Golden State. Cleveland. Stephen Curry. LeBron James. Round 3. It doesn't get better than this.
As the NBA world anxiously awaits this rubber match for the ages, the USA TODAY Sports NBA crew gives their predictions.
SCHEDULE | 2017 NBA Finals: Cavs vs. Warriors
Sam Amick: As ill-timed obstacles go, the Warriors currently have one: The uncertain coaching status of Steve Kerr. That's a whole lot better than this time a year ago, when the self-inflicted fatigue of chasing 73 wins, multiple Stephen Curry injuries early in the playoffs, and a seven-game Western Conference finals against Oklahoma City left them vulnerable from the Game 1 tip against the Cavs. It didn't look that way when they won three of the first four games, but you could see the collective toll it took during their collapse (and, of course, when Draymond Green was suspended for Game 5).
This time around, everyone other than Kerr is healthy. Acting coach Mike Brown is undefeated in the playoffs, Curry, Green and Kevin Durant are playing at their peak, while Klay Thompson is the slumping shooter who's surely about to blow his top any minute now. The greatness of LeBron James, the continued ascension of Kyrie Irving and the better-than-ever comfort level of Kevin Love will be enough to help the Cavs put up a good fight, but this Warriors group is just too good to be beat. Warriors in six.
Jeff Zillgitt: Underdogs in the Finals once again, the Cavaliers face an even more difficult challenge against the Warriors. It’s one thing to beat Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It’s another to beat Curry, Green, Thompson and Kevin Durant. The Cavs have enough offensive power to win games in the series, but do they have enough defense to win the series? The Cavs’ defense has been questioned all season, and it improved during the playoffs. But Cleveland didn’t face an offense like Golden State’s, nor did the Warriors face an offense like the Cavs’.
However, in this series, the burden of proof is on Cleveland’s defense. It will take another special performance from Cleveland to win a second consecutive title. It’s foolish to count out a LeBron James-led team, but the Warriors are the favorite for a reason. They’ve been the better team this season. Warriors in six.
Michael Singer: The Cavs are, once again, underdogs. Despite what Kevin Love says, the Warriors are the favorites to win the unprecedented rubber match. Adding a player of Kevin Durant's caliber makes an already dangerous team terrifying. And though their offense is the main attraction, their defense has the best defensive rating of any team this postseason.
It's hard to counter what LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have done this postseason, their collective talent showing the disparity between themselves and the rest of the East. But the Warriors are a devastating group that not only have last year's collapse still lingering in their minds, but also an inherent motivation in Steve Kerr. Warriors in seven.
AJ Neuharth-Keusch: If last year taught us anything, it's that betting against LeBron James is never a good idea, regardless of who's standing in the way. But this year is a different story. Crazy as it sounds considering they've been the most dominant team in the NBA over the past three seasons, this Warriors group — led by Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — aren't just healthy. They're hungry as ever.
As far as the entertainment aspect is concerned, this is what the basketball world has been waiting for since the final buzzer sounded on Game 7 last June, and it won't disappoint. But we mustn't forget: This is a Cavaliers team that struggled mightily on the defensive end in the regular season. Sure, they've been significantly better in the playoffs, but their first three opponents couldn't hold a candle to Golden State. Simple as it sounds, the Warriors are just too strong and talented on both ends of the floor to end another campaign without the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Warriors in six.
Copyright: USA TODAY