Capsule and prediction for the NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland that begins Thursday:
No. 1 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (67-15, 12-0) vs. No. 2 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (51-31, 12-1)
Season series: Tied, 1-1. The Cavaliers pulled out a 109-108 victory in their heavily hyped Christmas Day matchup in Cleveland when Kyrie Irving made a turnaround jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining to complete a comeback from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Golden State answered with a 126-91 rout nearly a month later, leading by as much as 39 points at home against a Cavaliers team that lacked energy in the last game of a six-game road trip.
Story line: The Warriors and Cavaliers make NBA history by becoming the first teams to meet in three straight NBA Finals. Golden State won in 2015, Cleveland erased a 3-1 deficit to win its first championship last year, and the rubber match that was expected all along was set up easily with the teams combining for just one loss through three rounds.
Key Matchup: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Their second NBA Finals matchup comes five years after their first, when James won his first championship as Miami overpowered Oklahoma City in 2012. Durant has a much better team and has become a much more complete player now in his first season with the Warriors. But this also may be the best all-around version of James, who is averaging 32.5 points on nearly 57 percent shooting, and adding 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.
Prediction: Warriors in 7.
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