Posted on May 31, 2016 by Travis Pulver

LeBron James

Image by Getty Images

When the NBA season began fans expected to see the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors face off in the NBA Finals at the end of the season. Throughout the regular season, it appeared that the two were destined to meet.

Then came the Conference Finals.

The Toronto Raptors gave the Cavaliers a brief scare, but the Golden State Warriors got a serious wake-up call from the Oklahoma City Thunder. The question now will be who benefitted from their challenge more—the Cavaliers or the Warriors?

If their two regular season match-ups are any indication of how the Finals could go, Cleveland fans better hope their team did.

When the two teams met back in December, Klay Thompson and Steph Curry struggled with their shots hitting 12-31 from the floor and only 2-8 from three-point range. It didn’t matter since Kyrie Irving and LeBron James were not any better (14-41 from the floor; 1-11 from three-point range). Golden State won 89-83.

Roughly a month later the two met again. Once again, James and Irving had off nights (10-27 from the floor; 1-6 from three-point range). However, this time, Curry was on fire (12-18 from the floor; 7-12 from three-point range) and scored 35 points in three-quarters to lead the Warriors in a blowout win, 132-98.

Cleveland gave Golden State a run for its money last year during the finals even though they were without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, so fans hope for better. However, those games were a long time ago. Cleveland got a new head coach and has become a better team than it was then.

The same can’t be said for Golden State.

It’s not that Golden State has regressed, but they have had to make do with a Steph Curry that is not 100 percent. He says he’s okay, and Steve Kerr does as well, but he certainly didn’t look it through the majority of the Western Conference Finals.

He did appear to find his shot again in Game Seven, though. When he is knocking down shots, the Warriors are hard to beat. When he and Klay Thompson are hitting their shots, they are nearly impossible to beat.

When asked Monday afternoon after practice which team he would like to face in the Finals, Cavs head coach Tyron Lue gave the perfect answer:

“We just want the winner. Just whoever wins. We’re preparing for both, and after tonight, we will get a chance to see who we finally play.”

If his team is going to have a chance at winning a championship, his Big Three is going to have to play well every night. LeBron James has been playing well, and Kyrie Irving has been having a pretty decent postseason. The problem has been Kevin Love.

Love was terrible in the first four games against Toronto but came up big during the final two. If the Cavs are going to have a chance to beat Golden State, Love can’t have an off night. The Warriors are too good for the Cavs to beat with anything less than their “A” game.

Still—it is bound to happen at least once, but don’t expect it to happen twice. Game One is Thursday night in Oakland.

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