The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors are back in the NBA Finals. The Cavs made it there rather stress-free, as they did not lose a game until the Eastern Conference Finals. The Warriors, on the other hand, had a more strenuous journey to the NBA Finals, having been pushed to the limit by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. But no matter what happened before getting here, all that matters is they both made it back for this rematch. And once again, there scales tip in the favor of the Golden State Warriors.
Last season, the Warriors were thought to win the NBA Finals over the Cavaliers. And with Kyrie Irving going down in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors were expected to take over the series. But LeBron James did put a scare into them. He led the Cavaliers to a 2-1 series lead going into Game 4 of that series. But that’s when the Warriors made the adjustment of putting Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup and taking Andrew Bogut out. In doing so, they sped up the tempo and eventually got the Cavaliers out of what they wanted to do. The Warriors would go on to win the series in six games, as the Cavaliers were overwhelmed in the end. But even though the Warriors are looked at to be the favorite in this series, that may not be how they are looking at it from their perspective.
Heading into this season, you would think the Warriors would be celebrating their championship a little bit still. But instead of doing so, the Warriors were focused on trying to prove another point. Many mentioned throughout their playoff run and in the offseason how their run was not one of the hardest ones out there. In fact, some would talk about how they were facing a bunch of injured teams on the way to the NBA Finals and a championship. While some think the Warriors were not paying attention, they were. Some members of the team, including Steph Curry, addressed it before the season. And when hearing him speak, he seemed perturbed that anyone would say such things about their team. And even though they may not have said it out loud, that played a part in them staying hungry and wanting to make it happen this season. They played as if they were underdogs still this year and had to prove to everyone that their title last season was not based on what other teams did not have. And along the way, the Warriors went out and set the single-season wins record with 73 wins. Now that they are back in the NBA Finals, they are right back where they were last year, but as the bigtime favorites this year. But in their minds, they have a point to prove. They want to make a statement yet again that they earned a championship and what better way to prove it but against the best team in the Eastern Conference at their healthiest.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, have been the favorites in the East all season long. So many expected them to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals. And with a combination of Kevin Love, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, it almost seemed like a formality that they would do so. After beating the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers made that a reality and officially punched their ticket to the NBA Finals. And immediately, the Cavaliers entered a place they have not been this year: the underdog. No matter who came out of the Western Conference, there was the thought that the Cavs would be the underdogs. The prevailing thought from many is that the West was the stronger conference and that Cleveland played nobody to get to the NBA Finals. And when the matchup proved to be the Golden State Warriors, the odds got even worse in their favor. The Warriors are the defending champions and by all accounts look strong coming into this NBA Finals. And despite being at full strength, there are not many that give the Cavs a fighting chance to win a title despite having LeBron James.
The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers are both underdogs in a sense. The Warriors have used the talk of their “good luck” last season on the way to a title as motivation and they still don’t see themselves as the clear favorite in their minds. Meanwhile, Cleveland is in an unfamiliar position being the underdog for once. But no matter what is perception and reality, the Cavs and Warriors have to prove it on the court. One team will win and the other will go into an offseason wondering what could have been. But in the end, one underdog will walk out of this series as champions.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former cohost of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs, and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.