Celtics star Isaiah Thomas unsure if he'll need hip surgery

The 2016 champions versus the 2015 champions. It's the matchup most expected, the matchup most predicted, and probably the matchup the Cavaliers and Warriors wanted as well.

Game 1 of the finals tips off on Thursday in Oakland.

LeBron James, who scored 35 points on Thursday night in Game 5 as the Cavaliers finished off the Celtics, expressed his admiration for Thomas after the two stars embraced on the court.

"Obviously we didn't want I.T.to go down". The Cavaliers can let this sink in for a day or two before getting back to work to prepare for the Warriors. Cleveland won by one on Christmas Day, Golden State prevailed by 35 on January 16. Not after the top-seeded Celtics lost the Eastern Conference finals to the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games, and dropped four contests by an average margin of 25.7 points.

"Playing in this league, you can't take anything for granted", Warriors guard Stephen Curry said.

And now, with Durant and Brown infused, these two teams meet for the third straight time on the sport's biggest stage - a ideal script navigating them to this point in history. You usually don't appreciate something until you don't have it anymore. They played great basketball this year.

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Already, the back-and-forth is underway.

"We've got a long way to go", Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.

Thomas is set to enter the final year of a four-year, $27 million contract he inked before being traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2014.

Much more of that sort of that will likely follow over the next week, filling time before Golden State plays host to Game 1.

Kevin Durant, SF, Golden State-Durant and the Warriors still haven't lost a game in the playoffs, sweeping the shorthanded San Antonio Spurs in the conference finals. And they've added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year. So it makes it even more hard. "We knew it wouldn't be easy, but we got some things we can correct and come back ready to go on Tuesday (in Game 4)".

It will mark the seventh straight trip to the Finals for James, who hit a 3-pointer late in in the third quarter to nudge past Jordan on the playoff scoring list.

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At the very moment where the clock ran out in that series, the person James was embracing was Durant - telling the then-Thunder star, his offseason workout partner at the time, how proud of him he was.

From trying to emulate Jordan's fadeaway jump shot to copying his uniform quirks, James said, "I did pretty much everything MJ did when I was a kid". Ainge can look at Thomas' words and take them at face value. The Cavs won the title in Game 7 at Golden State last June wearing their black jerseys.

The Warriors were looking like a lottery team in March 2007 when Nelson was asked what he thought they should do if they got the No. 1 pick.

"My hip's been a little different my whole life. That's all I ever know about Mike", Lue said Saturday. "They knew I wasn't going to sit out until I couldn't move no more and that's what happened". We knew that would happen at some point. Can James win his fourth ring? With the implementation of Durant into the rotation, it was immediately apparent that he would be the first, sometimes second option on offense. The latest trip up came when his Thunder blew their own 3-1 lead to these Warriors just previous year. No other team in National Basketball Association history - not the 85-86 Celtics, not the Showtime or Kobe-Shaq Lakers, and not the Jordan-led Bulls - ever reached such a margin.

The Celtics should have ample cap space this summer but would prefer to spend that money on a big-name free agent that could help narrow the gap between Boston and Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. "I think when you play better, you feel better and you just kind of stay the course".For whatever reason, James was not his usual aggressive self down the stretch but somehow saw a positive in what is a stunning chain of events.

The biggest task awaits.

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