OAKLAND, California — The first one deserved a sequel, which Cleveland won in the biggest comeback in NBA Finals history to even things up with Golden State.
Then with Kevin Durant joining Stephen Curry on one side and LeBron James leading the other, the Warriors and Cavaliers sent interest soaring as they rampaged toward the tiebreaker last season.
But the rubber match was a mismatch, and the Warriors are expected to win just as easily this time.
So as Round 4 of the record-setting rivalry begins Thursday night, has Warriors-Cavaliers become too much of a good thing?
“I don’t think so,” Golden State guard Klay Thompson said. “I think the rest of the NBA has got to get better. It’s not our fault. I’m sure if you asked the fans of the Warriors and the Cavs around the world, whether it’s in the Bay Area or in Cleveland, I’m sure they’re happy with their team performance. The only people I hear saying that are fans from other teams, which is natural. I don’t blame them. But as long as our fan base is happy, that’s all that matters.”
It’s the first time in NBA, NFL, MLB or NHL history that the same teams are meeting four straight times in the championship round, and intrigue in the teams hasn’t waned yet. The NBA had its most-watched conference finals since 2012, as both teams had to rally from 3-2 deficits to win Game 7s on the road.
But if this series quickly becomes as lopsided as some fear — ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy said he couldn’t remember a bigger gap between finals teams and said any game the Cavs win is a huge upset — many of those people who have tuned in the last few years might be looking for something else to watch by the time the series switches to Cleveland.
“If James and the Cavaliers win Game 1, you know, the interest is going to skyrocket because they are going to have done what very few — except for them maybe — think they can do, which is win at Golden State,” Van Gundy said. “If they get blown out both games, it doesn’t matter what we say. People aren’t going to be as excited.”
The players won’t apologize for showing up again, or worry that it hurts the NBA.
“Teams have had their opportunities to beat the Cavs over the last four years, and teams have had the opportunities to beat the Warriors over the last four years,” James said. “If you want to see somebody else in the postseason, then you got to beat them.”
“I mean, it may not be as suspenseful as a lot of people want it to be or as drama-filled,” Durant said, “but that’s what you’ve got movies and music for.”