NBA: 5 things to take notice in the Finals between Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on May 21, 2017.
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on May 21, 2017. PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Oakland, United States (AFP) - Five Things to Notice in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals, the league's best-of-seven championship final that starts on Thursday (Friday 9am, Singapore time):

1) Historic Finals trilogy

Golden State and Cleveland meet in the NBA Finals for the third year in a row, with the Warriors taking the title in 2015 before being dethroned in 2016 by the Cavaliers, who rallied from 3-1 down to win the best-of-seven series in the greatest comeback in Finals history.

Each major North American sports league has now had a "three-peat" championship round, the National Hockey League (NHL) between the Detroit Red Wings and the Montreal Canadiens from 1954-56, the National Football League (NFL) from 1952-54 between the Detroit Lions and the Cleveland Browns in the pre-Super Bowl era, and Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1921-23 between the New York Yankees and New York Giants, who later moved to San Francisco.

The Warriors are seeking a fifth NBA title in franchise history on the 70th anniversary of their first, which came in 1947 when the team was based in Philadelphia.

The Cavaliers are gunning for their second NBA title overall and second in a row. It comes 10 years after Cleveland's first NBA Finals appearance, when the team was coached by Mike Brown, the Golden State assistant coach who has guided the Warriors in the play-offs due to Warriors coach Steve Kerr having complications following back surgery.

2) Hot play-off start rolls on

Golden State became the first team in NBA history to start the play-offs 12-0. Eight prior teams have reached the title round unbeaten, but none have had so many games to win to get there. And three of those teams then lost the Finals.

The most recent team prior to the Warriors to enter the NBA Finals unbeaten were the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers, having gone 11-0.

The Lakers lost the Finals opener, before winning four in a row to defeat the Philadelphia 76ers.

Current Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was on that Lakers squad.

Cleveland went 12-1 in this year's play-offs after entering the post-season on a four-game losing streak to end the regular season.

It's the first Final with both teams having a combined one loss since the 1950s.

If the Warriors win in five or the Cavaliers sweep Golden State, the champion would have the best one-season play-off win percentage in NBA history.

3) All-Star player match-ups

The NBA Finals feature seven of the past eight NBA Most Valuable Players (MVP) - Cleveland's LeBron James (2009, 2010, 2012, 2013), Golden State's Kevin Durant (2014) and Stephen Curry (2015, 2016).

There are seven 2017 NBA All-Stars and 11 players who have been All-Stars in their careers, as well as winners of seven of the last eight MVP awards, the most in either category since the 1983 NBA Finals.

All-Star personal matchups will feature LeBron James against Kevin Durant at small forward, Kyrie Irving versus Stephen Curry at point guard, and Kevin Love against Draymond Green at power forward.

In an international matchup at centre, Cleveland's Tristan Thompson of Canada will go against Golden State's Zaza Pachulia, who could become the first player from Georgia to win an NBA crown.

Golden State's Klay Thompson set the record for most points in an NBA quarter with a 37-point third quarter against Sacramento on Jan 23, 2015.

Cleveland's Kevin Love ranks second after a 34-point first quarter against Portland on Nov 23, 2016.

4) Durant v James rivalry sparks

LeBron James had not won an NBA title when he and Kevin Durant first collided in the NBA Finals.

That was in 2012 when James and the Miami Heat beat Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder in five games, giving "King" James his first crown.

James averaged 28.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists in the NBA Finals that year.

Durant has not reached the finals since until now. This will be James' seventh in a row and eighth overall, but he is only 3-4 in finals.

James has 17 NBA Finals game wins, two shy of the active leader mark of 19 shared by San Antonio's Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Cleveland's star player ranks seventh among all scorers in NBA Finals history with 1,079 career points, needing 98 points to pass Michael Jordan for third place on the all-time list, which would put him behind only Jerry West (1,679) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,317).

James passed Jordan as the top play-off scorer in NBA history last week and is a three-time NBA Finals MVP, with Jordan at six, the only player to win the award more times.

5) Korver, West reach Finals

Cleveland's Kyle Korver and Golden State's David West are both 36-year-old former All-Stars who will play in the NBA Finals for the first time in their careers.

They are both doing so in the first year with their respective clubs.

Among active NBA players, only Utah's Joe Johnson has played in more play-off games (112) without playing in the NBA Finals than Korver (104) or West (95).

Korver, in the top five among all-time NBA regular season 3-point shotmakers, is one of only two active NBA players from the second round of the NBA Draft, the other being Golden State's Pachulia.