“You’re witnessing greatness and it won’t be appreciated until it’s over”, Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green said this week.
“When you look back on it at the end of the day, you’ll look back and say that it was two great teams who competed for championships and did whatever it took to get to that point,” added Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James.
Starting on Thursday night, for the third time in as many years the Warriors and Cavs will square up in the best-of-seven NBA finals.
The split is currently one each. The Warriors won in six in 2015 before the Cavs produced a stunning comeback in 2016 to win from 3-1 down.
The stage could not be set any better. The Warriors have two former MVP’s in Steph Curry and Kevin Durant – the latter added in the wake of last year’s loss – while the Cavs have Kyrie Irving and James, whose excellence is so that he is the centre of a legitimate debate as to whether or not he is better than Michael Jordan.
The Cavs say the Warriors are the favourites. The Warriors say the Cavs are. The odds? We have the Warriors at 33/100 with the Cavs at 9/4 in our NBA finals betting.
The reasoning behind the odds is simple. Golden State were the better side throughout the regular season with a 67-15 record and have swept their way through the Western Conference play-offs without losing a match.
Curry – so poor in the finals last year and throughout the season this time around – has been excellent in the play-offs and in Durant they have a monstrous piece at both ends of the court they did not have a year ago.
But you simply cannot apply logic to James. A once-in-a-generation player, James primes himself for these moments. Excellent in the regular season, he gets even better in the post-season. Last week he passed Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in play-off history.
He won Finals MVP for dragging Cleveland to the title last year, notably by producing ‘the block’ – a defensive stop on Andre Iguadala close to the end of game seven that he admitted will “define my career”.
The chances are, though, that winning this series would define his reign all the more.
Cleveland are 9/1 to win in seven games again, a likely scoreline if they are to take the series given they have conceded home-court advantage. It is simply unthinkable for them to win the series to nil or even to one.
As for the Warriors, 9/2 for a 4-2 victory is tempting and, if you fancy seeing them exact full revenge for last year’s capitulation, 13/5 is the price for 4-1.