As you may have heard, the Cavs are slight underdogs to the Warriors in the Finals.
Actually, it’s slightly more than “slight.”
More like “massive,” “incalculable,” or “why are they even playing the games?”
The Vegas wiseguys have established the Cavs as +650 underdogs. What does that mean? I’m no gambler, but it’s my understanding that if you publicly utter the words, “I think the Cavs are going to win it all,” any time prior to Game 1, and the Cavs win the series, somebody will come to your house and give you $650 in cash, no questions asked.
I’m pretty sure that’s how it works.
However, I wouldn’t worry about clearing your June schedule to make sure you’ll be home the day after the Finals.
Because according to those whose business it is to be in said business, the odds are hideously against the Cavs upsetting The Mighty Warriors Juggernaut.
Here is just a partial list of things more likely to happen than the Cavs winning four games from Golden State:
- J.R. Smith landing the lead role in the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of La Boheme.
- Lake Erie evaporating.
- The bud of a saguaro cactus emerging from the center of your forehead.
- The Queen of England photographed playing horseshoes.
- The marketing of a new high energy drink called Liquid Apathy.
… So you’re saying there IS a chance?
No chance. Nada. Nil. Zero. Fogetaboutit.
The oddsmakers are telling us that the chances of the Cavs beating the Warriors are even less than the chances of you or me playing for the Warriors … or for the Cavs.
But of course, as they say in the “Well, we’ve still got to play the games” business: that’s why they play the games.
There’s also, certainly and not incidentally, this: No matter how big of an underdog the Cavs are, no matter how big the mountain to climb, no matter how many times the Warriors throw the ball to Zaza Pachulia, the Cavs still have LeBron James, and the Warriors don’t.
As everyone learned in the first three rounds of the playoffs, in which the Cavs sandwiched two Game 7 victories around a four-game sweep, where there’s a LeBron, there’s a way.
Don’t forget, we’re talking about the world’s most perfect basketball machine going into Game 1 with three — count ’em, three! — full days of rest.
Anyone who saw an exhausted LeBron lying on the floor during the trophy presentation following the Cavs’ Eastern Conference championship-clinching Game 7 victory over the Celtics can appreciate how much the King appreciated having three consecutive days off from having to throw his team and its fanbase on his back for another 48 minutes in the coal mine.
Going into Game 1, the Cavs have had one more day of rest than the Warriors. So if there’s the potential for a game to be stolen in the Finals, it would seem to be Game 1.
In all likelihood, however, the Finals will begin the way the Eastern Conference finals with the Celtics began, and the way the gorgeous and glorious 2016 Finals began for the Cavs — with losses in the first two games of the series, in the other team’s gym.
So brace yourself.
But when the series shifts to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, it could get interesting. That’s usually about the time we can count on the predictable Draymond Green meltdown, i.e., a technical or two, perhaps even a one-game suspension. Green threw that life preserver to the grateful Cavs in 2016, and it helped turn around the series.
If you’re looking for other potential basketball benevolence that the Cavs could cash in on, keep an eye on the Warriors’ turnover totals. During the regular season they averaged 15.5 turnovers per game, the fifth highest in the league. (The Cavs averaged 13.7, the ninth lowest).
The Warriors have had double figures in turnovers in 15 of their 17 playoff games this year, including five games with 16, one of which was their Game 7 win over Houston’s gang that couldn’t shoot straight.
To beat, or even stay on the same floor with the Warriors, the Cavs are going to need extra possessions from turnovers, especially since their leading rebounder, Kevin Love, may be out or limited in some or all of the games.
In addition to being sloppy with the ball, the Warriors, for whom winning comes so easily, are also known to lose interest at times during games. Indeed, the Warriors losing interest would be one way to spike interest in the Finals.
Interest in the Finals may need a spike, if the hoopster handicappers are right in telling us that this year’s Finals are a mismatch of historic proportions — even if J.R. Smith COULD handle an aria from La Boheme.
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