| February 23, 2018

Column: Destined to Meet Again

May 25, 2017

It’s better than the Red Sox and Yankees, better than Ohio State and Michigan and it’s going to happen again.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors proved yet again to be the best two teams in the NBA this season. It seems only fitting that these two powerhouses meet in the Finals for the third consecutive year.

The story of Cleveland and Golden State’s epic rivalry started in 2015. Lebron James was back in his hometown, leading the Cavaliers to their second Finals appearance in franchise history.

Meanwhile on the West coast, a group of sharp-shooters were making waves in the NBA playoffs. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson earned their now famous title of the “Splash Brothers” and steamrolled their way to the Finals.

Cleveland jumped out to a two-game lead, but an injury sidelined James for the rest of the series. Kyrie Irving and a young, unproven Cavalier team failed to hold their own against the Warriors and Golden State went on to win the series 4-2.

James returned with a vengeance in 2016. The Cavaliers ended the regular season 57-25. However, Golden State was the one to make headlines with their new NBA record of 73 regular season wins. Both teams entered the playoffs as a No. 1 seed, and both met in the Finals for a second time.

The Cavaliers again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but once the series moved to Oakland, the Warriors put on a show for the home crowd and tied the series 2-2. Each team earned a single win in the next two games, bringing the series to a rare, winner-take-all Game 7.

The result was astounding. The game was filled to the brim with nail-biting, edge-of-the-seat intensity. In the final minutes, James came flying out of nowhere to block a layup by Andre Iguodala with the score tied at 89.

Seconds later, Irving knocked down a three-pointer over the outstretched arms of league MVP Curry, putting Cleveland up 92-89. A free-throw by James would seal the game, and Cleveland took home its first NBA championship.

This year was not as kind to the Cavs. The Boston Celtics earned a 53-29 record in the regular season and a No. 1 seed heading into the tournament, knocking Cleveland down to No. 2.

The Warriors made a splash in free-agency, luring former MVP Kevin Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder last summer. Some criticized the move during the start of the season, and fans began to worry if this new “super team” could handle all of the personalities. Golden State put those qualms to rest by finishing the season at the top of the Western Conference with a 67-15 record. The Warriors have now won 11 straight playoff games against the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs.

Meanwhile, Cleveland swept the Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors, but lost on a final-second shot in Game 1 against the Celtics.

Regardless, the capabilities of Cleveland and Golden State have never been clearer. Both teams represent the best the NBA has to offer and neither team seems to be slowing down.

It is only a matter of time before fans are treated to another magical Finals matchup.

Brandon Hill can be reached at arg-sports@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @brandonmtnhill

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