LeBron James and the Cavaliers are being given little – or no – chance of winning their fourth straight NBA Finals matchup against the Golden State Warriors, who have been installed by Las Vegas bookmakers as the heaviest favorites in the past 16 years.
The Warriors are 12-point favorites to win Thursday’s Game 1, the largest spread in a Finals game since 1991, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
For the series, the Warriors are -800 and the Cavaliers +550 (meaning a $100 bet on the Cavs would win you $550, but it would take an $800 bet on the Warriors to win $100).
Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue isn’t blinking.
“We’re all focused on winning a championship,” Lue said Tuesday before the team flew to California. “We played our best basketball going into the playoffs. We’ve gotten better and better throughout the course of the playoffs. Our main focus and our main objective is to win a championship, so we can’t worry about what the outside guys are saying and who’s being picked. We know what we have here and what we’re trying to do.”
Lue said All-Star forward Kevin Love remains in concussion protocol and his status for the series opener is in question. Love sat out Cleveland’s Game 7 win at Boston on Sunday after suffering a head injury when he and Celtics rookie forward Jayson Tatum accidentally banged heads during the opening minutes of Game 6.
Love was replaced in the starting lineup by veteran Jeff Green, who stepped up and scored 19 points as the Cavs completed their comeback after trailing 2-0 and 3-2 in the series.
Love is expected back for the Finals, and Lue needs his experience against the Warriors, who like the Cavs rallied to win the Western Conference finals by taking Game 7 on the road.
“They’ve been tested. We’ve been tested,” Lue said. “They’ve been to Game 7s. We’ve been to Game 7s. We’ve won championships and they’ve won championships, so they understand what it takes and they knew what it took.”
Unlike the past three Finals, Lue won’t have Kyrie Irving, traded to Boston last summer.
The All-Star point guard was Cleveland’s not-so-secret weapon, the one the Cavs turned to in order to spell James and keep the Warriors off-balance.
“He allowed us to go one on one against the mismatches and can’t nobody stop him one on one,” Lue said. “We’re gonna miss that, but we’re just going to have to play a different style of basketball without him being here.”
Now that’s a safe bet.