The Cleveland Cavaliers’ quest to defend their NBA Championship was denied by the Golden State Warriors in the Finals.
LeBron James and company successfully forged a way back to the Championship series for the third year on the bounce, but were undone by the quality of Steve Kerr’s men.
The 32-year-old had committed his future to the club by re-signing a three-year deal before the start of the season. He was joined by JR Smith on a four-year contract, although Timofey Mozgov left to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
LeBron continued to operate at the peak of his powers, despite playing his 14th season in the NBA. He averaged 26.2 points and 37.8 minutes per game – the latter being highest amount in the league.
Kyrie Irving enjoyed the best statistical season of his career, elevating his game to new heights. He and the forward combined to form a devastating partnership over the course of the season.
Tyronn Lue’s men came out of the blocks extremely strongly, dominating the early stages of the campaign. However, they lost their grip on the number one seed in the Eastern Conference in the second half of the term, with the Boston Celtics snatching the position.
The Cavs were dominant in the playoffs, brushing aside their opponents with ease. The presence of Kevin Durant swung the NBA Finals in the favour of the Warriors as Lue’s men suffered a 4-1 loss.
The off-season thus far has been chaos as Cleveland fired general manager David Griffin, while their attempt to sign Paul George failed. Irving reportedly wants to leave the club, putting their hopes of creating a dynasty in severe jeopardy.
The Cavs’ coronation night at Quicken Loans Arena kickstarted their strong start to the term. Irving score 29 points to dispatch the New York Knicks with relative ease, while further victories followed overcoming the Toronto Raptors and the Orlando Magic.
November began with quality wins over the Houston Rockets and the Celtics, with Irving and LeBron on song in high-scoring contests. Their first defeat of the campaign came in surprising circumstances as the Atlanta Hawks edged a close match at Quicken Loans Arena.
Three wins on the bounce got the Cavs back on track, but George put on a show to inflict the second loss to guide the Indiana Pacers to victory. Kevin Love found his form with a 40-point effort against the Portland Trail Blazers, while he was also impressive to lead a win over the Dallas Mavericks.
December was an excellent month for Lue’s men, although it began with back-to-back defeats to the Los Angeles Clippers and Chicago Bulls. LeBron stopped the slide with a fine outing on the road against the Raptors, while he notched a 44-pointer to defeat to Charlotte Hornets.
The Cavs won 12 out of 14 and the highlight of their run was their Christmas Day comeback triumph over the Warriors, edging out their rivals by one point. Irving then upped the ante to strengthen Cleveland’s position in the Eastern Conference to beat the Celtics to close out the year.
The Cavs began 2017 with a victory over the New Orleans Pelicans in a low-scoring game. A defeat to the Bulls stymied their momentum, although LeBron inspired back-to-back wins on the road to the Brooklyn Nets and the Phoenix Suns.
However, their slump began losing six out of their next eight matches. Included in the run was a hammering at the hands of the Warriors on the road and a close home defeat to the San Antonio Spurs. Perhaps the worst of the lot was an overtime loss against the Sacramento Kings on home soil, which elevated the pressure on the defending champions.
Cleveland kicked back into gear in February, winning nine out of their 11 games. Love put the team on his back with a 39-point outing in an overtime triumph over the Wizards, while quality home wins against the Pacers and the Bucks signalled their return to form.
The slump returned with a vengeance in March, beginning with a loss to the Celtics, while three defeats on the bounce raised the tension. Matters failed to improve towards the end of the month as the Cavs lost another three successive matches losing their grip on the number one seed.
A dramatic double overtime win over the Pacers gave them hope of salvaging it along with a win over the Celtics, only for the club to drop their final four matches of the term to miss out to Boston at the top of the Eastern Conference.
Dominance Then Collapse
The Cavaliers were pitted against the Pacers in the first round of the post-season. LeBron, Irving, Love and Tristan Thompson rediscovered their peak form and had too much quality for Indiana, sweeping their opponents to advance.
Next on the agenda was the Raptors and although Toronto have provided a stern test in the Conference Finals in the previous term, the Cavs were able to plough through them with ease.
The Celtics promised to be a tougher opponent in the Conference Finals. However, LeBron put on a clinic in the opening two matches to hand his side a 2-0 lead. Without the injured Isaiah Thomas, Boston fought back on the road as Marcus Smart guided his team to victory.
Boston put the Cavs on the back foot in game four, holding a lead at half time. However, Irving stormed back with a 42-pointer to deliver the win, while LeBron wrapped up the series in game five.
The third NBA Finals match on the bounce with the same teams promised to be a fascinating affair. Lue’s men made a decent start at Oracle Arena, but were undone by a dominant third quarter by Durant and company to lose the opener.
Game two followed a similar pattern as the first half again was a closely-fought contest, but the third quarter proved to be crucial as Steph Curry and Durant combined to deliver the win. LeBron produced a 39-pointer in game three, but not even that was good enough as the Warriors snatched the win at the death at Quicken Loans Arena.
Irving ensured that his side were not whitewashed with a 40-point outing, but Durant steered his side home to deliver the crown for the Warriors.
Credit: Getty Images
Worryingly for the Cavs, reports have suggested that Irving has stated his desire to leave the club. The 25-year-old has reportedly grown tired of playing alongside LeBron and has set his sights on a potential move to the Spurs.
Cleveland controls his contract for the next two years, so the club do not have to trade him away. However, should he become a negative influence then Lue and new general manager Koby Altman may have their hand forced to allow him to leave, with odds of 6/52.20+1201.201.20-0.83 at TopBet to join another club during the remainder of the off-season.
The Cavaliers may have prepared for his exit by moving to sign Derrick Rose from the Knicks. The 28-year-old won the MVP award in 2011 and found a semblance of his best form last season. Should he rise to the occasion then the club could have a solid option to replace their current starting guard.
Even with their troubles as long as LeBron is on the roster and operating at the peak of his powers the Cavs will be a threat to win the NBA Championship. He will be 33 next year and he will know that time could be running out to win a fourth title along with a fifth MVP award. LeBron’s price of 13/27.50+6506.506.50-0.15 with SunBets to win MVP is also intriguing as he is a perennial contender.
The Eastern Conference could be a challenge with the Celtics and Wizards ready to pounce should they take a step back, but taking their odds of 8/131.62-1630.61-1.630.61 with SkyBet should still be a winner. The Warriors remain the favourites for the crown, but the 5/16.00+5005.005.00-0.20 odds with Bet365 are worth a punt.
Cleveland Cavaliers To Win The NBA Championship
Cleveland Cavaliers To Win The Eastern Conference
LeBron James To Win MVP
Kyrie Irving To Join Another NBA Team During The Off-Season
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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