Cavs bringFinal spice

Jun 5, 2007 6:11 AM

LAST WK

SEASON

PCT

1-1

48-38-3

55.9

After nearly seven inactive days, the NBA returns to prime time with the tipoff of the NBA Finals this Thursday night.

The San Antonio Spurs will represent the Western Conference. Though seeded just third, their appearance in the Finals is not a major surprise given the three titles over the past decade and a huge edge in playoff experience.

Despite being seeded second in the East, Cleveland’s appearance in the Finals is very much a surprise. While top seeded Detroit was the favorite, both Miami and New Jersey had experience edges over the Cavaliers.

Miami was eliminated by Chicago in the opening round while Cleveland took care of New Jersey in round 2. In the Eastern Conference finals, the Cavs came back to win four straight after losing the first two games in Detroit.

What made Cleveland’s capture of the Eastern title all the more impressive was the perfect 6-0 point spread record in the series against the Pistons. Now Cleveland steps up a bit more in class to face the experienced and balanced Spurs.

The Spurs are the clear favorites to win the NBA Title, favored by from 5/1 to 6/1 around the Sports Books. Do the Cavaliers have a chance?

Keep in mind that unlike earlier rounds of the playoffs, the NBA Finals follow a 2-3-2 format. Although San Antonio has the home court edge for a seventh and deciding game, Cleveland will host Games 3, 4 and 5. Barring a four game sweep by either team, the Cavs actually have a mid-series home court edge should the series be tied 2-2 (or Cleveland stay ahead).

This is Cleveland’s first trip to the NBA Finals and that figures to become a significant disadvantage. The nerves and hoopla all come into play when assessing Cleveland’s chances. But it would be foolhardy to dismiss the Cavs chances as slim and none.

Two seasons ago, San Antonio swept the two game season series from a very young Cavaliers team. Last season, the teams traded double digit home victories in a year that saw the Cavs go deeper in the playoffs than the previous campaign.

This past season saw the Cavs sweep the two game series, winning a pair of low scoring games. A half week into the season, Cleveland won 88-81 in San Antonio. Two months later, on Jan. 2, the Cavs won at home 82-78.

The stakes are much higher now, but two things should be clear from an intangible standpoint. First, Cleveland will not lack for confidence following the elimination of Detroit and its in-season success against the Spurs. Secondly, after having been swept during the season series, the Spurs will not take the Cavs lightly even with San Antonio’s experience edge.

The line for Game 1 has San Antonio favored by 7½ points with the Total set at 180. Cleveland has shown throughout the latter part of the regular season and during the playoffs that they are not intimidated by any team at any venue. LeBron James continues to develop into a star player and his play against Detroit has seen him emerge as a leader, capable of making the big play and carrying his team when needed.

San Antonio in 6

Still, it’s hard to see the Spurs not winning the title.

Were the Cavs to face Dallas or Phoenix their chances would be much greater. But look for Cleveland to give the Spurs a battle and for San Antonio to win the Title in Game 6 back home.

”¡ Look for a low scoring series with the UNDER playable in both Game 1 and 2 in San Antonio.

”¡ Cleveland plus the generous points is worth playing in Game 1 as well.

”¡ Cavs in Game 2 if they lose a close game and cover the points.

”¡ Should the Cavs pull the shocker and win Game 1, San Antonio would likely be too big of a favorite to back in Game 2.

”¡ Cleveland would also be playable in Game 3 unless somehow taking a 2-0 lead back home. More than likely the Cavs would be a 1 or 2 point home underdog if down 0-2 or tied 1-1.

”¡ San Antonio is the play if down 0-2

We’ll revisit the series next week after the first two games have been played.

NBA RECORDS AND SCORING AVERAGES”” 2006-2007

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