I feel a classic coming on – an NBA Finals worthy of all the attention it will get.
And I feel an upset coming on, too.
I am picking the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors in seven games in the series that begins with Game 1 Thursday night (9 p.m., ABC).
Golden State is the solid favorite in Las Vegas, and it’s easy to see why. The Warriors had the best regular season in history at 73-9, and they just performed three straight magic tricks to extricate themselves from a 3-1 hole and beat Oklahoma City in seven. The Warriors also won the regular-season series 2-0 vs. Cleveland and are the defending NBA champs, having dispatched Cleveland in the 2015 NBA Finals.
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But LeBron James has his entourage back this season, flanked on one side by Kyrie Irving and the other by Kevin Love. He gave the Warriors all they could handle a year ago, and at times that was when he was playing almost by himself.
This time he has a stronger team around him. “We’re better built to start the Finals than we were last year,” James told reporters Tuesday. “Doesn’t matter who it’s against. I mean, that’s not a headline. It’s obvious.”
This will be LeBron James’ seventh appearance in the NBA Finals. He is 2-4 in the previous six, with the two wins both coming in Miami.
Cleveland has only lost two games in three postseason series, albeit against weaker competition. Golden State was stretched to the brink by the Oklahoma City Thunder, and as much as I love Stephen Curry and the way he plays I do worry about his health in another grueling seven-game series.
Last year everything changed when Irving went out in Game 1 with a fractured kneecap. LeBron and Co. never really had much of a chance after that. This year let’s hope all the stars stay healthy, because I think if they do we could be in for something very special.
Curry was deservedly the unanimous MVP during the regular season. But LeBron’s brilliance has stood the test of time – this is, remarkably, the sixth straight time whatever team he has played on has won the Eastern Conference and made it to the NBA Finals.
“It means everything,” LeBron said.
Curry takes and makes shots that no one else in the NBA should attempt. The two-time MVP is the best athlete to ever have grown up in Charlotte, and it’s not close anymore. LeBron plays the game the way no one this side of Magic Johnson has ever played it before – a point forward who can play all five positions on the floor.
My heart says Curry and Golden State, and I will be happier if the Warriors win because of the connection Charlotte, the Carolina Panthers and myself all have to Curry. He’s a jewel, both as a person and a player.
But my head says “Cleveland.” And that’s what I’m going with – the Cavaliers in a seven-game thriller.