Cavs relish challenge ahead
Warriors open as big favorite
The odds are longer than a Stephen Curry 3-pointer, Kevin Durant’s wingspan or Draymond Green’s catalog of technical fouls.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers are being given little — or no — chance of winning their fourth straight NBA Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors, who have been installed by Las Vegas bookmakers as the heaviest favorites in the past 16 years.
The Warriors are 12-point favorites to win Thursday’s Game 1, the largest spread in a Finals game since 1991, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue isn’t blinking.
“We’re all focused on winning a championship,” Lue said Tuesday before the team flew to California. “We played our best basketball going into the playoffs.
“We’ve gotten better and better throughout the course of the playoffs. Our main focus and our main objective is to win a championship, so we can’t worry about what the outside guys are saying and who’s being picked. We know what we have here and what we’re trying to do.”
Cavs vs. Warriors, Part IV: an expected conclusion to an unpredictable season.
Lue said All-Star forward Kevin Love remains in concussion protocol and his status for the series opener is in question.
Love sat out Cleveland’s Game 7 win at Boston on Sunday after suffering a head injury when he and Celtics rookie forward Jayson Tatum accidentally banged heads during the opening minutes of Game 6.
Love was replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Jeff Green, who stepped up and scored 19 points as the Cavs completed their comeback after trailing 2-0 and 3-2 in the series.
Love is expected back for the Finals, and Lue needs his experience against the Warriors, who like the Cavs rallied to win the Western Conference finals by taking Game 7 on the road.
There was a moment when it looked as if both Cleveland and Golden State could miss the Finals.
It disappeared quickly,
“They’ve been tested. We’ve been tested,” Lue said. “They’ve been to Game 7s. We’ve been to Game 7s. We’ve won championships and they’ve won championships, so they understand what it takes and they knew what it took.”
Since the playoffs opened, Cleveland has embraced the “Whatever It Takes” mantra that began as a catchy organizational slogan and morphed into a way of survival.
The Cavs have twice been pushed to seven games, overcome injuries and gotten much-needed contributions to ease the burden on James from role players Green, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
However, in this series when every possession will be magnified, Lue will count on four players who have been around since the Cavs first met the Warriors in the 2015 Finals.
And because they won a championship in 2016 together, the core four of James, Love, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson share something special.
“Just having these guys here who have been through it, been through the tough times, been through the great times as well, this is a bond that can’t be broken,” Lue said. “Just reminds me a lot of guys I played with back in the day when you see Horace Grant, Robert Horry, Derek Fisher, just something about winning a championship with those guys that you will never forget, and it’s a bond that can’t be broken.”
While Love has been solid, Smith and Thompson haven’t always come through this season for Cleveland.