When the NBA season started, way back in October, we all knew it would happen. After 82 games, with the Cavs in fourth place in the East and the Warriors in second out West, we still figured it would be so. And even when both teams fell behind 3-2 in the Conference Finals, we figured things would somehow shake out.
In yet another piece of evidence that the NBA regular season is utterly meaningless, they did.
On Sunday, the Cavs clinched their fourth-straight Finals birth behind 35 points, 15 boards and nine assists from LeBron. An atrocious shooting night by the Celtics helped too. On Monday night, Stephen Curry and the Warriors did their part despite looking lost in the first half. An outrageous third quarter and, like the Cavs, an opponent that couldn't throw the ball into the ocean, landed the Warriors in their fourth straight Finals.
A lot had to go right for the Warriors and Cavs to reach this stage. Both teams suffered injuries of key players—Kevin Love for Cleveland and Andre Iguodala for Golden State—but they benefited even more from dudes stuck in street clothes on the other bench. For Boston, Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving had to watch LeBron dominate a team led by first and second-year players. Chris Paul meanwhile carved up the Warriors in the first five games of the Western Conference Finals, only to miss the next two with a bum hamstring.
That's how we got here. Let's look at where we're going.
The Cavs and Warriors tip-off in the Finals Thursday night and, like the last three times, Curry and company are the favorites. But they've never been favored by this much, ESPN reports.
The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas opened Golden State as a -1,000 favorite to win the best-of-seven series, which tips off Thursday. The Warriors are the largest Finals favorites in at least 16 seasons, according to odds database Sportsoddshistory.com.
The numbers are eye popping, but it's not hard to see why Vegas is so keen on the Warriors. Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green are all healthy, while LeBron needs Kevin Love to come back from a concussion to give the Cavs a second option of any significance. Not that Jeff Green, J.R. Smith and George Hill aren't good pieces, but they should be coming off the bench, not starting in the NBA Finals.
LeBron won't roll over, of course, but at some point someone else is doing to have to step up for this team. The 33-year-old workhorse, who played all but two minutes in the last two Cavs' games, was last seen with ice packs the size of Riley Curry wrapped around his knees. A breakdown has to be coming, right?
The Cavs' ability to give LeBron some help, and some rest, will be even more essential against the Warriors, who made a strategy out of running the Rockets ragged and then piling up points in the second half. LeBron, of course, is inhuman, so he may be immune to these tactics. And if he does somehow manage to carry this rag tag bunch to the title over the vaunted Warriors, there won't be anyone left arguing against his status as the greatest of all-time.