Stephen Curry (144878)
Credit: Bill Moore

Throughout the years in sports and entertainment, there have been several great trilogies that have fully captured the attention of a genre’s fans, transcended them and become iconic classics. And there are some whose attempts have fallen short by the third. “The Godfather,” considered the greatest movie of all times, and the kid’s favorite, “Home Alone,” come to mind. One and two were quite entertaining, but the third comes under the heading, “That Really Sucked!” And just as a reference, a World War III has always been a possibility, looming since the end of the second one in 1945. Thankfully, it has never happened.

The NBA Finals begin tonight (Thursday) in Oakland, Calif., at Oracle Arena. It’s the third installment of the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Golden State Warriors NBA championship battle, the one for supremacy, for world dominance of balling. Three should be great. A combination of one and two.

They are tied at one each: Golden State won it all in 2015 and Cleveland last year in 2016. Cavs versus Warriors III is the first time in NBA history, since its inauguration in 1947, that two of its teams have played each other for the championship three consecutive years. 

This series is the rubber match. The heightened level of competition, the dislike, the pressure to win— self-imposed on both sides—and the public’s opinion make it a grudge match. It can be epic, “the closest thing to death that they’ve ever known,” which is how “the Greatest,” Muhammad Ali, described his third in the trilogy of heavyweight fights with Joe Frazier, “The Thriller in Manila,” in 1975.

With the nucleus of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, the Warriors have led the league in wins for the past three years. They added MVP Kevin Durant to their roster of Jedi in the offseason, a major coup for the Warriors, but one that puts additional pressure on them and on Durant to win it all, four out of the seven scheduled NBA championship games. 

Durant departed the Oklahoma Thunder, an intact team on the verge of defeating the Warriors in last year’s Western Conference semifinals, which then brought to light Durant’s unhappiness with OKC, the team that drafted him 10 years ago. He’s been an integral part of the Warriors, averaging 25.1 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists during his first season. He was 37.5 in three-point shooting.

Durant hasn’t let up during the 12 postseason games that Golden State has played. With Durant, the Warriors averaged 118.3 playoff points while holding their opponents to 102, sweeping through the three Western Conference teams (the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz and San Antonio Spurs) that they faced to reach the NBA Finals to meet the Cleveland Cavaliers for the chip once again. In the 13 postseason games they’ve played (12 wins, 1 loss), the Cavs averaged 116.7 points, giving up 103. Very close numbers for Durant, Curry, Green and Thompson versus LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. It’s a star war, the final installment of the trilogy.