State and Cleveland,” he said.
Now at the time, I knew he was 100% right, but that didn’t stop me from arguing that not only did the regular season matter, but that other teams – Houston, Boston, and San Antonio – had a legit shot at supplanting the Warriors and Cavs in the Finals. And while there were times throughout this season that questions arose about whether a third consecutive meeting between those two teams was going to happen – namely Kevin Durant’s knee injury and Cleveland’s pedestrian 21-23 record to finish the season – the entire regular season was a revelation of its own.
We witnessed Russell Westbrook take Durant’s departure so personally that he vaporized the entire league for 82 straight games, averaged a triple-double, and destroyed his enemies with the lethal efficiency of The Punisher (Tom Jane’s version not Ray Stevenson). And for his efforts, he’ll probably win his first MVP trophy.
Westbrook’s foil and fellow MVP candidate, James Harden, had a renaissance thanks in part to a new coach and supporting cast, and thanks in whole to the departure of human blackhole, Dwight Howard. Howard is literally the closest thing we have ever come to seeing a Dementor in human form. He sucks the life out of every team he plays with and the year after he leaves it’s as if Remus Lupin slipped everyone a piece of chocolate and things go back to normal.
Kawhi Leonard took another step towards being one of the best two-way players in the league. He’ll likely finish third in MVP voting and also won Defensive Player of the Year. The man is the Terminator on offense and a Venus flytrap on defense. You just don’t hear about him, because he never speaks, shows emotion, or gives off any real signs that he’s a living, breathing human.
Not to mention a motley crew of role players, draft picks, and human pinball Isaiah Thomas shocked the Eastern Conference to win the 1-seed. Without IT, Boston is a bottom feeding lottery team. Oh, wait they are a lottery team this season. They got the #1 overall pick in this summer’s draft thanks to Danny Ainge’s 2014 stick up job of the Nets – getting four (FOUR) first-round draft picks for Kevin Garnett’s corpse, old Paul Pierce, and a sack of beads. Boston is the antithesis of the Super Team trend of this century and will probably win a title or two once LeBron stops being LeBron in 2025.
Despite all of those storylines, nothing else matters, because as expected the Warriors and Cavaliers blitzed their way through the playoffs to a third straight NBA Finals match up. The Threematch is here. And I don’t think anyone is too upset. I couldn’t be happier. We are in the midst of a dominant run by two teams that hasn’t been seen since the Lakers and Celtics in the mid-80s.
Tonight is Game 1 in Golden State. The Warriors won in 6 (in Cleveland) in 2015. The Cavs came back from a 3-1 series deficit to win Game 7 (in Golden State) in 2016. I can’t lie, I was rooting for the Warriors both times, but was happy for LeBron to win one for the Land. But now that his legacy has been solidified I think replacing Harrison Barnes with Kevin Durant will be enough for GSW to avenge their utter collapse last year. Draymond, please don’t get suspended.
Warriors in 6.