The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers square off tonight in an unprecedented fourth straight N.B.A. finals. Not only have no N.B.A. teams ever accomplished such a feat, but neither has a pair of teams in any of the other major American sports leagues. Refresh here for live updates and analysis from Oakland:
Top Story Lines for Game 1
• The Warriors have won two of the past three N.B.A. championships, and are heavily favored to win for a third time in the Coach Steve Kerr era, largely as a result of a talent disparity in which LeBron James has struggled to find reliable second and third options while Golden State has a starting lineup with four All-Stars.
• There is no question that LeBron James is a player so dominant that he can take over a game, but to upset the talent-rich Warriors he may need someone else to step up in a way that hasn’t happened so far this postseason. Kyle Korver has had moments and Jeff Green was a key player in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, but Love is the only player on the roster who could seemingly explode to the point where it would create serious problems for Golden State. James has occasionally referred to Love’s best moments being him getting back to “Minnesota Kevin” and an appearance by him could even things out considerably.
• The rhetoric in favor of the inevitability of a Warriors win in the series has reached the point that a discussion of which Golden State player will capture Finals M.V.P. has already begun. Kevin Durant won the award last year and Iguodala won it in 2015, but before anyone gets too far down that road, it would be wise to remember that LeBron James won it in 2016 as his team upset the heavily-favored Warriors, who had gotten off to a 3-1 start in the series.
• Injuries could play a factor on both sides, with Andre Iguodala of the Warriors and Kevin Love of the Cavaliers being closely watched. Iguodala is out for Game 1, and possibly beyond, with a bone bruise in his left leg. Without him, the Warriors struggled to find consistency on both offense and defense in the conference finals. Love, on the other hand, has been cleared of the N.B.A.’s concussion protocol, and is expected to be available for Game 1, but it is not yet clear at what level he will be able to contribute.
• The Warriors have excelled in the third quarter in recent seasons, but that concept has reached a fever pitch in this postseason. It was huge third quarters in Games 6 and 7 that shot them past the Houston Rockets and into the finals, and there are times where it seems Golden State only truly concentrates on playing its best basketball just after halftime. It is a tendency that Cleveland will need to prepare for in some way.