What felt like an inevitable formality all playoffs is now official, as the Cleveland Cavaliers rolled through the Boston Celtics in Game 5 to set up a third straight meeting with the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. It’s the first time we’ve ever seen the same two teams meet in three straight Finals, and the third meeting between the Cavs and Warriors will be to split a 1-1 tie in the NBA’s championship series since 2015.
The rematch does not necessarily mean more of the same, as there are plenty of differences coming into this year’s Finals. For one, it’s the first time that the Cavs and Warriors will face each other with both teams at full strength. In 2015, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love’s injuries set the Cavs back, while Steph Curry’s ankle injury in 2016 kept the MVP from being at full strength.
While neither team will publicly use those injuries as an excuse, this year’s matchup will be devoid of any questions about the legitimacy of a series win for either team as being against a less than full strength opponent.
The teams, while maintaining most of the same core from the past two Finals, also look different. The Warriors have the biggest difference, with the addition of Kevin Durant to their already star-studded lineup this season. The Durant-Curry combination — along with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — took some time to find a rhythm, which was interrupted by Durant’s late season injury. But in the Western Conference Finals, the duo found a seemingly perfect balance that makes them look as terrifying as everyone anticipated the combination could be going into the Finals.