October 20, 2017

Odds heavily favor a Warriors-Cavs finals matchup for third consecutive year

2017/05/01 9:19 am 9:19 am9:19 am0 0 comments

Despite History, Odds Still Heavily Favor a Warriors meeting the Cavaliers in the finals again The Boston Celtics (17) and Los Angeles Lakers (16) have combined for 33 NBA titles. It just didn’t seem like those two franchises were in the Finals every year in the 1980s . It’s true; either Larry Bird or Magic Johnson appeared in every championship series during that decade.

It might surprise you to know that never in NBA history have two teams met in the Finals three consecutive years. That’s likely to change come June as Heritage lists Golden State and Cleveland as heavy favorites to win their respective conferences again, according to a review of Heritage Sports.

Golden State Dominance Without Durant

Golden State and Cleveland were the only two teams to sweep their first-round playoff series this year. The Warriors, currently priced -315 at Heritage to win a third straight Western Conference title and -195 for a second NBA championship in three years, beat the No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers in four fairly easy games. The Blazers stayed within double digits only in a 119-113 Game 3 home loss.

The Warriors played Games 2 and 3 without star Kevin Durant and Games 3 and 4 without head coach Steve Kerr (not to mention missing Matt Barnes and Shaun Livingston). Now, Durant is fully recovered from a calf injury and his status shouldn’t be an issue going forward. He looked 100 percent in the clinching game with 32 points and 11 rebounds in 36 minutes. Kerr is still dealing with some issues from two back surgeries that sidelined him for the first 43 games of the 2015-16 regular season. Two of the side effects have been chronic headaches and debilitating neck pain. Needless to say, being in a very loud NBA arena won’t help Kerr’s headache problems.

It’s not clear if Kerr will be able to return in these playoffs. He says he will not unless he’s sure he can finish out the postseason. If not, Mike Brown will remain the interim head coach. He compiled a 327-216 record in a combined seven seasons with the Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers, including one NBA Finals appearance with LeBron James and the Cavs in 2007.

How much does a head coach matter in the NBA? We could find out. The Warriors will face the Utah Jazz in the conference semifinals. Utah was 1-2 vs. the Warriors during the season but the one victory, on April 10 in Oakland, was a meaningful win for Utah, but a meaningless one for Golden State who already had eyes on the resting and readying for a deep postseason run.

Difficult Sweep, But a Sweep Nonetheless

Cleveland, meanwhile, is -295 to win a third straight Eastern Conference title and +415 to repeat as NBA champion. While the Warriors are the West’s top seed and had it easy against Portland, the Cavs are the No. 2 in the East and had to fight tooth-and-nail to sweep No. 7 Indiana in the first round. All four games were decided by six points or fewer. The difference in the series was the third quarter as Cleveland outscored Indiana 124-87 in those quarters.

The Cavaliers are likely ticketed for a conference semifinals matchup against the Washington Wizards unless the Atlanta Hawks can pull a surprise. Cleveland was 2-1 vs. the Wizards this season, losing the most recent matchup at home on March 25.

As we mentioned in previous posts, no matter how bumpy a road; one shouldn’t doubt LeBron James. LeBron’s teams, including his Miami Heat days, have now won 21 straight first-round games, the longest such streak since the playoffs expanded to 16 teams in 1984. In his career, LeBron is 12-0 in first-round playoff series. Not only that, if his Cleveland team makes it deep into the playoffs, he’ll become the league’s all-time leading scoring in the postseason.

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