OAKLAND (California) • Memories of being dethroned as champions last year by the greatest comeback in National Basketball Association Finals history spur the Golden State Warriors in a redemption quest against the Cleveland Cavaliers in this year's rematch.
The third consecutive best-of-seven title showdown between the Warriors and the Cavaliers opens this morning (Singapore time) with Golden State's 2015 win and Cleveland's stinging rally from 1-3 down last June adding to the anticipated drama for two superstar-filled squads.
"It obviously still hurts a lot... It kills you. But we learnt from it," said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. "You can feel that redemption.
"It's natural. Beat the guys who beat you.
"But you just have that in the back of your mind. Don't let it overtake what's at stake, but you can feel a little redemption if you want. Whatever gets you going. Our fans definitely feel that way."
The Warriors figure they will be motivated for the opener after watching the Cavaliers celebrate their first crown on the Warriors' court after a seventh-game thriller.
"It has been a great motivating factor," Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. "I have great memories of (2015) and terrible memories of last year, but they're both lessons you can learn going into this series.
"But, yeah, I don't want to feel what I felt last year. Going to do everything in my power to attack every game with that perspective."
Cavaliers star LeBron James, who sparked the fightback last year to bring his beloved Cleveland its first major sports crown in 52 years, knows the Warriors have extra motivation.
"We're going to face adversity," he said. "They have been the best team in the league the last three years and they have added an incredible player in Kevin Durant.
"They're going to challenge us offensively, defensively, mentally, physically. We've got to be up for the challenge. I feel very good about our chances. Very good."
The Warriors are off to the best start in NBA play-off history at 12-0, but they had won a record 73 regular-season games last season and felt empty when they could not win the title.
But Warriors forward Draymond Green shrugged off any redemption notion, saying the desire to become a dynasty matters more than revenge.
"Goal is to win a championship. I don't really think you need extra motivation to do that," he said. "I don't know if 3-1 has been mentioned in our locker room one time this year.
"When you're chasing greatness, that's the expectation. You don't need something to motivate you. For us that's the goal anyway, to try to build a dynasty and be great each and every time we step on the floor. That's all the motivation we need."
The Cavaliers' desire to retain the title is mighty as well and they know the opener is crucial.
"It sets the tone for the rest of the series, so we're going to have to come out and be ready," Cavs forward Kevin Love said. "I know from a preparation standpoint we're going to be ready."
That means poise under pressure and handling the emotions of the moment.
"We understand the intensity this will be at emotionally. It's natural to feel all those things. So it will be exciting," said Cavs guard Kyrie Irving. "But the quicker you settle into your surroundings, the better you'll be."
Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said containing the NBA's top-scoring team is vital.
"We've got to come in with a defensive mindset and I think our best defence is going to be our offence," he said. "We can't turn the basketball over, we have to take good shots. We have to have great floor balance because this team is dangerous in transition."
Game 1, Golden State v Cleveland: Singtel TV Ch110, 9am