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OAKLAND http://www.raidersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-johnny-townsend-jersey , Calif. — LeBron James and Kevin Durant go head-to-head for the third time in seven years while the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors square off for the fourth straight season when the NBA Finals open Thursday night on the court of the defending champions.


The Warriors, by virtue of a 58-50 edge in wins during the regular season, will have the home-court advantage in the best-of-seven series.


Golden State won its three home games by a total of 50 points in last year’s Finals, avenging a dramatic 4-3 loss the previous year with a 4-1 romp past the Cavaliers for its second championship in three seasons.


The 2017 Finals mano-a-mano was the first for James and Durant with the Cavaliers and Warriors, respectively. They afforded Durant a shot at individual revenge for a 2012 championship showdown in which James led Miami to a 4-1 triumph over Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder.


James’ superior all-around skills were on center stage in the 2012 meeting. He was outscored 30.6 to 28.6 points per game by Durant in the series, but more than made up for it with a series-leading 51 rebounds and 37 assists.


Durant, who left Oklahoma City for Golden State on the eve of the 2016-17 season, had a much more well-rounded approach to last year’s Finals. He outscored James again (35.2-33.6) while also contributing 41 rebounds and 27 assists to the Warriors’ dominance, and at the same time playing a role defensively in James’ series-high 21 turnovers.


Surely, both rivals, as well as both teams in general Rashaan Gaulden Color Rush Jersey , respect each other on the eve of the fourth consecutive showdown.


“They’ve got four Hall of Famers on their team,” James said of Durant, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. “And I didn’t even mention their head coach (Steve Kerr). Their head coach is the one who kind of puts it all together, makes it all flow. When it comes to team sports, that’s something that you would hope that you could be a part of.”


Kerr recalled mentor Gregg Popovich’s approach when the San Antonio Spurs encountered James and the Heat in the 2013 Finals.


“The Spurs were going underneath on every screen just daring him to shoot,” Kerr said. “Contrast that to now where he’s shooting fadeaway threes from 30 feet to close games out. It is pretty remarkable when you’ve got a guy who is already considered one of the top few players ever to play the game can make that much improvement late in his career.”


The Warriors and Cavaliers met twice in the regular season, but it might not be wise to read too much into the results.


For one thing, the games came within a 21-day span in the first half of the season, with Golden State winning both.


But, perhaps more significantly Lamar Jackson Jersey Ravens , both teams’ road to the Finals were paved with impressive wins over rivals that had held a regular-season advantage.


The Cavaliers, seeded just fourth in the Eastern Conference, had been thumped by 34 points in their only regular-season visit to top-seeded Toronto. But in the playoffs, Cleveland used consecutive wins in Canada to begin a shockingly easy four-game sweep in the Eastern semifinals.


That earlier loss at Toronto, by the way, came just four days before Golden State’s win at Cleveland in January, at a time when the Cavaliers were mapping in-season changes.


The Warriors, meanwhile, lost two of three to Houston in the regular season and were relegated to second seeding behind the Rockets in the Western finals, before winning twice in Texas — including Game 7 on Monday — to eke out a narrow advancement.


Golden State will be seeing Cleveland for the first time since the Cavaliers jettisoned almost half their roster at the trade deadline in order to bring in four Western imports — George Hill from Sacramento, Rodney Hood from Utah and Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. from the Los Angeles Lakers.


Only Hill played a significant role in Cleveland’s seven-game dismissal of Boston in the Eastern finals Cordy Glenn Color Rush Jersey , but it should be noted that three of the four enjoyed a measure of success against Golden State for their previous teams.


Hill contributed 16 points to arguably Sacramento’s most impressive win of the season, a 110-106 triumph at Golden State in November; Clarkson burned the Warriors for 21 points two days later for the Lakers; and Hood bombed in 26 for Utah in his only meeting with Golden State this season.


Flyers fans spent the final minutes of another empty season doing what boorish fans do with elimination on deck. They chucked beer cans and threw trash and hats and whatever objects were within reach onto the ice. Flyers public address announcer Lou Nolan admonished fans – just as he had two years earlier when giveaway bracelets were hurled on the ice – but there was little anyone could do to stop them.

This is how the season ends in Philly, not with a Stanley Cup hoisted in a championship celebration, but with a call for the cleaning crew to pick up the mess.


The Eagles, Phillies and 76ers have all won championships – along with Villanova, the Arena Football League’s Soul, and Philly horse Smarty Jones – since the Flyers last won back-to-back Cups in 1974 and 1975.


The only banners raised to the rafters are for retired numbers or a Hall of Fame entry.


So it goes for the orange-and-black, trudging along without a Process or parade.


The Flyers’ season ended with an 8-5 loss in Game 6 to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Flyers haven’t reached the second round since 2012 and haven’t played in the Cup finals since 2010. Under third-year coach Dave Hakstol, this season’s berth was considered a mild surprise, especially when the team lost 10 straight games in November/December and all seemed lost.


”We came into this playoff series and into (Game 6) very confident that we could not only take this series to a seven-game series, but also win the series http://www.vikingsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-brian-o_neill-jersey ,” Hakstol said. ”We didn’t do that so we came up short. There’s one season that ultimately is successful, and obviously we didn’t accomplish that this year. There are a lot of real positives that we’re going to be able to go back and evaluate.”


The Flyers clearly aren’t in the class of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. The Flyers and Penguins are often touted as one of the NHL’s fiercest rivalries. The truth is, the Flyers are nothing to the Penguins but a pesky gnat easily swatted away and quickly forgotten.


There’s talent in Philly. But enough to win a championship? That’s for general manager Ron Hextall to assemble in the offseason and the years ahead.


Here are more things to know as the Flyers head into a long offseason:


HAKSTOL’S FUTURE


Hakstol, a shocking pick to coach the Flyers out of the college ranks, has led the Flyers to two playoff berths in three seasons but not much else. Angry Flyers fans chanted ”Fire Hakstol! Fire Hakstol!” in the playoffs and he’s aware the fans at least want him on the hot seat. But Hakstol and Hextall are tight – Hextall’s son, Brett, played for Hakstol at North Dakota. And there’s little reason to think the GM is going to acknowledge his biggest gamble was also his biggest bust of a move. Hakstol had a reputation from developing young players and there are enough on the roster to merit at least one more season.


”It took a lot of young guys growing throughout the year to be able to put together the stretch run that we did have,” he said. ”At the end of the day, we didn’t come into this playoff series to make steps though. We came in to win the series.”


SUMMER SHAKEUP


The Flyers may have gone as far as they can with the core of Claude Giroux, who was a Hart Trophy candidate, Wayne Simmonds and Jake Voracek. Simmonds Weston Richburg Color Rush Jersey , a former All-Star, could be on the market if the Flyers are committed to a true youth movement.


Giroux is the last player left from the `10 finals team and had just one goal and two assists in the playoffs.


”We’re gonna keep building here and we’re going to come off strong next year,” Giroux said.


The Flyers could look to Nolan Patrick, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 draft, to play a more pivotal role next season.


WHO’S NO. 1


Look no further than Philadelphia’s usual unsettled goaltending to understand why the franchise has gone 42 years without a championship. The Flyers signed former Calgary goalie Brian Elliott to a $5.5 million, two-year deal and he was a bust in the playoffs. Michal Neuvirth and mid-season pickup Petr Mrazek weren’t true No. 1s, either.


The 28 goals scored by the Penguins set a new Flyers franchise record for goals against in a six-game series. It tied the franchise record for goals against in any length of series, joining the 1979 New York Rangers team that scored 28 in a five-game series win.


Who’s next in net?


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