The Cleveland Cavaliers will square off against the Golden State Warriors in game one tonight. The Warriors have home court advantage, and the Cavs should not expect a warm reception when they arrive. There’s a lot on the line for both teams — the Warriors look to complete their historic season and the Cavs hope to bring Cleveland its first professional sports championship in more than 50 years.
Here are five things to consider as we countdown to tip off.
5. A healthy starting five for the Cavs in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love, and Tristen Thompson
This isn’t the same Cleveland team that struggled in the 2015 Finals with an injured Irving (out after the first game with a broken knee cap), without Love (whose playoff run ended abruptly in the first round with a gruesome shoulder injury), and that basically needed James to heroically carry the team on his back in the Finals. Coach Tyronn Lue is now at the helm and this team has finally come together and is playing their best basketball.
4. The Cavs could be four wins away from ending a 52-year professional sports championship drought for the city of Cleveland
LeBron returned to Cleveland for many reasons, but this is one of the biggest: He hopes to complete his career by giving his hometown a championship. It’s a city that has gotten used to losing and they really want to win one.
3. Duel at the 3-point line
You don’t have to be a statistical genius to argue that the team that has the better 3-point shooting percentage in the series will likely win the NBA title. In the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors relied on their 3-point advantage, after being down by 13 in Game 7, to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 96-88. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 14 bombs and 42 of their team’s 96 points. But the Cavs are also an impressive 3-point force. They have attempted and made more 3-pointers than any team in the playoffs. Remarkably, the Cavs’ 43.6 shooting percentage from behind the arc is a postseason record.
2. The dynamic duo, otherwise known as the Splash Brothers
Will the Cavs be able to stop Curry and Thompson, the best shooting backcourt in history? In the seven-game Western Conference Finals series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Warriors hit a record 90 3-pointers. Curry and Thompson combined for 62 of them. Curry emerged with the record for 3-pointers made in a playoff series with 32 and Thompson was not far behind at 30. If these two continue to splash in the 3-pointers, the Warriors will be almost impossible to beat.
1. Who will be number one and wear the crown: Curry, the league’s first unanimous MVP, or King James?
This will be LeBron James’ sixth consecutive NBA Finals. That’s an unprecedented accomplishment, and the NBA’s four-time MVP has been playing at the top of his game this postseason. But LeBron and the Cavs have to contain the reigning two-time MVP Curry, if they want to walk away with a title.
Buckle up NBA fans, this will be a wild ride.
Photo: Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images