For all the heart of a champion that the Cleveland Cavaliers have shown, their reign is coming to a close


Desperate times, desperate measures. Having survived one must-win elimination game, can the Cleveland Cavaliers pull off the most improbable comeback ever to defend their NBA title?

History – and all sense – says not. Despite blowing the opportunity to record the first perfect undefeated post-season and secure the championship with a sweep, the Golden State Warriors still take a 3-1 lead into Monday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals, held on their own floor in Oakland.

How quickly some forget that the two previous encounters here were blowouts of the highest order, by an average of 20.5 points. The Cavs’ 137-116 win in Game 4 was a concoction of an offensive off-night for the Dubs and strong shooting from their rivals. Suddenly, the alarm bells were ringing that the collapse is coming. Based solely the memories of 12 months ago when a position of supremacy turned into an unprecedented turnaround.

But these are not the Warriors of 2016. At the outset of this series, I forecast a 4-1 outcome and nothing has shifted the dynamic. Kevin Durant’s addition has given Golden State much more than it has subtracted and if their supremacy is confirmed, he will be a deserved Finals MVP (now solely available at 1.03).

If LeBron James was on a mission to deliver on a promise last year, then Durant – affirming his status as the second-best player in basketball – is one win away from cementing a slice of his own legacy. After all the cries of foul when he left Oklahoma City to chase a ring, nothing would spell justification quite like sealing the deal.

At times, we under-estimate Durant’s competitiveness. Less expressive than James, less manically driven than Draymond Green, we’re talking here about someone who has averaged 34.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in this series and with a proven track record of delivering performances in the clutch.

Nobody on the court on Monday will have a greater incentive to come out on top. And for all the heart of a champion that Cleveland displayed three days ago, their reign is coming to a close.

No-one has ever come from 3-0 down to triumph in a playoff series. The odds, quite rightly at 1.28 for this to end tonight, say it won’t happen here with the Warriors a solid look on a handicap of -9.5 at 2.07 to bring down the confetti in style.

Best bet: Go under 225.5 total points in Golden State-Cleveland at 2.45.