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Filed under “nothing we don’t already know,” playing with emotions is tricky[1]. At a turn, it looks like Russell Westbrook punching through a brick wall of defenders at light speed, a grass-fed Novak Djokovic urging the crowd to get behind him or Mark Messier shouldering the weight of a cursed franchise, as well as his own guarantee. It looks like Chris Paul scoring 61 points for his grandfather, or Brett Favre throwing for four touchdowns on Monday Night Football. It also looks like Russian hooligans bringing their country’s soccer team to the edge of disqualification at Euro 2016 over fits of violence with other fans and the police.

In Game 5 of the NBA Finals, we saw two facets of this imponderably massive spectrum. Draymond Green’s inevitable suspension for extracurricular activity gave rise to stellar performances from the four biggest stars in Oracle Arena, as LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson dared each other into the best game of the series thus far. Whether this acts as fuel to Cleveland’s fire or simply delays the inevitable made it an altogether more compelling spectacle.

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Finally[1], the series we all assumed would happen for much of the season has arrived. In what many will call “a rematch,” NBA Finals begins tonight, with the defending champion (and Greatest Regular Season Team Ever™) Golden State Warriors once again welcoming the Cleveland Cavaliers to Oracle Arena. Calling it “a rematch” is technically correct insofar as the same two franchises representing the same two cities as last year return; however, what makes the Finals so apparently compelling is how much the circumstances surrounding these teams have changed since June 2015.

For all intents and purposes, the Cavs arrive in Oakland a different team entirely from the one that pushed last year’s Warriors to six games, though the chip on their shoulder carries more mass than that of the nearly 400,000 Cleveland residents combined[2]. Golden State, meanwhile, has merely greased the wheels of its finely-tuned apparatus, defying every expectation except their own.

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The Eastern Conference Finals are now over, and LeBron James will be attending his fifth consecutive NBA Finals. We got what we expected, which isn’t necessarily what we wanted, but it isn’t what we didn’t want either. In a season full of surprise and intrigue – aren’t they all in the age of Moreyball? – and barring a miraculous, unprecedented comeback from the Houston Rockets, it may very well be that we receive a Cavs-Warriors Finals. That would pit the league’s current MVP, Steph Curry, against the Most Valuable Player of the last decade, James. And that would be barrel-of-chimpanzees fun.

So much of the narrative of the Finals, like the NBA itself, will revolve around LeBron, and that is perfectly alright. What we must not forget, however, is that this next series will feature the Finals debut of J.R. Smith, bomb detonation expert and titan of social media. For that, we should be grateful.

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Courtesy of wina.com

Courtesy of wina.com

The Philadelphia 76ers are bad, and not in the Michael Jackson/Shaft way. The Sixers are now historically horrendous, on an NBA record-tying 26-game losing streak, but fans in the Illadelph are not publicly chastising Michael Carter-Williams or staging protests against Sam Hinkie outside the Wells Fargo Center. While they hang their heads in public, as in the picture above, the 76ers are smirking in private, the prospect of a too-bright future potentially awaiting. Elsewhere, Swaggy P is the victim of hubris, as so often happens, and don’t sleep on Dirk should the Mavs make the playoffs.

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“To tell the truth, I’m not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I’m excited going to Cleveland, I’d punch myself in the face, because I’m lying.” – Ichiro Suzuki

We have gotten to a point as a nation at which I feel inclined to pose the question undoubtedly on the minds of everyone paying attention to the progression of this nation as it rollicks forward toward an uncertain fate: with the utmost respect and least offense possible to its residents, is the city of Cleveland even trying anymore? I’m not even focusing on sports, although in the wake of last week’s Trent Richardson trade by the city’s supposed professional football team, it is certainly a focal point.

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