OAKLAND (CBSMiami/Gracenote) – It comes at little surprise that the 2017 NBA Finals are a rematch of last year’s championship series.
And the year before that.
The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers clash in the NBA Finals for the third straight season and the festivities begin Thursday in Oakland, Calif.
The Warriors won the title two years ago and the Cavaliers rallied from a 3-1 deficit last season to win their first-ever title.
Golden State is 12-0 this postseason and viewed as heavy favorites in Finals matchup No. 3, and that doesn’t sit right with Cleveland power forward Kevin Love.
“The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because, yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title,” Love told reporters. “We’re trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel, we will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It’s tough for me to say that is the case. I don’t feel like we’re underdogs.”
The Cavaliers also have been strong this postseason with a 12-1 mark and Warriors forward Draymond Green sees the series as a matchup of “greatness,” and doesn’t understand why there appears to be a lack of appreciations for how both teams rolled through the postseason.
“I think you’ve found two great teams, and we’ve played that way, and maybe people don’t appreciate it because of a blowout or because of a sweep,” Green said. “But people may want to be careful, because I think right now you’re witnessing greatness. Two great teams, great players, and that’s what it is.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ABC
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: Small forward LeBron James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists in last season’s Finals and has been superb this postseason with averages of 32.5 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Point guard Kyrie Irving is averaging 24.5 points this postseason while Love is contributing 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds.
The Cavaliers will be hoping that swingman Kyle Korver (6.4 postseason average) and guards J.R. Smith (6.6) and Iman Shumpert (4.7) step up their performances in the series.
ABOUT THE WARRIORS: Golden State hasn’t lived down the memory of blowing a 3-1 lead in last season’s finals, the turning point being a one-game suspension handed to Green after a flagrant foul for kicking James in the groin during Game 4.
Small forward Kevin Durant (25.2 average) is a new part of the mix while point guard Stephen Curry (28.6) has once again been leading the postseason charge.
Shooting guard Klay Thompson is averaging a lackluster 14.4 points on 38.3 percent shooting in the postseason but he scored 25 or more three times – including a high of 37 – in last year’s Finals.
- Mike Brown, who formerly coached the Cavaliers, is still serving as coach of the Warriors while Steve Kerr deals with his back recovery woes.
- Love recorded double-doubles in all five games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics as he averaged 22.6 points and 12.4 rebounds.
- Curry averaged 22.6 points in last year’s Finals and was held below 20 points in four of the seven games.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Gracenote contributed to this report.)