James and Cavaliers beat Celtics, set up rematch against Warriors

Many were dismissive of the idea Cleveland had been planning to flip the proverbial switch in time for the playoffs, yet that's exactly what has happened.

If anyone feels a little bit "eat, sleep, rave, repeat" with these finals, there is one major difference: Kevin Durant.

"I think first of all I wear the number (23) because of Mike", he told reporters after finishing the game with 35 points to take his total to 5,995 points. "It's tough to say that we didn't expect it; we knew they'd be right there". Whether it was on objective by Zaza Pachulia or just a matter of putting the wrong foot at the wrong time, it completely changed the series.

That's what this rematch between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will amount to when the NBA Finals commence Thursday in Oakland, Calif. And in Game 7, with LeBron James scoring a triple double plus a massive block and the dagger three-point shot from Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers won the game and the title, ending a sports championship drought the city of Cleveland had been living under since 1964. Obviously adding an MVP to a team that already has a two-time MVP makes them even more impressive.

The gap between these teams and the other playoff qualifiers was wider than we anticipated. The hate didn't exist in the 2015 finals, and only appeared midway through the 2016 finals.

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It said everything about who the 2017 Green-and-White were, their dedication to the game and what they represented - and, most importantly, the size of their hearts.

After a stout finish to Game 4, Irving came out firing in the second half of Game 5, and scored the Cavaliers' first 11 points.

It's amusing to hear James make a hairline comment. Choked might be the best word for it, although no one will ever admit it inside the Warriors camp. Jordan was in his rearview mirror and still James deflected the attention like a kick-out to an open shooter in the corner. "Be like Mike", "G.O.A.T.", there's nothing new.

Almost 6,000 postseason points, thousands of made shots and more than 200 playoff games later, James is the NBA's all-time leading playoff scorer. All the talk about not resting him during the regular season means nothing.

"After a while, I just-it just became so normal, that it was just, 'What am I even anxious about?'" he said.

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But James is going to have to work on the defensive end of the court when Durant is playing in these Finals - you wouldn't dare leave Durant alone or put Kevin Love on him.

Stephen Curry has a stake in this.

It does make some sense. It could also help the Warriors get that bad taste out of their mouth from their collapse in last year's series. Klay Thompson is in the same boat. If the Celtics had won, Bird and Johnson would both have four career National Basketball Association titles, and Bird would have beaten Magic in two out of three Finals meetings.

It's incredible to think of how far this team has come in the last seven years. In this season's playoffs leading up to Game 5 against Boston, James averaged 32.2 points and shot 55.4% from the field, including 40.6% on threes, in 12 games. There seemed to be time left for more heroics. The Warriors are strong favorites, according to Las Vegas bookmakers.

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