Outside of the NBA Finals and its All-Star Weekend, Christmas Day is the league’s largest opportunity to showcase its’ talent young and old. The days of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals rematches have given way to the rematch of past NBA Finals. As folks open their gifts, spend time with their loved ones and remember the true meaning of this day they will always have the opportunity to watch the likes of the new guard; Anthony Davis, reigning MVP Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook while the old guard in Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and on his final Christmas Day game, Kobe Bryant, fight for relevance in a league where they are considered myths of the past.
With all of the star power and championship prowess, the league is banking on its afternoon showcase the game, the one that will see the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors attempt to fight off the surging and seemingly healthy Cleveland Cavaliers.
At 27-1 the Warriors are running through the league like a runaway freight train, the likes of which has never been seen before. Seemingly fueled by the naysayers who’ve doubted the validity of their 2015 title, the Warriors have a take no prisoners attitude as they shower the league in destruction and scariest of all, they do it with a smile.
“You need luck in the West,” Doc Rivers said of Golden State “Look at Golden State. They didn’t have to play us or the Spurs. But that’s also a lesson for us: When you have a chance to close, you have to do it.”
Outside of the Milwaukee Bucks, the Baby Faced Assassin and his squad have met all comers and defeated them but they have yet to face their Eastern Conference opponent from last seasons’ Finals, one who is seemingly obsessed with the success and historic run of the Warriors.
How did you know that what you sought was redemption and not righteous vengeance?
PETE ABRAMS, Sluggy Freelance
Either way, the Cleveland Cavaliers would welcome the end result. At 19-7 and currently leading the conference, the Cavs are primed and ready for their Finals rematch all the while wanting to prove that health can be the ultimate nullifier. Unusually quiet, the Cavaliers know what’s currently at stake. This game, the rematch is far more important to them than it is to the Warriors.
After an off-season filled with what if scenarios the Cavaliers brought the band back together for what could be one last run. This game will be the test and could help solve the currently unknown answers; can a healthy Cavaliers team defeat the Warriors? Will this be the year that the curse of Cleveland is finally lifted?
For Cleveland the time is now to answer those questions because a loss will open the door to many more. For a team that hasn’t been as motivated at times throughout this young season the rematch should provide plenty:
“We lost in the Finals, we didn’t win,” LeBron James said in mid-November while watching the Warriors march out to a 24-0 start. “And the team that beat us looks more hungry than we are, so it shouldn’t be that way.”
There are reports that James despite saying all of the right things publicly, “privately grumbled” that he didn’t get more consideration during last season’s MBA MVP vote. With the rematch, the stage has been set for him to do, on this day, one of the biggest for the NBA.
For the Warriors, the rematch can represent a validation; one that shows that yes they can defeat the ghost of a “healthy” Cavaliers team, a ghost that has haunted them from the time that they hoisted the elusive Larry O’Brien Trophy.