Cava­liers in­sist they have plenty of bite for Fi­nals

New Straits Times - - Sport -

VE­GAS is bet­ting against them and the book­ies are hardly alone. Let’s be hon­est, not many are giv­ing the Cleve­land Cava­liers much of a chance in the NBA Fi­nals. They may be de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons and they may have LeBron James, but against Golden State, they are def­i­nite un­der­dogs. Just don’t try to tell them that. “The whole un­der­dog thing is funny to me, be­cause yeah, at the end of the day we are de­fend­ing our ti­tle,” Cavs for­ward Kevin Love said fol­low­ing Satur­day’s prac­tice. “We’re try­ing to re­peat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel. We will use it as mo­ti­va­tion, but the idea of play­ing into it? It’s tough for me to say that is the case. I don’t feel like we’re un­der­dogs.

“We match up well with them and I think they’d say the same about us.”

Maybe, but as the teams gear up for Thurs­day night’s se­ries opener in Oak­land, com­ments made by War­riors for­ward Dray­mond Green in Oc­to­ber are re­ver­ber­at­ing around Cleve­land.

Still sting­ing after the War­riors blew a 3-1 lead in last year’s Fi­nals against Cleve­land, the vo­cif­er­ous Green, who was sus­pended from Game 5, said if given the chance again, he plans to “de­stroy and an­ni­hi­late” the Cavs.

Love com­pli­mented Green’s com­pet­i­tive­ness and aimed a ver­bal vol­ley at North­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

“He’s a guy who said he wanted us,” Love said, “and he has us — start­ing next Thurs­day.”

Act III in this tril­ogy is over­loaded with story lines, with the big­gest be­ing whether James and Co. have enough fire­power to go toe-to-toe with the War­riors, who added su­per­star Kevin Du­rant to a team that won 73 games a year ago be­fore its Fi­nals flame­out.

Golden State has glowed in this post­sea­son, be­com­ing the first team to start 12-0 while win­ning by an av­er­age of 16.3 points per game — the high­est mar­gin league history. It’s no won­der then that the wise guys have in­stalled the War­riors as heavy fa­vorites to beat the Cavs for the sec­ond time in three years and wres­tle back the Larry O’Brien Tro­phy that slipped through their hands last June.

James re­ferred to the War­riors as only “that jug­ger­naut” and “a beast” fol­low­ing Thurs­day’s Game 5 in at Bos­ton, a night in which he passed Michael Jordan as the ca­reer post­sea­son scor­ing leader.

James elected not to talk about the War­riors fol­low­ing the game, choos­ing in­stead to cel­e­brate a third straight con­fer­ence ti­tle in Cleve­land and his sev­enth con­sec­u­tive Fi­nals trip. James didn’t speak to re­porters on Satur­day ei­ther, leav­ing Love to serve as the team’s un­of­fi­cial spokesman as the sports world inched closer to a matchup that seemed des­tined from the mo­ment last sea­son’s Fi­nals ended. AFP


Cava­liers’ Kevin Love (top) shoots over Celtics’ Avery Bradley (right) and Al Hor­ford in Game 5 of the NBA Eastern Con­fer­ence fi­nals in Bos­ton on Thurs­day.

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