WAR­RIORS HAILED TO WIN FI­NALS

De­fend­ing cham­pi­ons are un­der­dogs against Golden State for the crown

New Straits Times - - Sport -

LEBRON James and the Cleve­land Cavaliers open their ti­tle de­fence as un­der­dogs against the Golden State War­riors as the NBA Fi­nals get un­der­way next week. The 2016 cham­pi­ons Cavaliers and the 2015 cham­pi­ons War­riors will bat­tle for the crown for a third straight year in the best-of-seven start­ing at Golden State on Thurs­day.

James scored 35 points and passed Michael Jor­dan to be­come the NBA’s all­time play­off scor­ing leader as the Cavaliers routed the Bos­ton Celtics 135102 on Thurs­day to claim their third straight East­ern Con­fer­ence ti­tle. Both teams dom­i­nated through­out the play­offs — the War­riors made his­tory by go­ing an un­prece­dented 12-0 through three rounds in the Western Con­fer­ence, while the Cavs lost just one game to the Celtics to cap their dom­i­nant run.

The West­gate Las Ve­gas Su­perBook in­stalled Golden State as mi­nus-260 favourites, with Cleve­land at plus-220, mean­ing a US$100 (RM450) bet on the War­riors would win US$38.46 and the same bet on the Cavaliers would win US$220, ac­cord­ing to ESPN.

The War­riors are listed as seven-point favourites for Game One at home, ac­cord­ing to CBS Sports.

“I’m go­ing to be hon­est,” James told re­porters in Bos­ton on Thurs­day. “I’m not in the right mind to even talk about Golden State. It’s too stress­ful, and I’m not stressed right now.”

The Cavaliers and War­riors split their two meet­ings this sea­son, both win­ning at home. Cleve­land won by one point on Christ­mas Day and Golden State pre­vailed by 35 points on Jan 16.

It will be James’ sev­enth straight trip to the Fi­nals and eighth over­all.

“I’ve been very blessed the last few years to be a part of this league and play on the big stage,” James said. “But we’re go­ing to en­joy this for a cou­ple more days be­fore we have to lock in on that jug­ger­naut out west.”

Golden State led the league with a 67-15 record this sea­son and are 27-1 in their last 28 games, in­clud­ing the play­offs.

“Play­ing in this league, you can’t take any­thing for granted,” War­riors guard Stephen Curry said af­ter the War­riors beat the San An­to­nio Spurs 129-115 in Game Four on Mon­day.

“Thirty teams suit up ev­ery year try­ing to get to this point, and only two teams do. So you have to ap­pre ciate it.” While James is go­ing for his fourth ring, War­riors for­ward Kevin Du­rant will be try­ing to win his first. Du­rant signed a twoyear, US$54.3 mil­lion con­tract with the War­riors last off­sea­son.

Du­rant’s only other time in the Fi­nals was 2012 when he was with Ok­la­homa City, but the Thun­der lost to the Mi­ami Heat in a se­ries that made James a cham­pion for the first time.

“It’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, def­i­nitely. I can’t lie,” Du­rant said when com­par­ing the 2012 Fi­nals trip to this one. “I went when I was 23 years old, and it felt like the Western Con­fer­ence Fi­nals was al­most like the cham­pi­onship.

“So it’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent now, ob­vi­ously. We have a big­ger goal in mind.”

James called the War­riors, “the best team in our league the last three years. And they’ve added an un­be­liev­able player in Kevin Du­rant this year.

“We have to be ready for the chal­lenge.” Reuters

AP PIC

This year’s meet­ing be­tween LeBron James’ Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's War­riors will be the first tril­ogy in league his­tory.

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