For the second straight home game, the actual game is notlikely to be the focus of the evening for the Warriors and their fans. Yes, theupstart Minnesota Grizzlies are in town, but the real story Monday night atOracle happens at halftime.Thats when the Warriors will retire Chris Mullins No. 17jersey, unveiling it along with the five other players whose numbers have beenretired by the franchise.The last time the Warriors were at Oracle Arena they playedthe Milwaukee Bucks, and the return of Monta Ellis recently traded was thefocus. Ellis received an extended ovation before the game and two videotributes during the game.Many of Mullins ex-teammates will be on hand, and the nightfigures to be a celebration of the Warriors past.When the game begins, here are some things to watchfor:Power forward battle: Right now, KevinLove and David Lee are the best players on their respective teams, and bothplay the power forward position.That matchup will go a long way toward determining whichteam gets the victory on Monday night. On Sunday night in Sacramento, Love andteammate J.J. Barea had to be separated by teammates after they got into ashouting match on the bench.Bouncing back: After learning about theMonta Ellis trade last Tuesday, the Warriors played an impressive and emotionalgame against the Kings, blowing them out in Sacramento.Since then, the Warriors have dropped three consecutivegames, and their play has been disjointed and dispassionate at times.The Warriors are 18-24 with 24 games remaining. Coach MarkJacksons task is to find a way to get the team to play hard as the season wrapsup, and that looks like it will be a challenge.Which small forward will emerge: The Warriorshave plenty of players capable of playing the small forward position and itwill be interesting to see which player Jackson goes with the most.Newly acquired Richard Jefferson played 38 minutes againstthe Utah Jazz on Saturday, a surprisingly high number considering it wasJeffersons Warriors debut.Dorell Wright, whose minutes have been limited at times thisseason, played 44 minutes, and even Brandon Rush played 22 minutes. Questionis: Will Jackson continue to go small, which will allow him to get each ofthose players minutes?Or will he begin to go with a more conventional lineup, thereforelimiting one or more of those guys minutes?
It never happened between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. Same for Michael Jordan and Karl Malone or Jerry West and Bill Russell.
While there have been 14 rematches in NBA Finals history, this year's meeting between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors will be the first trilogy in league history.
After the Warriors beat the Cavs for their first title in 40 years in 2015, Cleveland got revenge last season with a comeback from 3-1 down to give the city its first major championship since 1964. Now they meet for the rubber match starting June 1 in Oakland.
While this may be unprecedented in the NBA, it has happened once before in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball with matchups that included some of those sports' biggest stars.
There was Babe Ruth vs. Frankie Frisch in the 1920s and then a pair of memorable three-peat matchups in the 1950s featuring Otto Graham against Bobby Layne in the NFL and Gordie Howe against Maurice Richard in the NHL.
Here is a look at other major pro sports championship trilogies:
New York Yankees vs. New York Giants 1921-23
In his second season in New York, Babe Ruth led the Yankees to their first World Series berth in 1921 against the Giants. The entire series was played at the Polo Grounds, home to both teams that season. The Giants won the Series 5-3 in the final best-of-nine matchup as a banged-up Ruth got just one plate appearance during the final three games, all won by the Giants.
John McGraw's Giants won the rematch the following year 4-0 with one tie before Ruth gave the Yankees their first title the following year to cap the first season at Yankee Stadium. Ruth had three homers in the Series, including one in the decisive sixth game. The big star for the Giants that year was future Yankees manager Casey Stengel, who hit an inside-the-park homer in the ninth inning to win Game 1 and drove in the only run in Game 3 with another homer.
Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions (1952-54)
These teams that have spent much of the post-merger days near the bottom of the standings were the cream of the crop in the 1950s led by star quarterback Graham and innovative coach Paul Brown in Cleveland and Lions Hall of Fame passer Layne and running back Doak Walker.
In the first championship meeting in 1952, Layne and Walker ran for TDs to give the Lions a 17-7 win and their first championship since 1935.
Detroit became the league's third repeat winner in the championship game the following season when Layne threw a 33-yard TD pass to Jim Doran with just over 2 minutes remaining for a 17-16 victory.
The Browns came out on top the following year, ending a run of three straight title game losses (they also lost to the Rams in 1951). The Lions won the regular-season finale the week before the title game and scored first on a field goal by Walker.
But it was all Browns after that with Graham throwing three TD passes and running for three more in a 56-10 win.
Montreal Canadiens vs. Detroit Red Wings (1954-56)
The first matchup of this trilogy started with one of the most memorable in 1954. In a series full of megastars like Howe, Terry Sawchuk, Ted Lindsay and Red Kelly in Detroit and Richard, Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey and Boom Boom Geoffrion in Montreal, it was an unsung player who became the hero.
In overtime in Game 7, Red Wings forward Tony Leswick got credit for the series-clinching goal when his innocent looking shot from the point was deflected by Harvey past Gerry McNeil for a 2-1 win 4:29 into OT. There hasn't been a Game 7 overtime since in the Final.
The Red Wings won the rematch in an all home team seven-game series the following year. Howe set a record with 12 points in the round and Lindsay scored four goals in a Game 2 win. Richard missed the series because of a suspension for slashing Boston's Hal Laycoe in the head and punching linesman Cliff Thompson. Detroit didn't win another Stanley Cup for 41 years.
With Richard back, the Canadiens won the following year in five games with the Rocket getting the game-winning goal in the clincher. That was the first of a record five straight titles for the Canadiens.
OAKLAND -- The hoops historian Draymond Green has a message for those with short memories and cynical outlooks.
The NBA is never better than when The Finals have legendary potential, as is the case with the Warriors and Cavaliers, who next week become the first teams to meet three consecutive seasons to determine a champion.
“It’s a great thing for the league, contrary to popular belief,” Green said Friday after Warriors practice.
Warriors-Cavs Part III is, in fact, a fantastic boon for the league. Interest will peak. Ratings will soar. Storylines will cascade down every mountain, knoll and molehill.
“Right now, you’re witnessing greatness -- two great teams, great players,” Green said. “That’s what it is. It probably won’t be appreciated until it’s over. Say we meet again next year? It still won’t be appreciated -- until we don’t meet again and you realize what you had.”
What fans have is history made, with more in the making.
The Warriors enter The Finals after an unprecedented 12-0 start to the playoffs, becoming the first team to complete three four-game sweeps in a single postseason.
Another sweep, and it’s not inconceivable, would make these Warriors the first team in NBA history with a perfect postseason -- give them the distinction of having the best postseason in American sports history.
The Cavaliers enter The Finals after a 12-1 start and, moreover, with the reheated debate over whether LeBron James has a body of work that equals or surpasses that of Michael Jordan. James is one game removed from surpassing Jordan to become No. 1 on the all-time list for playoff scoring and will make his seventh consecutive appearance in The Finals, something Jordan never did.
Though a Cleveland victory would bolster any argument in James’ favor, a Cleveland loss might be enough to close the case in Jordan’s favor insofar as his Bulls reached six NBA Finals and won them all.
Warriors-Cavaliers has the potential to go beyond what most believe to be the most epic of postseason rivals, that being the Magic Johnson and the Lakers versus Larry Bird and the Celtics. They met only three times (1984, ’85 and ’87) but the NBA went a full 10 seasons with one team or the other in The Finals.
Being a student of the game, Green quite likely knows that -- as well as having a complete understanding of the possibilities ahead.
Even if he suspects others may not.
“But you usually don’t appreciate something until you don’t have it any more,” he said. “Maybe there’s just a lack of appreciation for greatness. When you look at the situation, most people have never reached greatness. So, maybe there’s just not an understanding of what you’re watching.
“I appreciate it. I’m happy we’ve been able to steam-roll people, and I love the fact that they’ve been able to steam-roll people. I just love great things. And I think right now we’ve found two great teams.”