In 2015, the Golden State Warriors seemingly came out of nowhere to win the NBA title against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavs. In 2016, James returned the favor, bringing a long-awaited professional sports championship back to Cleveland. On Christmas, the teams will renew acquaintances for the first time, perhaps the most important meeting these competitors have had outside of the month of June.

Setting the pace

To the surprise of absolutely no one, these teams head into the Christmas schedule setting the pace for the rest of the teams in the NBA. Through Thursday night's games, the Warriors are in first in the Western Conference (and NBA) with a 26-4 record, while the Cavs lead the Eastern Conference at 21-6.

Their dominance partially stems from the fact that Cleveland won last year's championship with one of the greatest players of all-time while Golden State brought in former MVP Kevin Durant.

What may be a bit more surprising to fans who tune in on Christmas, however, is that the face of each franchise has taken a step into the shadows this year. James has become more of a passer than a scorer for the Cavs; while he can still score with aplomb and now leads the team, Kyrie Irving has proven to be the more pure scorer. Meanwhile, the Warriors are still adjusting to life with KD, who is outscoring Steph Curry (who doesn't lead the team in any major statistical category).

Most important game of the year so far

What stands out about the Christmas game is that each team is exactly where they were expected to be at this point of the year. That adds importance to the contest. The winner of the game doesn't just get to go home and celebrate a victory for the holiday - either the Cavs or Warriors will become the immediate favorite to win it all this year.

The Cavs host the Christmas contest, scheduled to tip off at 2:30 PM ET. But the Warriors are playing better, more consistent Basketball (despite a near lapse against the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday). They remember very well the blocked shot that changed the two teams' trajectories last year and will have the extra motivation of revenge on their side.

Christmas Prediction: Warriors 114, Cavs 109

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