Tom Sorensen

Why Warriors-Cavs is better than any title series involving Michael Jordan’s Bulls

You can’t cast the NBA Finals as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry because Curry has lots of help.
You can’t cast the NBA Finals as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) against Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry because Curry has lots of help. AP

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are like two boxers making their way to the ring. They walk past the other fighters, the promoters, managers and hustlers. And here they are. Forty-seven days after the playoffs began, we get the main event.

If you’re not a fan of the NBA, those 47 days are interminable. Get this stuff off my TV so I can watch bowling again.

For the rest of us, this is the series we’ve craved. How many people do you know who picked a team other than the Warriors or Cavaliers to make the finals?

Isaiah Thomas, the best player on the Boston Celtics, was injured and couldn’t offer his customary scoring, passing and leadership in the Eastern Conference finals. But even with Thomas, the Celtics had no chance.

Had the San Antonio Spurs been healthy, they would have won at least one game, and maybe two from Golden State. But their best player, Kawhi Leonard was hurt in the first game, and point guard Tony Parker also couldn’t play.

So: The Warriors are 12-0 in the playoffs, the Cavaliers 12-1. This will be the third straight season in which they’ve played each other for the championship. It’s as if they had reservations.

Golden State has won its playoff games by an average of 16.3 points, Cleveland by 13.6.

Some of you might prefer variety. These guys again? But I want this rivalry. Here’s why.

Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls won six NBA championships. They won three straight from 1991 to 1993 and three more from 1996 to 1998. The Bulls began their finals run by beating the Los Angeles (Lakers). They then beat Portland, Phoenix, Seattle and Utah twice.

But it looked too easy. Not one of Chicago’s six championship series went seven games. And except for Utah, the Bulls lacked a rival.The healthy respect and contempt teams develop for a finals’ opponent they regularly see was missing. They didn’t have a Golden State.

Contrast the Bulls with the Magic Johnson Lakers and Larry Bird Celtics who seemingly played each others in the finals year after year and decade after decade. If you beat one of those teams, you did something. We knew the players, the coaches and the teams, and the more we watched them, the more we took sides. I felt as if the Lakers were a testament to all that was right in the world, the Celtics an example of all that was wrong. Man, were those finals entertaining.

Since Chicago’s last championship in 1998, the Lakers and Celtics have twice played in the finals, as have San Antonio and Miami. Until this season, nobody had played the same team three ties. Golden State-Cleveland is the best rivalry we’ve seen since Los Angeles and Boston.

I like LeBron James and Cleveland, and I’m not a fan of Golden State’s owner. Ask him for the time and he’ll ask if you have the time to listen while he tells you how he invented the sport. But, owner aside, I love Golden State.

Guard Klay Thompson will find his shooting touch. Stephen Curry had a bad finals last season and that won’t happen again. Kevin Durant is adept at getting open and shooting from distance or going to the basket. Forward Draymond Green is whatever the Warriors need. He can score, defend and rebound. Because the Warriors rely on a small-ball lineup, Green is essential.

He’s like room service. Hey, Draymond, we’d like to order 14 points, 10 rebounds, and consistently good defense. The cheap shots he offers are his own.

There will be stunning games.I also don’t think the series will be as competitive as last season’s, when the Cavaliers rallied from a 3 to 1 deficit to win

I like Golden State in five.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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