The NBA Finals have been set in many of our minds since the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead to the Cavs last summer. Sure, we had to get through the regular season, a post-season that has so far received, let's call them, mixed reviews, but it was generally assumed that Golden State and Cleveland would meet for a Finals rubbermatch. While we can all say that, for the most part, teams—coaches, players, front offices—usually refrain from looking ahead. Not so, this year.
Way back on May 10, before the series with Boston began, Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue made the rare move of talking about an anticipated rematch with the Warriors, and even likened the rivalry to that of the Lakers and Celtics of yesteryear. Instead of giving the rote "we're focused on the Celtics" response, he said "I think nowadays, a lot of people want to see Golden State-Cavs. And it's not a problem. Right now, it's two of the teams playing some of the best basketball right now."
Yesterday, Lue again spoke about the Warriors, but this time in a comparison to the Celtics. Lue paid lip service to the aforementioned "we're focused on [x]" mantra, but then told reporters that losing Isaiah Thomas has made the Celtics' offense "harder to defend than Golden State's." Now this is surely a little bit of reverse bulletin board material for a team he has on the ropes. But also, the only other team the Cavs could possibly play this season is Golden State, and Lue just said a team that is without its best player is harder to gameplan for than a team that just swept every playoff series leading up to the finals.
Mike Brown, subbing in as head coach for Steve Kerr, was told about the comments and took them about as well as you might expect:
We don't even have the Finals teams set in stone (though we probably will by the end of tonight) and these guys are sniping. Finally, the playoffs are exciting!