It's a three-peat matchup in the NBA Finals: The Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Golden State Warriors.
What do the Cavs need to do to win? What are the keys to victory -- and Cleveland defending its title? Cary's Comics Craze has your day-of preview for Game 1 and the rest of the Finals:
Big games from the Big 3: That's a given. But I'll be more specific...
LeBron James needs to be LeBron: He's the greatest active basketball player on the planet and he needs to show it from the beginning. Don't be selfish, but play your game, LeBron. Don't wait to start dominating; make the Warriors take notice early in the game. And often!
LeBron, go to the hole: LJ is at his fiercest -- and most dangerous -- when he takes the ball to the hoop. Once he does that, it will make Golden State look for it. And when the defenders do that, LeBron can hit them with a triple threat: Score; score and/or create a foul; or draw the defenders so he can pass to an open player.
Kevin Love needs to be the triple threat he is: He needs to aggressively go for rebounds (as he has done all season), play smart D and make shots.
Kyrie Irving, do your shooting magic: Once he starts making shots, the basket rim looks massive. One good thing will lead to another.
Kyrie's D: Many fans consider Irving an average defensive player at best, but as long as he stays on his man and doesn't let a player take advantage of his size, he should create defensive problems for the Warriors.
Be like Spider-Man, Kyrie: In other words, stick to your guy. Like Spidey does to walls.
Get hot from three-point land: Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith, light it up! Once these guys get hot, they are hard to stop. And when LeBron and Kyrie get going, watch out -- lights out! But don't depend on the three-ball; the Cavs have plenty of offensive weapons to make Golden State pay.
Korver and J.R., continue playing great D
Tristan Thompson, own the space under the basket: T-Squared, you are The Man under the rim. Own it. That's your house; make Golden State pay rent there.
Play mad, LeBron: Nobody except MJ had as many great on-court performances when he felt he was slighted. Hey Golden State, you wouldn't like when LeBron gets angry...!
And in general...
Get hands in Warriors' faces during their three-point shots: Don't let them have too much open space for open shots.
Don't let Golden State get too far ahead. Ever!
Mash on the accelerator -- and keep the pedal to the metal.
Put bodies on Kevin Durant and Draymond Green: Play those guys tough. Match them push for push. And when the Cavs do that, Green may help us out, blow his top and implode on his own. Then he probably will be forced to sit at the bench in early foul -- or even technical foul -- trouble.
Don't worry about Durant and Stephen Curry: Durant will get his shots/points and Curry is streaky when it comes to three-point shots; there's nothing to be done about that. But Curry will self-destruct at some point; that's what he does in the Finals against the Cavs. Why should this year be any different?
The Warriors want revenge. But they know they choked being up 3-1 in last season's NBA Finals. And the Cavaliers certainly remember that.
Since the Cavs already have had a loss in the playoffs, they know how to bounce back from a defeat. It's been 12 games since the Warriors had to do that. Don't you think they realize that? And don't you think the players feel their own pressure -- not mention from the media and their fans -- about being 12-0 in the NBA Playoffs this year?
All the pressure is on the Warriors.
2017 NBA Finals prediction: Cavs in 6, most likely 7.