CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors have met four straight times in the NBA Finals.
It won’t happen a fifth.
Oh, Golden State will be there. But the Cavs won’t be. Their title hopes left when LeBron James announced his decision to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Warriors, with the addition of DeMarcus Cousins to counter teams that try to play bully-ball with them, are the most talented team ever assembled. They also play as a unit better than anyone in the league. One of the best offensive teams and a defense capable of smothering elite groups with a switch-heavy approach? That’s a tough combination.
The real question is which team has the best shot to dethrone them? Will it be James’ new-look Lakers, continuing his personal Finals streak? How about the Rockets, a team that looked primed to keep Golden State from getting back to the Finals last season? What about Oklahoma City? I mean, they do have both Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Kawhi Leonard is in Toronto now and James is out of the East. Will that finally get the Raptors over the hump?
Remember what it took back in 2016? Besides Draymond Green’s suspension that opened the door and Stephen Curry’s balky knee?
Two dynamic playmakers. One incredible clutch shot at the buzzer. A team that that was able to handle Finals pressure. A roster built to switch on defense and match the Warriors small-ball approach.
One team fits that mold better than any other. It’s the team with a player who terrified the Warriors in a one-on-one situation and ripped one championship away. It’s Kyrie Irving’s Celtics. They are capable of at least pushing the Warriors in a seven-game series. Beating them four times is a different challenge entirely.
Get ready for a new rivalry — and another Warriors title.
Here are my NBA predictions:
1. Boston Celtics
2. Toronto Raptors
3. Milwaukee Bucks
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Washington Wizards
6. Indiana Pacers
7. Detroit Pistons
8. Miami Heat
East finals: Celtics over Bucks
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Houston Rockets
3. Oklahoma City Thunder
4. Utah Jazz
5. Portland Trail Blazers
6. Los Angeles Lakers
7. San Antonio Spurs
8. Denver Nuggets
West Finals: Warriors over Lakers
Warriors over Celtics