As far as Las Vegas is concerned, #WhateveritTakes means the Cavaliers will need a miracle or three to upset the Warriors in the NBA Finals.
That slogan, plastered on just about everything connected with the Cavaliers in this playoff run, pushed them through the Pacers, Raptors and Celtics in the Eastern Conference to set up a fourth consecutive Finals duel with the Warriors beginning at 9 p.m. May 31 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.
The Cavs beat the Warriors in seven games in 2016. The Warriors beat the Cavaliers in six games in 2015 and sent them into the offseason in five games a year ago.
Westgate SuperBook in Vegas sees another lopsided series ahead; the Warriors are listed at -1,000, meaning one betting on Golden State would have to plunk down $1,000 to win $100 if the Warriors win the series. The Cavaliers are +650, meaning someone putting down $100 on the Cavs would win $650 if the Cavaliers win.
Some coaches might use such disrespect to motivate his team.
Cavs coach Tyronn Lue says his team doesn’t need it.
“I don’t think we need that as motivation,” Lue said on a conference call May 29 before the Cavaliers boarded a charter flight to Oakland. “Anytime you’re playing for a championship, that’s motivation itself. The motivation comes from you’re four games away from winning a championship.”
The heart of the Warriors’ team that thumped the Cavaliers in 2017 — Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — is still beating strong.
The Cavaliers don’t have point guard Kyrie Irving because he was traded to the Celtics in the summer, and they aren’t sure about forward Kevin Love.
Love suffered a concussion in the first quarter of Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals with Boston on May 25. He was unable to play in Game 7 and remains in concussion protocol, Lue said. Love’s status will be updated as tipoff May 31 draws closer.
Jeff Green started in place of Love in Game 7. He scored 19 points and pulled down eight rebounds, all off the defensive glass.
Lue hinted Love will return to the starting lineup if he is cleared to play against the Warriors. Love was averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds in the playoffs before being injured.
“Both teams are different, but they still have their core,” Lue said. “They have four All-Stars who are a very big part of what they do, so from that standpoint they’re pretty much the same.”
This is a new experience for the Cavaliers in one regard. They swept Atlanta in the Eastern Conference finals in 2015, beat Toronto in six in 2016 and wiped out the Celtics in five games in the conference finals last year.
The Cavs won Game 7 on May 29, one night earlier than the Warriors beat Houston in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. Lue believes the shorter rest — three days for the Cavaliers — will work in their favor. The Cavs had longer rest before each of the previous three duels with the Warriors and lost Game 1 each time.
The Cavs lost Game 1 of their series with the Pacers and Game 1 with the Celtics this year and overcame those deficits in what LeBron James deemed “feel-out games.” Lue wants a different approach to Game 1 of the 2018 Finals.
“Our whole team has to be aggressive,” Lue said. “We can’t use it as a feel-out game. It’s the first time we’ve come off a seven-game series. Before we had eight or nine days to settle in; we hadn’t played and had trouble trying to get our rhythm. Playing Game 7 in a hostile environment in Boston I think will help us in Game 1.”
Game 2 is 8 p.m. June 3 at Golden State. The series shifts to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 3 on June 6 and Game 4 on June 8, both at 9 p.m.