Three words. So simple in how they make sense, so perfect in their symmetry, just like their burgeoning bi-coastal hoops rivalry that has blossomed into one of the best in all of sports.
While many purists will debate to the death that it will never surpass the storied history of the Lakers-Celtics, not even that great rivalry pulled off the rare feat of happening three times in a row.
They say that all good things come in three’s right? With summer movie season upon us, Cavs-Warriors III has the makings of an all-time blockbuster thriller. Get your popcorn ready, becuase this is going to be a limited two-week engagement filled with plenty of action, suspense and drama
With Game 1 set to tip on June 1—my 41st birthday, by the way—there are so many storylines and sub-plots between the players, fans and even owners that’d make Hollywood blush. Despite being the defending champions, Cleveland goes into the 2017 NBA Finals as historic underdogs with a 7% chance of winning.
One thing that has been proven time and time again, never bet against LeBron James. Period.
2-3 in his Finals career as an underdog, the Cavs face the Warriors with the hungriness of a team trying to win a championship instead of actually DEFENDING one, which plays perfectly into Cleveland’s hands as the heavily-favored Warriors added Kevin Durant, have home-court advantage and that every major media outlet once again proclaimed them champions before Game 1 has even started.
Perhaps it’s the Cleveland in me that is loving all of the pressure being taken away from my hometown Cavaliers and all on our Bay Area rivals, because if they lose, history will remember them as the biggest chokers in NBA history due to all of the All-NBA talent on their roster.
For Cleveland, they are playing with proverbial house money—I was in Las Vegas at this exact time last year, by the way, hence the term—thus the Cavs can play loose, freely and most importantly, with confidence in knowing that THEY are the ones without the external pressure.
Below are my three reason why the Cavaliers will once again foil their all-mighty super team rivals from the West Coast.
Relishing The Underdog Role: Thanks to the Warriors going 27-1 in their last 28 games and the defending champions Cavs going 18-10 during the regular season, both teams roll into their much anticipated Finals “three-logy” matchup with a combined record of 24-1.
With Vegas odd makers having the Cavaliers as historic +220 underdogs compared to Golden State –260 as the favorite, all of the pressure to win, and win convince is on Golden State and Cleveland.
As mentioned above, I feel this works perfectly in Cleveland’s favor as they can play the “underdog” role and play from the shadows. 7-0 on the road I the post-season, do not be shocked if the Cavs steal another game—or two at the Oracle.
Kevin Love: Unavailable due to a shoulder injury in 2015 and a non-factor in 2016, Kevin Love comes into the 2017 Finals tilt as a major wildcard/x-factor who could determine the outcome. Likely to matchup against Golden State’s mercurial and temperamental center, Draymond Green, Love comes into the Finals averaging a double-double in points (17.5) and rebounds (10.3), and if he can continue his current post-season production vs. Golden State, Cleveland stands a great chance of defending their title.
Cavs Bench: While the Warriors added Kevin Durant, they did it at the expense of their once vaunted lineup that included starters such as Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes and key reserves such Leoandro Barbosa, Festus Ezeli, Mareese Speights.
Despite adding quality veteran big men such as JaVale McGee and David West to add some interior toughness, they will miss the wing scoring, shot-blocking and shooting of the forementioned Barnes, Bogut, Ezeli and Speights. In the case of Cleveland, they heeded The King’s call for reinforcements in landing Derrick and Deron Williams, Kyle Korver, Andrew Bogut—albeit, briefly—and Larry Sanders.
While both Bogut and Sanders are no longer in Cleveland, Williams and Korver have meshed nicely with current bench players such as Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson to give the Cavs a solid second unit. If they can take some of the pressure off of the starters and keep games close, then Cleveland will ironically mirror the Warriors ‘15 team that beat the Cavs thanks in part to their solid bench production.
Prediction: Cavs In 6