Most hoop fans figured the Cleveland Cavaliers would cruise into the Finals, and they were right. The Toronto Raptors put up a bit of resistance in the eastern semis -- but the best team clearly prevailed.
The wild, wild west was quite a different story. Just when some thought the "other" LA team might have a shot -- down went Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to injuries. The Clips were quickly history.
San Antonio was supposed to beat OKC. They didn't. The Thunder rolled on.
Surely, the defending champion Golden State Warriors would make short work of the Thunder -- right? The Dubs had home court advantage and the Okies hadn't beaten them all year. But as we know, it didn't play out that way. OKC would win the first game on the road, then go on to hold a commanding 3-1 series lead. The champs were on the ropes. Even though they won Game 5 at home, most thought their death knell would ring in Game 6 back in Oklahoma.
Somehow the Warriors sucked it up and tied the series. Just a few hours ago, GS finally put an exclamation point on an amazing comeback to eliminate OKC in Game 7. True champs die hard indeed.
That sets up a rematch of last year's NBA Finals. A look back tells us the Cleveland Cavaliers once held a 2-1 advantage over the Warriors. But the latter would storm back to win the next three games.
Once again, GS will have home court advantage going in, and they must be feeling pretty good about themselves after surviving a couple "standing 8 counts" and getting up off the canvas to knock out the Thunder.
No doubt, Lebron and Co. were watching closely. Though they would never admit it, the Cavs were surely rooting for OKC to prevail, if for no other reason than such an outcome would have given Cleveland home court advantage in the Finals.
A lot of things are similar in this year's NBA Finals when compared to last. Same two teams. Both with the best records in their respective conferences. And it seemed inevitable they would clash for all the marbles.
But one aspect will be decidedly different this year. The cast of characters. A year ago, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving -- the two best players on the Cavs not named Lebron James -- were out with injuries. Despite the greatness of James, it was no great surprise the Cavs would eventually succumb to the Dubs.
This year both K boys are quite healthy and raring to go. And no one doubts Lebron is on a mission to finally bring his beloved and beleaguered Cleveland its first professional sports title in over half a century. Unlike last year, he's got some serious help.
Will it be enough to dethrone the champs? Maybe. Or will GS splash their way to back-to-back titles? Another definite maybe. Regardless, it should be a very interesting series to watch play out.
At the time of this writing, yours truly is unaware of what kind of odds the wise guys (bookies) will put on the series. And does it even matter? OKC wasn't supposed to beat San Antonio. GS wasn't supposed to come back from a 3-1 deficit. Good grief. With both parties and the media against him, a scant few months ago nobody would have believed a certain Presidential candidate would march on to the nomination. Yet it happened. Strange times indeed, but I digress.
Here's hoping for two things.
Both the Warriors and Cavaliers remain healthy throughout and play their best basketball.
Even more so, let's keep our fingers crossed Draymond Green doesn't find a way to thud a kick into the nether regions of Lebron James. If you thought his former "infraction" with Thunder big man Steven Adams got a lot of attention -- one can only imagine the fallout that would occur if the King's crown jewels were similarly assaulted. Accidental or not, the talking heads would go berserk with outrage. Forget a fine or suspension, they'd be screaming for the death penalty by lethal injection -- or at least amputating one of his legs. (Typically, a one-legged man doesn't fare so well when it comes to the kicking department). We don't need that.
My prediction? Golden State will be a tough out, but methinks this just might finally be the year Lebron gets it done in Cleveland.
On with the games.......