“Fo-fo-fo-fo” isn’t a giant’s cry. Well, actually that’s not true at all. It’s quite literally what it is, but didn’t come from anyone green or fictional.
“Fo-fo-fo” was how Moses Malone boastfully proclaimed his 76ers would get through the 1983 postseason. He was off by a game, as Philadelphia ended up going 12-1, dropping a game against Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals prior to sweeping the Lakers for the title. Winning 92 percent of their games trumps the 1988-89 Pistons for top winning percentage in NBA playoff history, a number that can only be bested by going perfect or suffering a single loss since 16 wins are now required to win a championship.
Although we’ve added another “fo” to the mix, Malone’s the sentiment remains the same. Sweep every series. Brooms to rings. The Cleveland Cavaliers are halfway there.
There were times when things looked dicey against Detroit, but for the most part, the Cavs dominated the No. 8 seed. They made plays down the stretch to beat Stan Van Gundy. They covered only two of the four games, but still got out of Auburn Hills with a 100-98 Game 4 win that ensured a lesser work load. Then they got to work on Atlanta, a team that had reached the conference finals against them last season, and produced the most surprising result of this year’s postseason.
Portland landing in the Western Conference semis and playing competitive ball against the defending champs is definitely unexpected, but it has benefited from the Clippers losing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and the Warriors toiling without Stephen Curry. What the Cavs did to the Hawks, a well-coached team loaded with veterans, was more of a shocker. How they did it, setting a four-game record for 3-pointers made in a series, was the real eye-opener.
After looking like the team we’ve seen all season against the Pistons, winning by a combined margin of 103.5-94.8, the Cavs averaged 112 points in the four-game sweep of Atlanta, twice eclipsing 120 points. Cleveland put up 152 3-pointers, connecting on 77 (50.7 pct) in shattering the previous high for makes from beyond the arc in a four-game series (57), falling just short of tying the 79 makes that the Hawks managed in a 2014 first-round series against the Pacers.
If the Hawks had managed to extend Game 4 to OT, the Cavs might have shattered a record that took seven games to set in a span of four. Cleveland made 15 or more 3-pointers in every game, becoming the first team in NBA history to knock down that many in four consecutive games, both playoffs or regular season. They memorably sunk 25 3-pointers in Game 2, shattering Golden State’s single-game record.
Honestly, it looked like a fluke, except for how the meaning of that word belies the consistency Cleveland displayed. They shot the ball with impunity. The ball was moved around the perimeter quickly and decisively, usually resulting in an open look for a capable shooter who was successful over half the time.
If not a fluke, a hot stretch? Sizzling, even. Well, maybe, which is why it’s going to be so interesting to see who gets out of the other Eastern Conference semifinal and how much more time the Cavs will get to work on themselves in the lab without pressure. Toronto might have lost center Jonas Valanciunas for the rest of the postseason due to an ankle issue. Miami is listing Hassan Whiteside as day-to-day with an MCL injury, but he likely won’t be 100 percent the rest of the way.
The Heat rank in the Top 10 in 3-point percentage defense, while the Raptors ranked next-to-last, surrendering 37.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Considering the fan base in Miami would bring something extra to the table against LeBron James and the Heat’s battle-tested veterans are best-equipped to play mind games with the younger Cavaliers, there is little doubt that the Eastern Conference favorite would prefer a trip north of the border as opposed to heading south, since that would likely improve their chances of getting through the third leg of “fo-fo-fo-fo” unscathed.
As things stood on Monday, Cleveland was at -800 (1-to-8) at Sportsbook.ag to win the Eastern Conference, while the Raptors came in at +750 (7.5-to-1) and the Heat were at +1500 (15-to-1). They hung second in the pecking order of NBA Champion favorites, coming in at +225 (2.25-to-1), just behind Golden State -125 (1-to-1.25). San Antonio was third at +325 (3.25-to-1), while Oklahoma City came in at the long shot bargain of +1700 (17-to-1).
If you want a horse in the race, it’s certainly worth backing a rested Cavs squad to take down the survivor of the Western Conference wars since Cleveland seems like a lock to get there, but the verdict remains out as to whether they can continue playing this way when the caliber of competition increases.
The Cavs’ championship hopes would probably be best-served if they were tested in the Eastern Conference finals and “fo-fo-fo-fo” was an impossibility, but it remains to be seen how large a part confidence plays in their continued transformation.
This trigger-happy Cleveland squad is letting it fly with reckless abandon, asking questions later. The Cavaliers could wind up a victim of the “live by the three, die by the three” cliché, but seem to be following in the footsteps of the team that beat them last year, hoping the presence of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love ultimately make the difference in a rematch.
We’ll see how they handle adversity since they haven’t faced any yet. Of course, getting by any setbacks at all is obviously the way to go, as the legendary Malone once suggested.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He's also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].