It's a rematch that many NBA fans wanted, and it's a rematch they're about to get.
Reigning NBA MVP Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors upended LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in last year's NBA Finals. They're about to meet again -- except this time, the Cavs, which limped into last year's finals, are a healthy unit.
Will the Cavs get some payback against the Warriors and bring Cleveland its first world championship in over 50 years, or will Curry lead Golden State to back-to-back titles? Here are three questions and a prediction for the 2016 NBA Finals, which begin Thursday at 6 p.m. on ABC15.
1. Will Irving and Love be the difference?
Here's our chance to find out whether the Cavs might have beaten the Warriors in last year's finals if two of their stars were healthy. Power forward Kevin Love missed most of last year's playoffs with a dislocated shoulder, and point guard Kyrie Irving suffered a series-ending knee injury in Game 1 of the finals.
This year, Love and Irving are good to go, and the duo has combined to average 41.6 points per game and shoot over 45 percent from 3-point range during this year's playoff run. Will the LeBron-Love-Irving trio be too much for the Warriors to handle?
2. Will Curry be better than last time?
Last year's NBA Finals MVP honors went to forward Andre Iguodala, in part because of Iguodala's outstanding defense and in part due to Curry's ho-hum performance -- at least for his standards. Most of Curry's numbers, including his field goal and 3-point percentages, were down in last year's finals compared to his regular-season totals.
Curry did a bit of a disappearing act midway through Golden State's Western Conference Finals series against the Thunder before bouncing back to make 13 of 26 combined 3-point attempts in Games 6 and 7. Which Curry will we see in the finals -- and will another average performance (again, for Curry's standards) be enough this time against Cleveland?
3. Will Iguodala lock down LeBron again?
Speaking of Iguodala, the UA alum made LeBron's life miserable throughout last year's finals by sticking to the four-time NBA MVP like glue. He helped limit LeBron to 39.8 percent shooting from the floor during the six-game series, a significant drop from his near-50 percent shooting during the regular season.
With Iguodala expected to be assigned to guard LeBron again, will the 12-year veteran once again be the difference for Golden State on defense, or will LeBron have better luck this time, especially with options like Love and Irving at his disposal this time?
The Warriors needed six games to oust the Cavs in last year's finals despite the absence of Love and Irving. With that duo now healthy, logic may suggest Cleveland will have the upper hand this time.
But Golden State, which set an NBA record with 73 regular-season victories, is out to prove something, especially after its near-early exit in the conference finals. Combined with the Warriors' regular-season sweep of the Cavs (including a blowout win in Cleveland in January) and their home-court advantage in this series, it's hard to bet against them becoming back-to-back champs. Warriors in five.