It's one step closer to the main event: Cavs-Warriors III

Adrian WojnarowskiThe Vertical

SAN ANTONIO – Draymond Green is too respectful of the San Antonio Spurs – too sheepish over that lingering collapse to the Cleveland Cavaliers – to start publicly pining for the NBA Finals. It’s too soon, and there’s too much time until June 1 to think that he won’t get to play the hype man for the inevitable championship fight. Green knows what’s coming, knows what the world wants: The Trilogy, Warriors-Cavaliers.

“The Spurs are never going to quit,” Green told The Vertical. “That team is never going to lay down. And we have history of losing a lead.”

Golden State beat the Spurs 120-108 in Game 3 on Saturday night, moving within a whisper of a Western Conference finals sweep.

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The Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant share a laugh in the closing minutes of Game 3 Saturday night. (AP)
The Warriors’ Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant share a laugh in the closing minutes of Game 3 Saturday night. (AP)

For weeks, the sheer competitive balance of basketball has been obliterated, blowout stacked upon blowout. Golden State-Cleveland is on a collision course for perhaps the most anticipated NBA Finals since the Celtics’ and Lakers’ run in the 1980s. This year, the NBA is threatening to turn itself into college basketball: a one-month sport.

So you start to ask to ask about the possibility of the Warriors-Cavaliers, how it has a chance to be … and Green finishes the thought for you, “Great … history … which only makes it more motivation to go win this. You’ll look back at this, years down the line, and say, ‘Man, I was a part of that.’ It would be great to say, ‘Hey, we won the most.’

“Listen, it’s not done. They haven’t won yet. We haven’t won yet. But if that is to happen [this year], who knows if it’ll ever happen again? So you want the chance to be able to say, ‘We won the most.’ ”

Across the NBA, resistance is futile to Golden State and Cleveland. These playoffs have been a nightmare for the NBA, downright unwatchable in the conference finals. As rival teams prepare for the draft and summer free agency, no one thinks it’s a player away in the NBA – and few think they’re even two players away. The gap is massive, and there’s no simple solution on closing it with Golden State and Cleveland.

Executives are building to make a move in the standings, yes, but most GMs are hoping they can keep their jobs long enough to wait out the Warriors’ and Cavaliers’ timeline.

Because the balance of power is so disproportionate in the East, the Warriors don’t have the Cavaliers’ luxury: looking past everyone in the East and fixating on Golden State. Go back through the past several All-NBA first teams, and you’ll see: Outside of James, the talent is still in the West.

Golden State has to take seriously a healthy San Antonio, the dangerous Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets and Utah Jazz. Cleveland fears no one in its conference and barely respects Toronto and Boston.

When Golden State lost to Cleveland in the NBA Finals last year, lost to LeBron James, it was long into the pursuit of the one way to make sure that never happened again: Kevin Durant. Now, he’s on the Warriors’ side, and it’s made Golden State downright devastating. The Cavaliers have been impressive, but they haven’t had to defend but one star at a time in these playoffs: Paul George, DeMar DeRozan and Isaiah Thomas. Kyle Lowry was dropped with an injury, and now Thomas, too.

Yes, Draymond Green watches these Cavaliers, and he’ll forever wonder what would’ve happened in those 2016 NBA Finals had he spared himself, his team, a Game 5 suspension. To say he doesn’t notice the Cavaliers on a regular basis would be a lie, as would the idea that the Warriors aren’t obsessive in the year-around focus on them.

“In this day and age, even if you don’t watch the game, the highlights are going to come on your phone, or it’s going to come across Twitter,” Green told The Vertical.

“Measure ourselves against them? Listen, we know how good we are, and we know how good they are. And we’ll roll with that from there.”

One more game for the Warriors on Monday night, and these conference finals are over. Draymond Green and these Warriors have been waiting a year for the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers, waiting to try them out again with Durant on the Dubs’ side this time. This is The Trilogy, the biggest heavyweight basketball fight of them all. Everyone’s waiting. Everyone wants it. Resistance is futile. There’s no stopping the inevitability of these NBA Finals, no stopping what everyone wants, and everyone awaits on these Warriors and Cavaliers: A chance at owning a forever basketball rivalry, a chance at true immortality.

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