Everyone just get out of the Golden State Warriors‘ way. After coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Oklahoma City Thunder, we are now watching the team of destiny prepare for its final challenge. The Cleveland Cavaliers? They’re just happy to be here.
This seems to be the narrative surrounding the upcoming NBA Finals. As great as the Cavs have been throughout this postseason, Golden State is just too good. Cleveland may snatch a win or two, making things interesting like last year, but this is the 73-9 Warriors we’re talking about.
Top it all off with how lopsided the regular-season series between these two teams was, and you can certainly understand why the Cavs are getting a heavy amount of doubt cast their way. The majority of fans and pundits seem to believe this Finals will be another chapter in the long-suffering sports history of Cleveland.
Personally, I’m not sold on that. I’m not going to flat-out predict a Cavaliers championship. I’ve followed Cleveland sports long enough to know that wouldn’t be the smartest move.
That said, I don’t buy the idea the Cavs should be written off, that they aren’t ready for what lies ahead. In my opinion, Cleveland is more than prepared to stun the Warriors and end a city’s championship drought.
This isn’t to try and discount Golden State. Coming off an impressive comeback, which followed the greatest regular season in NBA history, it’d be ridiculous not to give the Warriors their due credit.
Additionally, they’ve owned Cleveland this season. Sure, the two teams played a gritty and tightly contested matchup on Christmas. However, the 132-98 drubbing Golden State handed the Cavs a couple weeks later was an absolute embarrassment. I don’t fault those who see this result as more reason to believe the Warriors are about to win their second straight title.
At the same time, to simply shrug Cleveland off as no match for Golden State is foolish.
This isn’t the same Cavs team which faced the Warriors last postseason. That group, which was hobbled and essentially dragged that far thanks to a superhuman effort by LeBron James, was easily no match for Golden State. You can’t rely on Matthew Dellavedova and J.R. Smith as second and third scoring options and expect to bring home a championship.
Things are just a little different this time around. Kyrie Irving isn’t limping. Kevin Love is actually present. James is no longer shouldering the load and carrying an entire team on his back.
Not only is everyone healthy, contributions are coming from across the board.
Irving spent much of this postseason as Cleveland’s leading scorer. Love has been playing with an energy Cavs fans haven’t seen from him since he joined the team. Bench guys like Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye are providing much more help than anyone could’ve predicted.
The bottom line is this Cleveland team looks nothing like the aimless, unmotivated group we saw through most of the regular season. Call it a result of swapping coach David Blatt out for Tyronn Lue, or just saving their energy for the postseason. Whatever it is, you can’t look at these Cavs and simply doom their chances before the Finals even start.
Doing so would be ignoring the fact Cleveland has never looked better. I don’t mean this playoffs, or even this season. This team looks better than any iteration of the Cavaliers in franchise history.
Yet, ask the national media and you’ll hear that these Cavs don’t have a chance. The Warriors are a team of destiny, and Cleveland is just the last hurdle in the way. The Cavs are just a footnote in Golden State’s historic season.
However, Cleveland fans shouldn’t be upset about this. Let everyone doubt the Cavs while worshiping the ground Golden State walks on. Continue to listen to the talking heads laugh off the idea of Cleveland getting its first title since 1964 by beating the historically great Warriors.
None of this changes the fact the Cavs are undoubtedly up to the task in these Finals. They’re fully capable of toppling the mighty Golden State, and seem more than ready to do so.
Again, this isn’t a prediction. The Cavs are understandably the underdog, and this series is going to be incredibly difficult for them to win.
Then again, ending a city-wide, 52-year drought isn’t supposed to be easy.