Ri­vals with scores to set­tle

Sunday Tasmanian - - Sport - THEMERCURY.COM.AU CHRIS ROBIN­SON SUN­DAY MAY 28 2017

IT’S the NBA Fi­nals se­ries that’s des­tined to mean much more than sim­ply crown­ing a cham­pion for 2016-17.

For the first time in league his­tory, the same two teams will square off in a third con­sec­u­tive de­cid­ing se­ries.

And with Golden State and Cleve­land hav­ing split the past two Fi­nals bouts, this best-of­seven slog will help de­ter­mine which of these two pow­er­ful units will be re­mem­bered as among the great­est in his­tory.

Last sea­son’s Golden State out­fit won a league-record 73 of its 82 games in the reg­u­lar sea­son, and then raced to a 3-1 lead in the Fi­nals.

What hap­pened from there was an im­prob­a­ble melt­down: los­ing the last three games of the se­ries, in­clud­ing two at home, to let the Larry O’Brien Tro­phy slip from its grasp.

In par­tic­u­lar, Dray­mond Green, the team’s spir­i­tual leader, will be hell­bent on re­demp­tion af­ter a silly act re- sulted in him miss­ing one of those matches through sus­pen­sion.

There’s been a quiet de­ter­mi­na­tion about the War­riors all year as they look to right last year’s wrong, and they en­ter this Fi­nals se­ries un­de­feated in the post-sea­son.

The man who is ar­guably the best player on the planet not named LeBron gets the chance to prove his worth. Kevin Du­rant was still fairly raw as a 23-year-old dur­ing his sole trip to the Fi­nals with Ok­la­homa City five years ago, and left the Thun­der last off­sea­son to bol­ster his chances of se­cur­ing a cham­pi­onship ring.

He’s play­ing like he des­per­ately wants one, torch­ing San An­to­nio in the Conference Fi­nals by av­er­ag­ing 28 points per game at a red-hot 60 per cent shoot­ing clip.

Ex­pect Du­rant’s range and abil­ity to shoot over op­po­nents to trou­ble the Cavs.

Golden State hosts game one of the se­ries on Fri­day at 11am (AEST).

WE MEET AGAIN: Cleve­land’s LeBron James, left, and Golden State’s Stephen Curry will lead their sides into bat­tle.

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