The NBA Finals are upon us and as ever there are plenty of intriguing storylines as the Cleveland Cavaliers clash with the Golden State Warriors for a fourth straight year.
There is plenty to talk about going into an eagerly awaited series, but we have narrowed it down to five key talking points to follow for the season's final series.
Here is what to look out for when the series tips off at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, on Thursday.
Peep the BEST PLAYS of the #NBAPlayoffs thus far! pic.twitter.com/PIGRyDTbtz— NBA (@NBA) May 30, 2018
1. How much help will LeBron James get? LeBron can put up otherworldly numbers, there is no denying that, but it is a simple fact that James cannot win a series on his own. In 2016, he needed Kyrie Irving to hit a three-pointer, in 2013 he needed Ray Allen to tie game six, and even this postseason he was better when his role-players stepped up. During the 2018 playoffs the Cavaliers were 9-3 when everyone other than LeBron combined to score at least 60 points and 3-3 when they scored 59 or fewer. Even further, when James had at least one teammate score 20 or more points the Cavs were 5-1.
2. Who is the better scorer (in this series): LeBron or Kevin Durant? The argument started after the NBA Finals in 2017 whether Durant was better than James, and it was solely because of the former Oklahoma City Thunder forward's ability to match James shot for shot. Durant averaged 35.2 points per game in the Finals while James scored 33.6. In fact, in his two Finals against James, Durant has outscored him both times (the other: 30.6 to 28.6 in 2011-12). Now, being a better player is about more than scoring, but when James outscores the other team's best player the Cavaliers normally win (Cleveland went 7-1 when James scored at least 40 points, he also was the top scorer in those games). If James is outscored by Durant on the offensive end in the Finals, then it does not bode well for the Cavaliers.
💪🏽 #StrengthInNumbers pic.twitter.com/STntp7MF4R— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 30, 2018
3. Key players' health. Will Kevin Love be back from a concussion? Will Andre Iguodala return from a leg injury? Will questions return about the health of Stephen Curry's knee? Every one of these things could factor massively into this series, and Curry's health should not be forgotten.
4. The Warriors' third-quarter swarm. Golden State outscored the Rockets by 68 points in its Western Conference finals win and beat them by an average of nearly 10 points in the first quarter out of halftime. More pointed still, Golden State was 4-1 when scoring 31 or more points in the third quarter against the Rockets. Houston never really adjusted to the second-half onslaught, but the Cavaliers will have to in the Finals if they happen to have a lead going into the break.
“A title matchup between two teams in four straight seasons is something that’s never happened before in pro sports.”— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) May 30, 2018
Tomorrow, the #NBAFinals heavyweight battle begins.
Get ready with @CavsJoeG’s #WhateverItTakes PRIMER ↓https://t.co/3xtzWK9Dea
5. Draymond Green vs. LeBron James. Will there be fireworks when these two are matched up? It may not happen every time down the court, but you know they will be in each other's face more than once this series. You have to watch this for the sheer entertainment value.