1. The MVPs: Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James for Cleveland and two-time reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry for Golden State bring emotional and physical strengths as the sport’s top stars. James has more versatile ways to impact a game but Curry’s 3-point sharpshooting is a wonder and can be just as much a dagger in the heart of a rival as a LeBron slam dunk.
2. Supporting cast: Cleveland has guard Kyrie Irving and forward Kevin Love healthy this time around and how they will fare against Klay Thompson and Draymond Green figures to loom large. Andre Iguodala came off Golden State’s deep bench last year to earn the NBA Finals MVP award and sometimes unheralded heroes can have great impacts when a title is on the line. LeBron took the team on his back a year ago with Love and Irving hurt, the first man to lead a finals in scoring, rebound and assist average. He won’t need such lone-wolf heroics this time, which should make him even more dangerous at whatever he does.
3. Rest: Golden State went 73-9 this season, the best record in NBA history, but fell behind Oklahoma City 3-1 in the Western Conference final before taking the last three games to advance. With only two days to recover from the physical and emotional fightback, the Warriors must face a Cleveland squad that won its first nine playoff games and has had five days off. A road win in game one or two by the Cavs could put Golden State in another tight fix.
4. Motivation: Cleveland has not enjoyed a sport champion since 1964. LeBron James has been a loser in four of his prior six NBA Finals appearances, two each with Miami and Cleveland although he took two titles with the Heat. Irving and Love want to show what they can do healthy against the NBA’s best. And there is revenge for the Cavs. But the Warriors don’t want the embarrassment of not winning a title after their 73-9 season and gritty playoff comeback over Oklahoma City. They will need more than one title to cement a dynasty legacy. And who is better anyway, LeBron James or Stephen Curry?
5. Three-pointers: Curry set an NBA record with 402 3-pointers this season, shattering his old mark by 116. Klay Thompson made an NBA playoff one-game record 11 3-pointers to help deny Oklahoma City an NBA Finals trip. Golden State was the first team in NBA history to make 1,000 3-pointers in a season. But if the hot shots from beyond the arc have an off night, that could signal major trouble. And the Cavaliers have some solid outside shooting as part of a more versatile and balanced attack. It promises to be dramatic and tension-packed.