We've heard it way before the 2016 NBA Finals rematch begins on Friday (PH standard time) between defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Actually, the whole world has heard it right after both teams battled for the crown last year.
If the Cavaliers were complete in last year's finals, they would've won the title.
No one knows, really, if that's true. The merits are obvious. Without Kyrie Irving after Game 1 and Kevin Love for the series, the hobbled Cavs, led by LeBron James, won two games with Matthew Dellavadova as the starting point guard.
What's certain now is that such doubt surrounding the Warriors' title run last season will find resolution this year, as a healthy (get those fingers crossed, Cavs fans) and rested Cleveland team enters the rematch for the Larry O'Brien trophy against Golden State.
LeBron has Kyrie and Love (12-0 in his NBA playoffs career in US territory, not that it counts) in tow this time around, together with a deep bench in Tristan Thompson, Dellevadova, Channing Frye, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Richard Jefferson.
No more excuses this time, but sadly for Cavs fans, their team better be careful with the rematch they wished for, because by the looks of things, the Cavaliers still have no chance.
See, when all that talk questioning the Warriors' championship began at the end of Game 6 last year, reigning Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry and his chippy, yappy, borderline cocky teammates took note and played the entire 2015-16 season with a massive chip on their shoulders.
If you've been keeping track of the NBA, it's hard not to notice. Behind the child-like smiles and dances of Curry and the bench, the muscle-flexing and flying-kick ways of Draymond Green, and the creepy sobriety of Klay Thompson are über-competitive men who've matched and destroyed records no one thought they could do.
Most threes in a season? Check. Best start to open a season? Easy. Best all-time regular season record? Where have you been?!
Add these mind-bending facts to those jaw-dropping achievements: their star trio consists of a guy like Curry, who barely dunks but staked his claim as the most dominant player in the league after winning back-to-back MVPs and a scoring title with super-elite 50-40-90 efficiency, while leading the league in steals; a "big" man in Green, who stands slightly taller than a typical small forward yet holds his own against 7-footers on the low block (second in Defensive Player of the Year voting behind Kawhi Leonard), and revolutionizing the game with his playmaking skills (second in triple doubles in the league behind Russell Westbrook); and Klay, of course, who can go from frigid cold to supernova in a blink.
Still, despite the historic accomplishments, doubts continue to persist around Golden State. And when the team showed some chinks in the supposedly invincible armor after the Oklahoma City Thunder held a commanding 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals, the doubters grew louder, bolder.
That the Warriors added to their dream season by becoming only the 10th team in NBA history to overcome a 1-3 deficit in the playoffs should come as no surprise now. The extraordinary becomes the norm when it comes to this special group.
On the other hand, the Cavaliers are entering the Finals rematch after a dominant run out in the East. But after oddsmakers declared Cleveland as favorites to win the NBA title before the season began, the tables have drastically turned in favor of the historically excellent Golden State, with 69 percent odds to repeat as champs, especially with what they've shown against OKC.
Exactly what have they demonstrated in the just concluded West Finals that made them overwhelming favorites for the championship? Anything and everything necessary to win.
The Thunder exposed the Warriors' supposed weakness, with equally athletic bigs able to defend the latter's cat-quick guards on the switch. The small ball of death unit (Curry-Thompson-Andre Iguodala-Harrison Barnes-Green) that demolished opponents on both ends of the floor was rendered ineffective by Oklahoma. So Golden State went big, with one of Andrew Bogut, Mo Speights, or Festus Ezeli always on the floor.
Curry was smothered every time on the court, with barely any space to terrorize beyond the arc. So he took it to the basket.
And the bench mob of Iguodala, Speights, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, even former Cav Anderson Varejao, overshadowed by the excellence of their starting unit, had a lot to do with their comeback.
All small adjustments but major game changers from coach Steve Kerr, who has also not received his share of the spotlight in bringing the Dubs back from the brink of elimination.
The Cavs sure have the talent, firepower, and big names to match their rivals. The biggest question mark for Cleveland though, is on defense and in the coaching department.
How can they stop Golden State's machine-like execution when they have already shown the ability to adapt and fix their glitches? Like the T-1000 in Terminator. Or Skynet, for that matter.
What adjustments do first-time coach Tyronn Lue have to counter Kerr's strategy?
The Warriors may not say it, but they've been itching for this rematch for a long time, to make doubters eat their words once and for all.
Of course, there's always the possibility of the Cavaliers making GSW fans, in the words of one famous member since 2011, "Shut up na lang." But I doubt it.
My Warriors in six!