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  1. #16
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    Your betting preparations for the NBA Finals should include this smart wager

    This season for the Golden State Warriors isn’t about accolades, awards or records. It’s about one thing and one thing only - redemption.

    The build-up to this year’s iteration of the NBA Finals will — assuming Cleveland handles its business in Boston Thursday night — more closely resemble our annual approach to the Super Bowl than what we’ve experienced in previous professional hoops seasons.

    Why? Unlike last year, when the championship series between the Cavaliers and Warriors commenced just three days after Golden State edged Oklahoma City in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, this year’s battle for the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy will likely endure a lull of approximately one week in between the final two series of the season.

    This additional time away from NBA betting can serve a refreshing purpose, as gamblers will have the opportunity to casually enjoy the holiday weekend free from sweating last-second free throws, catch up on Major League Baseball and clear their minds in preparation for the final contests of basketball season.

    The downside, however, is the risk of suffering paralysis by analysis.

    We’ve all been there before, especially when it comes to the Super Bowl. You’ve got those initial feelings on game flow, scoring and other elements as it pertains to the biggest game of the season. But with two weeks in between the Conference Championship round and the Super Bowl, you may indulge a bit too much when it comes to research, thereby thoroughly twisting your mind into one of those famous Philadelphia soft pretzels.

    Today, our goal is very simple: Isolate one element from the upcoming Golden State-Cleveland showdown and establish a position we can support when this trilogy finally gets underway in Oakland.

    The element in question, you ask? That would be none other than a Game 1 first half side.

    Let’s begin with the fact that offshore shop Bookmaker.eu recently posted an NBA Finals Game 1 point spread that featured the Golden State Warriors listed as 7.5-point favorites over the Cleveland Cavaliers, with a total of 225 points.

    Given that first half point spreads generally tend to land in the neighborhood of half of the full-game point spread, we’ll operate under the assumption that the Warriors will open as a 3.5 or 4-point favorite for the first half of Game 1.

    And if that’s the case, I can tell you right now that you’ll be able to find me casually striding up to the counter with the intention of laying the points with the Dubs.

    Our rationale begins with a look at how Golden State has performed in the first half of Game 1 of each playoff series the franchise has participated in over the last three seasons. Take note that “+” indicates the amount of points the Warriors led by at halftime, while “-“ indicates the amount of points the Warriors trailed by at halftime:

    2015: Game 1 vs. New Orleans: +18 (won game)
    2015: Game 1 vs. Memphis: +9 (won game)
    2015: Game 1 vs. Houston: +3 (won game)
    2015: Game 1 vs. Cleveland: -3 (won game)

    2016: Game 1 vs. Houston: +27 (won game)
    2016: Game 1 vs. Portland: +14 (won game)
    2016: Game 1 vs. Oklahoma City: +13 (lost game)
    2016: Game 1 vs. Cleveland: +9 (won game)

    2017: Game 1 vs. Portland: 0 (won game)
    2017: Game 1 vs. Utah: +12 (won game)
    2017: Game 1 vs. San Antonio: -20 (won game)

    11 games with a +82 overall scoring differential and a +7.45 per first half scoring differential. Not too shabby.

    Granted, the 2015 Pelicans and 2016 Rockets are nowhere near the class of the 2017 Cavaliers. But in two showdowns between the league’s best teams this season, the Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by three points in the first half in Cleveland on Christmas Day and by 29 points in Oakland on January 16. Further, here’s how the first half of each Golden State home game during last year’s NBA Finals against the Cavaliers shook down:

    Game 1: +9
    Game 2: +8
    Game 5: 0
    Game 7: +7

    And that’s before the team added four-time scoring champion and 2014 MVP Kevin Durant to the roster.

    In addition to the above date, I’ll leave you with this thought: I host the morning sports talk show on the Warriors’ flagship station in the Bay Area. I’ve been around this team for each of the last three seasons. This isn’t the exuberant Cinderella run from 2015 or the 73-win campaign from last spring in which the team took its eyes off the prize. This season isn’t about accolades, awards or records. It’s about one thing and one thing only.

    Redemption.

    Redemption for the team from last year’s 3-1 choke job, redemption for Kevin Durant for all the trash he’s had to hear since signing with the Dubs.

    Expect this team to come out blazing hot in Game 1 on Thursday, June 1.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  2. #17
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    Tuesday’s six-pack

    Updated odds to win the World Series:

    5-1- Houston Astros

    6-1— Chicago Cubs

    7-1— San Francisco Giants

    15-2— Boston Red Sox

    8-1— Cleveland Indians

    17-2— Los Angeles Dodgers

    ************************

    Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….


    13) I’m not real interested in how long baseball games last; I enjoy watching the game, but some people are bent out of shape because games are longer now. One easy way to shorten games; eliminate coaches’ visits to the mound. There’s your 5-7 minutes a game right there.

    12) Last week, Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly put Giancarlo Stanton in the #2 spot in the order, which was surprising, but since then, Stanton is 11-26 with two walks, so he has gotten better pitches to hit in that spot. The two walks were last night; one was intentional.

    11) Underrated: Joe Gibbs won three Super Bowls coaching the Redskins; now he owns NASCAR teams and is a giant in that sport. Not many people have been so prominent in two different sports.

    10) Mets’ OF Michael Conforto has impressive bloodlines; his mother won two gold medals in the Olympics in synchronized swimming. His dad played football at Penn State.

    9) Was reading on SI.com where the Falcons’ new domed stadium will have 1,264 beer taps in it. The GeorgiaDome had 30 beer taps.

    8) Miami Hurricanes missed out on the NCAA baseball tournament for the first time in 45 years; losing a series to Dartmouth isn’t good for your tournament resume.

    7) Only four of the Braves’ first 49 games (2-2) have come against lefty starting pitchers.

    6) In college basketball, Belmont has finished #1 in whole country in 2-point FG% four of the last five years; thats hard to believe, but they run lot of backdoor plays and get lot of layups. Still, with 351 teams in the country. to be #1 four out of five years is really impressive.

    5) Astros (10 games), Nationals (8.5 games) have huge divisional leads; 2nd place in the NL East is 21-27, so thats a terrible division. 2nd place in AL West is 26-27. Those two teams will basically coast from here into the playoffs.

    4) Second Wild Card in NL is 10 games over .500, so going to be hard to make the playoffs there. In AL, second Wild Card is only two games over .500, so a straggler now can get hot and become a contender.

    This stuff will influence who is a seller when the trade deadline rolls around. Lesser teams in the National League are more likely to sell off veteran players than American League teams.

    3) Astros 16, Twins 8— Minnesota led this game 8-2 after seven innings behind Ervin Santana, who has a 1.75 ERA. Twins’ bullpen then allowed 11 runs in the 8th inning, three more in the 9th- they faced 22 hitters- 16 of them reached base, 14 scored. Yikes.

    Houston has a team like the Red Sox teams when they had Butch Hobson batting 9th when he knocked in 100 runs. You cannot outslug the Astros; very impressive lineup.

    Elias Sports says that before Monday, Astros were 0-659 in franchise history when trailing by 6+ runs in the 8th inning. Now they’re 1-659.

    2) Nationals 3, Giants 0— In the top of the 8th, reliever Hunter Strickland drilled Bryce Harper in the hip and a hockey fight broke out— a real donnybrook, a Pier 6 brawl. Harper got a couple shots in before both benches converged on the mound.

    Seemed like there was some history there- they seemed to actually dislike each other— turns out Harper homered twice off Strickland in the 2014 playoffs; one ball went in the upper deck at Nationals Park, the other one landed in McCovey Cove. Only times they’ve faced each other, until Monday.

    1) Mike Trout has a torn ligament in his left thumb, will miss a couple weeks unless surgery is needed, then it’ll be a lot more than that.
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    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  3. #18
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    Lue keeps champs cool amid chaos
    May 29, 2017


    CLEVELAND (AP) Moments after the Eastern Conference championship banner was raised by the Cavaliers for the third straight time and the obligatory postgame interviews ended, Tyronn Lue slipped quietly away.

    Cleveland's coach ducked into the shadows, his preferred location.

    ''I don't like the attention,'' he said.

    But Lue, once a journeyman point guard who steered the Cavs to an NBA championship last season, has grown more accepting of his frontman role. He'll again be at center stage this week as Cleveland meets Golden State in the third installment of their title trilogy.

    If the unassuming, easygoing Lue had his preference, the teams would duke it out for the Larry O'Brien Trophy on a playground court in a stifling hot gymnasium, with only a handful of onlookers present. A student of the game, he's old school with a fresh perspective.

    Of the many juicy subplots between the Cavs and Warriors, one that frequently goes overlooked is Lue, the former assistant who has blossomed in no time into one of the league's brightest young head coaches and a playoff savant.

    He's 28-6 in two postseasons with Cleveland. His players credit Lue's soothing, steady influence - on and off the floor - as nearly as vital to their success as a clutch Kyrie Irving 3-pointer.

    ''It's just his level of calmness no matter what's going on,'' LeBron James said following practice. ''He always talks about, at the end of the day, he's already won in life, so whatever else happens after this is extra credit. And I feel the same way. That's why I relate to him so much. Lose here, or you win a game here, it's like, `All right, cool. I've already done so much more than anybody ever gave me credit of doing or thought I can do, so there's no reason to get too high or too low.'

    ''So it's the even-keel mentality about our coach and it definitely helps us as players when we're going out into a war.''

    Lue has been preparing for the biggest battle of his basketball career this week.

    From the moment he returned home from Boston following the Cavs' win in Game 5 of the conference finals, Lue has immersed himself in the Warriors, a virtual All-Star team featuring two league MVPs (Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry), a dead-eye shooter (Klay Thompson) and a triple-threat performer (Draymond Green).

    Lue's defensive strategy to this point in the playoffs has been to neutralize the opponents' top player. The Cavs were able to do that with Indiana's Paul George, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and Boston's Isaiah Thomas, who aggravated a hip injury in Game 2 and missed the remainder of the series. Cleveland blitzed, double-teamed and did all it could take away the other team's offensive threat.

    Lue was asked if it's more difficult to identify who that is on Golden State.

    ''Hell yeah,'' he said, his voice rising. ''It's tough.''

    There are few weaknesses in these Warriors, the first team to head into the final round 12-0 and winning by an average of 16.3 points per game.

    ''They have so many weapons,'' Lue said, ''having four All-Stars and now adding KD to the mix who I've always loved as a scorer, just how he scores so easy. They have a lot of options. It's going to be tough, but we have to lock into what we have to do defensively, and sometimes you can play great defense and it doesn't work. Steph is making tough shots, Klay is making tough shots and KD is making tough shots. But all you can do is play your defense, stick to your principles and just make it as tough as possible.''

    The Cavs know Lue won't panic.

    He stayed cool last spring when Cleveland fought back from a 3-1 deficit to win its first title. Lue made subtle tweaks to his rotation, drew up key inbounds plays, then isolated Irving late in Game 7 on Curry. The Cavs All-Star guard made his now famous go-ahead, step-back 3-pointer.

    Pressure intensifies in the postseason, when possessions, turnovers and rebounds are magnified.

    As the drama builds, Lue stays composed, setting the tone for his players.

    ''Throughout the postseason there's so many different emotions,'' James said. ''Going high, going low. And if you're a coach able to just stay even-keeled throughout the whole thing, it relaxes the rest of the group.''

    Don't be fooled by Lue's cool. He can get fiery when needed.

    ''I always get mad when guys make shots in the first quarter, second quarter, pumping their chest and then the game on the line they miss,'' Lue said. ''So you're doing all that for no reason. I always like to stay even-keeled and just play the game the right way.''

    Lue is a stickler for detail, and he won't cut any corners preparing for another dance with the Warriors. He'll have the Cavs ready, and they can also count on him to keep them relaxed.

    ''When you're prepared and you do the best you can do and you put it out there on the floor, you've just got to live with the results,'' Lue said. ''I'm doing my homework, I'm doing every possible thing to put this team in every situation to win. When you're doing that, things you go over every day, end-of-game plays and things like that, either they work or they don't.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  4. #19
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    Warriors' Kerr will not coach Game 1
    May 29, 2017


    Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr could return to the team's bench during the NBA Finals, but it will not be for Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday night.

    Kerr has missed Golden State's last 10 playoff games as he continues to deal with complications from back surgery two years ago.

    "I'm not ready to coach yet," Kerr told reporters on Monday. "I'm still feeling the effects."

    Kerr stepped away from the bench after Game 2 of the Warriors' first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers. Among the symptoms he is dealing with are severe headaches, neck pain and nausea.

    Although he ruled himself out of Game 1, Kerr left the door open to returning during the rematch of the last two NBA Finals.

    "Once we get to Game 1 it might be a good time to make a decision one way or another," Kerr said.

    Kerr, 51, traveled with the team for the final two games of the Western Conference Finals in San Antonio, the first time he joined the Warriors on the road since taking his indefinite leave on April 23.

    Whether he coaches or not, Kerr said he plans on flying to Cleveland with Golden State for Games 3 and 4.

    Assistant coach Mike Brown has guided the Warriors to 10 consecutive wins since taking over for Kerr. Golden State is the first team to enter the NBA Finals with a perfect 12-0 mark.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  5. #20
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    Rest benefits teams, NBA tries to reduce it
    May 29, 2017


    In bulldozing their respective conferences through the first three rounds of the postseason, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors each earned an extended rest before their highly anticipated showdown in the NBA Finals begins on Thursday.

    Both teams appear to be playing their best basketball at the most important time. One of the reasons cited is the strategic rest days given to star players sporadically through the long regular season.

    Known in the league as ''DNP-Rest,'' the practice of sitting healthy players to avoid injury and fatigue has grown in popularity as teams focus more on reducing the wear and tear on the stars that drive the league. And while forward-thinking teams have been praised for putting the player first, there is concern across the league that the approach threatens to alienate fans who pay to see their favorite players, aggravate network executives who paid billions to showcase games, and devalue the regular season.

    ''We don't rest. I don't believe in it,'' Miami Heat president Pat Riley said in April. ''I think it's gotten to the point where it's become a travesty, an absolute travesty. Blatantly. I don't care how many players you're resting or who. Who are the ones entitled to get the rest versus who doesn't rest? We don't rest.''

    Riley had reason to be upset. After an 11-30 start to the season, the Heat rebounded to win 30 of their last 41 games to surge back into playoff contention. Heading into the final day of the season, the Heat needed a win over the Washington Wizards and a Chicago loss to Brooklyn or a Pacers loss to the Hawks to get into the Eastern Conference field as the eighth seed. But the Nets sat Jeremy Lin, Trevor Booker and Brook Lopez, essentially handing the game to the Bulls.

    During the regular season, there were 203 instances of a healthy player sitting out of a game, according to data compiled by instreetclothes.com , a website run by certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts that has analyzed injuries for years. Ten years ago, there were only 12 such instances.

    ''It's not my preference to rest. I do understand rest and why you do it,'' said Kevin Garnett, who missed one game or none in nine of his first 10 seasons, but needed to incorporate rest days more often later in his career. ''It's the way of the league, and I think the prestige of playing 82 is not what it's used to be, and this is the way it's going to be.''

    And it's not just star players on teams trying to preserve themselves for deep playoff runs that are getting the treatment. The Suns sat Eric Bledsoe for the final 14 games of the season, while Tyson Chandler did not play after the All-Star break. The Lakers shut down Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng for the final 15 games while trying to hold on to their lottery pick, and the Nets may have had the biggest head-scratcher by not playing three key players despite the importance of the game's outcome.

    ''Personally I think it is a legit concern,'' said Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor, chairman of the NBA's board of governors. ''I look at it as an owner for my fans. Fans come and certainly they want our team to win. But they like to beat the star on the other team. They like to see them out there. They like to see a competitive game. So first of all my concern is for my fans that we play as many players as we can, that we play to win.''

    Taylor said there were also concerns after the league started a 10-year, $24 billion television deal with Turner and ABC/ESPN. Several nationally televised games were diluted because of key players resting. It reached a crescendo over consecutive Saturdays in March when the Cavaliers and Warriors both sat stars for ESPN games.

    Commissioner Adam Silver sent a letter to all 30 owners imploring them to take a more active role in the decision-making process, saying it can ''damage the perception of our game.''

    But the strategy paid off, particularly for the Warriors, who won 14 straight to sew up the No. 1 seed in the West after a loss against San Antonio when Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green sat out.

    And according to instreetclothes.com, total games missed due to injury or illness declined for the third straight season to 4,198, the lowest number since the league did away with injured reserve for the 2005-06 season. Riley's Heat led the league in games missed to injury, a number inflated by Chris Bosh missing all 82 with a blood clot issue.

    The increase in rest games seems directly correlated to the 2013-14 season, when the league lost nearly 5,000 games to injury or illness. Teams rested healthy players for 46 games that year, but it spiked to 86 the following season and 146 in 2015-16.

    ''It's a difficult thing because you can't tell players to play if they're injured,'' Taylor said. ''People do get tired on back to backs. So I think you have to go back to your coaches and people running the teams and tell them to use their best judgment.''

    Taylor said the league's schedule makers will work more closely with the networks, trying to reduce travel surrounding nationally televised games while encouraging teams that do rest their stars to do it during home games.

    The league also will start the regular season a week early next year to reduce the number of back to backs and stretches of four games in five nights.

    ''I think you just have to ask people to understand where the money is coming from,'' Taylor said. ''It's coming from TV and the fans, and we have a responsibility.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

  6. #21
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    Kerr not well yet, but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1
    May 29, 2017


    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Steve Kerr expects to decide soon whether he will coach the Golden State Warriors at all in the NBA Finals, saying Monday he is not yet ready but hasn't ruled himself out for Game 1.

    ''As of right now I would not coach Thursday night. It's still up in the air. Still waiting for `Ahhhhhh!''' Kerr said, reaching his hands to the sky as if to receive some miracle healing. ''It's coming, it's coming. ... I think once we get to Game 1, that might be a good time to make a decision one way or the other.''

    Golden State, unbeaten this postseason at 12-0 with sweeps of Houston, Utah and San Antonio, hosts the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in Games 1 and 2 on Thursday and Sunday.

    The reigning NBA Coach of the Year is still not feeling well after a May 5 procedure at Duke University to repair a spinal fluid leak stemming from back surgery complications nearly two years ago. He filled in addressing the media Monday when acting coach Mike Brown was out with the flu.

    ''I told the team the good news is the team is really healthy, the bad news is the coaching staff is dropping like flies,'' Kerr joked.

    Brown has been coaching the Warriors since Game 3 of the first-round playoff series at Portland, with Kerr assisting at practice and from the locker room before and during games. Brown was expected back Tuesday.

    ''Mike's been amazing. It's an awkward situation, again this is so unique,'' Kerr said. ''I'm not sure it's ever happened. ... It's just weird because on the one hand Mike has to coach the team as he sees fit. I'm taking part in practices, helping with the messaging, taking part in coaching meetings, but I'm not on the sidelines during games. And so he has to make those decisions as if it's his team, but he's also taking my advice and counsel behind the scenes. So it's not easy, but he's obviously doing a good job. There seems to be a theme when I'm out, I think the team is like 108-2.''

    Brown is set to go up against LeBron James and a Cleveland team he coached in two separate stints.

    Brown wasn't around during the past two Finals when the Warriors faced the Cavaliers, so he has watched some of last year's Finals. Kerr recently reviewed all seven games from 2016, when Golden State squandered a 3-1 lead and missed a repeat championship.

    Everything he can do to help Golden State get prepared, Kerr is doing - until he feels he might be fine to return to the bench.

    ''I'm not well enough to coach a game and I know that (because) I coached all 82 games and I did OK. I was uncomfortable and in a lot of pain but I did fine, I could make it through,'' he said. ''The first two games of the Portland series, whatever happened, things got worse. You saw me in the fourth quarter of Game 2, I could not sit still in my chair, it was that much pain. I would say I've gotten a little bit better, that's why I'm here talking to you right now, but you can probably tell I'm not sitting here happy-go-lucky.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Livingston, McGee perfect fit on Warriors
    May 29, 2017


    OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) JaVale McGee practices 3-pointers from all around the arch, just in case. He sits with assistant coach Jarron Collins and a laptop to study film, long after practice and his shooting workouts are complete.

    The 7-footer's rugged professional path has landed him at seemingly the perfect stop: in the Bay Area with the NBA's best.

    Just don't call him a journeyman.

    ''I've never considered myself a journeyman in the first place,'' McGee said after a practice this weekend. ''Whatever y'all want to call me y'all can call me. The number of teams I've been on was in like one year. I've been with three teams in two years.''

    Yet McGee must not look far to find someone else who has learned to thrive as a well-traveled NBA role player. Just a quick glance a couple of lockers down to where Shaun Livingston dresses at Oracle Arena, defying the odds yet again this season as a regular reserve contributing to another Warriors championship chase, is all it takes.

    McGee has never made it this far, an NBA Finals first-timer when Golden State hosts defending champion Cleveland in Game 1 on Thursday night. Livingston never should have made it this far, and here he is back to the final round seeking his second title in three seasons - and 10 years after a devastating injury that could have sidelined him for good. Doctors thought they might have to amputate his left leg.

    Fourteen teams between them, over 21 combined seasons. Each has found a great groove in Golden State's rotation, called upon to take pressure off the big stars while maintaining the highest level.

    ''We just kind of follow suit, but it's up to everybody to come in and lock in on the details. It's the playoffs,'' Livingston said. ''Obviously the stars help, they get all the headlines deservedly so, but the small things, the details, that's what we lock in at and that's how we win ballgames.''

    McGee has discovered the ideal place to shine as an alley-oop specialist in a pass-happy offense, and even Stephen Curry admits it's so easy to target the sure-handed big man perhaps the Warriors do so too often at times.

    ''We almost get in trouble because we try to do it too much even if it's not there, because he has the ability to catch it really anywhere around the rim, around the backboard,'' Curry acknowledged. ''You kind of see it developing when he gets a free lane to the rim, and as a passer in that situation literally feel the most confidence that if I just get it anywhere up there, he'll go get it, and usually he does.''

    With great efficiency, too.

    In Game 3 against the Spurs, McGee scored a postseason-best 16 points, all in the first half to get Golden State going as Zaza Pachulia sat out with a bruised heel. He made all seven of his shots in Game 2 of a first-round win against Portland, shooting 18 for 23 in all in the four-game sweep of the Trail Blazers.

    ''That's my whole thing, I just try to be efficient out there,'' McGee said. ''I don't try to do too much. I just try to do what's necessary for me in the minutes that I'm out there.''

    Livingston has unselfishly dealt with a diminished role, a rotation change late in the season that altered when he's used, and then a hand injury in the first round of the playoffs.

    In February 2007 with the Clippers, Livingston tore three major ligaments in his knee - the anterior cruciate, posterior cruciate and medial collateral as well as his lateral meniscus, then required extensive surgery. Though the injury could have ended his career at age 21, he still believed he would play again. First he had to walk again.

    ''Shaun, that story isn't really the same now. He's become a staple of this franchise, he's helped us win a title, he's done some great things here,'' Draymond Green said. ''For JaVale, it's still fresh, to where I think it's a great situation for him. He's finally been put in a position where he can do what he do. He's finally come to an organization, a first-class organization, that has embraced him for him and not tried to make him something that he's not. I think that has been pretty special, just seeing his growth over the course of the year, how he's been able to thrive. ... It's special to see when you take the path that they've taken to get to this moment.''

    McGee will have to help keep Cleveland's Tristan Thompson off the boards. His teammates know he's up to the task.

    ''It just speaks to his kind of character and perseverance and work ethic and his belief in himself that when he's out there on the floor he deserves to be out there on the floor, he belongs and can make an impact,'' Curry said. ''When he showed up here, he understood the opportunity and he's taken full advantage of it. It's great to see.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    NBA Finals: 10 things to watch
    May 29, 2017


    When the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers meet in a third consecutive NBA Finals beginning Thursday, it will mark the first time the same clubs staged a three-peat performance on the game's biggest stage.

    There are plenty of intriguing storylines ahead of the best-of-seven showdown between the 2015 champion Warriors and the 2016 champion Cavaliers. Here are 10 things to watch:

    --LeBron James. Andre Iguodala earned MVP honors of the 2015 Finals mostly for his defense on James, who was harassed into 39.8 percent shooting in the series. Last season, James lit it up for 49.4 percent to wrestle away the hardware and the championship. As the 2017 road to the Finals has demonstrated, James appears to be getting better with age.

    --Kevin Durant. At some point, the TV debating duo of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson are bound to take sides on whether the first-year Warrior should opt out of his contract and return to Oklahoma City next season or unpack his bags and settle in. The question will become: Is he more likely to leave if the Warriors win or if they lose?

    --Extracurriculars. It has been a relatively quiet 2017 postseason in terms of flagrant fouls, technicals and ejections. Chalk that up to all the blowouts. But now it's high-tension time, so it is worth noting: Durant, Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston were all ejected from playoff games last season; Draymond Green drew a league-high five technical fouls and 10 other participants in this year's Finals got nailed with at least one in the 2016 postseason; and Green's momentum-turning flagrant foul wasn't the only one detected among current Warriors and Cavaliers last spring -- Durant, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith crossed that line as well.

    --3-point defense. Forget Kyrie Irving vs. Curry. Irving had 34- and 26-point games in losses in last year's Finals. Curry had 11- and 18-point games in wins. They have, and quite possibly will, offset each other. More significant in this matchup will be which team defends the perimeter the best. The final stats show the Warriors outshot the Cavaliers 37.3 percent to 32.9 percent on 3-pointers last year, but don't be misled. It was 37.6 percent to 34.0 percent for the Cavaliers in their wins, 42.7 percent to 26.1 percent for the Warriors in the Golden State wins.

    --Shoe wars. James vs. Curry is Nike vs. Under Armour. And then there's Big Baller. Or haven't you noticed that LaVar Ball is everywhere, and the NBA Draft is just four days after a possible Game 7 is scheduled?

    --Tyronn Lue vs. Mike Brown. Lue seemed to have the Steve Kerr offense figured out by their seventh meeting last June, a 93-89 Cleveland win that ended with Golden State missing its final nine shots and going scoreless over the final 4:39. Lue has more weapons at his disposal this time around, and the Warriors will have one fewer with Kerr relegated to watching on television from the locker room due to a back ailment.

    --Kyle Korver. One of the great chess matches in the series will be how Lue uses arguably his best long-range shooting weapon, and how Brown attacks arguably the series' worst defensive player. When Cleveland is on defense, the 6-foot-7 Korver would seem to match up best with the Warriors' 6-7 Shaun Livingston, a stand-still shooter who likes to use a height advantage to shoot over smaller guards.

    --Akron, Ohio. Will we be able to see the lights of Akron, 39 miles to the south, when ABC gives us an aerial view of the Quicken Loans Arena? You better believe we're going to find out given the link between Ohio's fifth-biggest city and the Finals. Both Curry and James were born there. Are there vacancies at the Timber Top Apartments complex on the north side of town, where Curry first lived? Is James' first house, in the Akron inner city and condemned when he was 5 years old, still standing? Stay tuned.

    --Celebrities. There is more than Drake (Curry) and Dr. Dre (James) to this series. It's Jim Brown and Joe Montana. Nine Inch Nails and the Grateful Dead. The Cleveland Clinic and Kaiser. And then there's Tom Hanks, born in Oakland but having adopted the Indians in last year's World Series. Too bad there's no Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. After all, this is the most highly anticipated best-of-three rubber match since the Thrilla in Manila.

    --Tacos. The most likely person to get fired after the Finals? The promotions director at Taco Bell. In a matchup of teams undefeated (13-0) on the road in the playoffs, Taco Bell is offering "Steal a Game, Steal a Taco" -- one free taco to everyone interested should either team win a road game in the Finals.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Wednesday’s six-pack

    Pac-12 basketball records, over the last four seasons:

    Arizona: 59-13 Pac-12, 8-4 NCAA

    Oregon: 53-19, 9-4

    Utah: 46-26: 3-2

    UCLA: 44-28, 6-3

    California: 39-33, 0-1

    Colorado: 35-37, 0-2

    Stanford: 33-39, 2-1

    Arizona State: 31-41, 0-1

    Oregon State: 26-46, 0-1

    Washington: 25-47, 0-0

    USC: 24-48, 2-2

    Washington State: 17-55, 0-0

    *****************************

    Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

    13) Best part of the Strickland/Harper shenanigans Monday night was Buster Posey totally declining to get involved. Usually, the catcher tries to keep the angry batter away from the pitcher, but Posey made no such attempt.

    Harper hit two very long home runs off Strickland in the ’14 playoffs (thats 2.5 years ago!!!) in their only two previous meetings. Guess something Harper did/said ticked Strickland off.

    12) I like watching baseball when they have the strike zone on the right side of the screen, so we can see if the umps miss any pitches. To me, it makes the broadcast a little better.

    11) Is Nick Markakis the best active player who has never been an All-Star? He has 1,945 hits, is a solid defender, has a .358 career OB%. You’d think he would’ve made one All-Star team.

    10) Jeb Bush is out as part of the group trying to buy the Miami Marlins; apparently he had “only $20M” of his own money involved in the project, not enough to make him a controlling partner, which is what he wanted.

    9) 10 of the 64 teams in the NCAA college baseball tournament are located in Texas.

    8) Nike stock fell 19% last year, is up only 4% this year; with the NBA Finals starting this week, Nike didn’t need Cavs-Warriors being overshadowed by Eldrick Woods’ DUI arrest. Nike does not sell golf equipment anymore, but they still sell golf clothes, which Woods endorses.

    7) Houston Astros are almost definitely going to be in the playoffs; I’m curious how they’ll deal with Josh Reddick playing against lefties (Price? Sale? Lester?) in playoffs/World Series.

    Reddick is a career .270 hitter vs righties, .220 vs lefties (.282 OB%). A’s once pinch-hit for him in the 4th inning of a big game because the opponent put a lefty in. So far this year he is 7-25 (.280) vs lefties; maybe the change of scenery has helped him. We’ll see.

    6) Kansas Jayhawks will have six transfers amongst their 13 scholarship players next winter; only three of them will be eligible next season. Makes team chemistry a little dicey.

    5) David Blatt went 83-40 as coach of the Cavaliers in the regular season, went 14-6 in playoff games and got fired. Now he coaches overseas; I think he had just enough ego to have been a really good college coach, but we’ll probably never know.

    Fact of the matter is, if Lebron James wakes up one day in August and wants Tyronn Lue fired, the man is as good as gone. Probably won’t happen, but it could.

    4) Not a big fan of playing the infield in; just doesn’t seem necessary, unless the runner on third is really fast. Playing fielders in opens up too many cheap hits that wouldn’t happen with a more traditional defense.

    3) Joe Niekro pitched in the major leagues for 22 seasons, had 973 career at-bats with a .156 BA and hit one home run— off his brother, Hall of Fame Phil Niekro.

    2) A Saudi prince lost $359M in six hours playing poker at a casino in Egypt; he also sold off five of his nine wives as a way to reduce his debt.

    I knew cats had nine lives; had no idea Saudi princes had nine wives.

    1) I don’t care what anyone says, Bob Uecker should’ve won an Oscar for best supporting actor for his role as Indians’ announcer Harry Doyle in Major League.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Trends to Watch - Game 1
    May 30, 2017


    NBA Finals Betting Trends - Game 1

    -- The home team has gone 17-3 straight up in Game 1 of the last 20 NBA Finals

    -- Ten of the last 14 victories have come by double digits and 13 have come by eight points or more

    -- The ‘under’ has gone 9-3-1 in the last 13 openers and 13-6-1 in the previous 20

    -- Golden State has gone 3-0 SU in Game 1 matchups in this year’s playoffs but are just 0-3 against the spread

    -- The Warriors are 6-0 SU and 2-4 ATS at home in the playoffs

    -- Cleveland is 3-0 SU and 2-1 ATS in Game 1’s this postseason and this will be their second opener of the series on the road

    -- In the Cavs’ first road game in each of their first three series, they’ve gone 3-0 both SU and ATS

    -- Overall, Cleveland is 6-0 SU and 5-0-1 ATS on the road in this year’s playoffs

    Listed below are the past 20 openers in the NBA Finals, with total results

    GAME 1 OF THE NBA FINALS (1997-2016)

    Year Matchup Total


    2016 Golden State 104 vs. Cleveland 89 Under (211)

    2015 Golden State 108 vs. Cleveland 100 (OT) Over (203.5)

    2014 San Antonio 110 vs. Miami 95 Over (198.5)

    2013 Miami 88 vs. San Antonio 92 Under (190)

    2012 Oklahoma City 105 vs. Miami 94 Over (195.5)

    2011 Miami 92 vs. Dallas 84 Under (188)

    2010 L.A. Lakers 102 vs. Boston 89 Push (191)

    2009 L.A. Lakers 100 vs. Orlando 75 Under (205.5)

    2008 Boston 98 vs. L.A. Lakers 88 Under (191.5)

    2007 San Antonio 85 vs. Cleveland 76 Under (179.5)

    2006 Dallas 90 vs. Miami 80 Under (194)

    2005 San Antonio 84 vs. Detroit 69 Under (176)

    2004 L.A. Lakers 75 vs. Detroit 87 Under (171)

    2003 San Antonio 101 vs. New Jersey 89 Over (187)

    2002 L.A. Lakers 99 vs. New Jersey 94 Over (191)

    2001 L.A. Lakers 101 vs. Philadelphia 107 (OT) Over (191)

    2000 L.A. Lakers 104 vs. Indiana 87 Under (194)

    1999 San Antonio 89 vs. New York 77 Under (172)

    1998 Utah 88 vs. Chicago 85 (OT) Under (186)

    1997 Chicago 84 vs. Utah 82 Under (190.5)
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    12 referees selected to officiate NBA Finals
    May 30, 2017


    NEW YORK (AP) Danny Crawford has been chosen to officiate his 23rd NBA Finals, making him the most experienced of the 12 referees selected for the series.

    John Goble was the lone first-time selection Tuesday when the NBA announced the referees who would work the series beginning Thursday between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Mike Callahan was selected for his 14th NBA Finals, Ken Mauer his 12th and Scott Foster his 10th. Monty McCutchen, Derrick Stafford, Tony Brothers, James Capers, Marc Davis, Ed Malloy and Zach Zarba round out the staff. Each has been picked at least four times.

    The officials were selected by NBA Referee Operations management based on their postseason performance. Referees were evaluated after each round to determine advancement.

    Crawford has officiated 33 NBA Finals games and Callahan 18.

    Tom Washington and Sean Wright are the alternates for the series.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Best Bets - Finals MVP
    May 30, 2017


    2017 NBA Finals MVP

    NBA Finals MVP Outsiders


    The NBA Finals that has a chance to save a overall lackluster 2017 NBA playoffs season is just a few days away now and the hype machine is starting to go in overdrive.

    There is no denying just how great the accomplishments of Cleveland and Golden State have been the past few years and with each organization having a championship, we get the rubber match and it should be great.

    But while bettors are pouring over series prices, Game 1 lines and even other prop bets, its the Finals MVP that has my attention today.

    Sportsbook.ag NBA Finals MVP Odds

    A first look at the Finals MVP odds shows it likely being a three-horse race between Durant, LeBron, and Curry. Those three guys are clearly the favorites depending on which team comes out on top, and you know others like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and Klay Thompson will get some love from their respective teams.

    Of those three second tier guys, I believe you've got to lean towards Irving (+1200) simply because of his ability to take over multiple games on a more consistent basis then the other two. Love and Thompson tend to have one or two spectacular games, but they are often overshadowed by their other teammates already mentioned, and will have a tough time surpassing any of them in the MVP race.

    However we can make a case of two other guys (one from each team) to put their stamp on this NBA Finals rematch and get involved in the MVP conversation at the same time.

    If Golden State wins the Title: Draymond Green (+750)

    It won't take long for anyone associated with the Warriors (either with the team, a fan, or otherwise) to remind people that if Green hadn't been suspended for that Game 5 last year, we could be looking at a Golden State team going for three in a row.

    Green's ability to affect the game on both ends of the floor, from basically everywhere on the floor, will be a huge asset to the Warriors in this series. Green will be covering anyone and everyone for the Cavs at some point in this series and it could very well be his play that determines the winner.

    Defensively, everyone knows what Green is about and Cleveland definitely has their hands full there. But, offensively, Green will see a lot of open looks at least early on, and when he's hot with his shooting stroke the Warriors are basically unbeatable.

    The Cavs will look to force Green to beat them with his shot as they would prefer to contain Curry, Durant etc, and Green hitting those shots puts the Cavs in a bind.

    If Draymond can bring solid offensive numbers to the table every time out there, maintain his composure and hound the Cavaliers with his defense, we might see him lift up that MVP award at series' end.

    If Cleveland wins the Title: Tristan Thompson (+10000)

    Obviously more of a flyer here, but Thompson is likely going to have just as many opportunities to positively affect each game for his team as Green will for the Warriors, and his big presences inside is sure to be an asset that Cleveland won't hesitate to use.

    Thompson's motor and ability to get extra possessions on the offensive glass could easily turn a game or two Cleveland's way in this series.

    He's not quite the all-around scorer that Green is, but Thompson can put a double-double on you in a hurry, and given the perception of the Warriors still being a smaller, softer, team inside, Thompson will be asked to throw his body around in the paint right from the outset.

    He's been a much better free-throw shooter in these playoffs as well, meaning Golden State can't automatically default to hacking him when they are in a bit of trouble.

    Admittedly it's tough to envision many scenarios where Thompson is considered the best Cavs player in the series should they win, but the huge price tag on this wager deserves at least a bit of flyer consideration, especially if he's asked to guard guys like Durant in crunch time.

    Hey, we saw Andre Iguodala win the MVP in the 2015 series for his all-around contribution, and Thompson definitely fills that role this year.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Why the Warriors will win the NBA Finals
    May 30, 2017


    There is a way to beat Golden State.

    It demands defense.

    Let the Warriors shoot 50 percent, they're almost certainly going to win. Let the Warriors score 103 points, they're almost certainly going to win. It's really that simple. To use LeBron James' word, they are a juggernaut. And that juggernaut will require the Cleveland Cavaliers to play airtight defense in these NBA Finals.

    Defense has been the question for the Cavaliers all season.

    That is why Golden State is my pick to win the NBA championship.

    For the record, I picked Cleveland at the start of the season primarily for two reasons. One, James is the best player alive and his entire motivation now seems to revolve around collecting more rings. Two, I wasn't convinced that adding Kevin Durant to the Warriors' loaded mix would be as seamless as Golden State has made it look.

    James has probably never been better than he is now.

    But with Durant, the Warriors have probably never been better than this either.

    Let's get back to those numbers. When the Warriors score 103 this season, they're 78-6. When they score 102 or less, they're 1-9. (That ratio also holds true going back to last year's Finals, Golden State going 3-0 when scoring 103 or more, 0-4 otherwise.) And the last time that the Warriors shot better than 50 percent and lost was in November - that is, November 2014.

    When shooting over 50 percent, they've won 106 consecutive games, the last 43 of those coming this season.

    The argument from CavsTwitter upon hearing those numbers will likely revolve around how Cleveland has clamped down on Golden State in each of the past two Finals, and that take is accurate. Golden State shot 44 percent against the Cavs in the 2015 Finals, 43 percent last season. Clearly, Cleveland understands what it takes to frustrate the Warriors just enough.

    Except those Warriors aren't these Warriors.

    And even though Cleveland has rolled through the playoffs, going 12-1, they've allowed opponents over 100 points in all but three of those games.

    Durant is the difference. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were daunting enough with Harrison Barnes. Now with Durant in that mix in what essentially was Barnes' spot, the Warriors have found different dimensions both offensively and defensively. Barnes averaged 9.3 points in the Finals a season ago, on 35 percent shooting. There's no way Durant will get held to those sort of numbers.

    The Warriors have dealt with adversity - particularly Durant's knee injury and coach Steve Kerr's absence caused by his ongoing back problems. They know the pain that comes with losing a Finals, particularly one where a 3-1 series lead gets wasted. Durant has heard so much criticism for leaving Oklahoma City and moving to Golden State last summer.

    They haven't blinked. They're 27-1 in their last 28 games. They're 12-0 in the playoffs. They're rested. They're healthy.

    James will push Golden State to the limit. But in the end, the 2016 loss will be avenged and the championship confetti will finally fall on Durant.

    Warriors in seven.

    ****************************

    Why the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the NBA Finals
    May 30, 2017


    Why will the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in the three-match of the NBA Finals?

    ''I feel good about our chances,'' LeBron James said this week. ''Very good.''

    Often times the simplest answer is the right one.

    At 32 years of age, the best player of his generation is playing the best basketball of his life. And if he feels confident going into a series against an overpowering Warriors team filled with four All-Stars, then the rest of Cleveland should, too.

    James has reached a rarefied air this postseason, surpassing Michael Jordan on the career playoff scoring list while leading Cavs through an Eastern Conference that looked more overmatched than ever. He is playing in his seventh straight finals. This is home to him and there is no amount of hype, no limit to the number of All-Stars his opponent can have that will shake his resolve.

    He is averaging 32.5 points per game in these playoffs, eclipsed only by the 35.3 per-game average as a spry 24-year-old in 2009. He is also averaging career playoff highs in shooting percentage (.566) and 3-point shooting (.421) while grabbing 8.0 rebounds and dishing out 7.0 assists.

    The Cavs are also more well-rounded than they were in the previous two trips to the finals.

    Kevin Love sat out the 2015 finals with a shoulder injury and was more of a blue-collar, dirty work player in last year's conquest. He returns this year more closely resembling the stat-stuffing machine he was in Minnesota than at any other time since he was traded following James' decision to come back to Cleveland. Love is averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds this postseason and shooting 47.5 percent from 3-point range, giving the Cavs a floor spacer that is also a terror on the glass who may be able to exploit the Warriors when they go to a smaller lineup with Draymond Green at the center.

    Kyrie Irving has also reached a higher plane these playoffs, even after last season's remarkable performance late in the series to help the Cavs rally from a 3-1 deficit. He scored 42 in an important Game 4 victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals and can stand up to any of Golden State's perimeter players from a scoring and finishing standpoint.

    Then there is the X-factor: Tristan Thompson. Cleveland's rugged glass-eater could be a difficult matchup for the Warriors. If he can control the paint and create second chances for the Cavs offense while limiting Golden State on its possessions, the Cavaliers will have a chance to hang close in most games.

    Add to that mix veterans like Deron Williams, Channing Frye, Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith and the Cavs are one of the few teams in the league that have the firepower to stay with the Warriors.

    ''You can look at Golden State and how they're playing, it's pretty dominant,'' Minnesota Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said on Tuesday. ''But you can never bet against LeBron. If a game is close down the stretch, he can take it over.''

    Cavs in seven.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Higher power: LeBron soaring into 7th straight NBA Finals
    May 30, 2017


    CLEVELAND (AP) LeBron James will one day take his final bow, the brightest spotlight moving on to someone else.

    There will come a time when his legs lose some explosiveness and those vicious dunks will be rendered ordinary. Someday, his jumper won't fall as often, and that astonishing court vision, the key to his game, will become cloudy.

    James will face the end of his career one day. Just not anytime soon.

    On the eve of his seventh straight NBA Finals appearance, and 10 years since he debuted on basketball's grand stage, James' reign continues: undisputed king of the court.

    During a postseason in which he has led the champion Cleveland Cavaliers to a 12-1 record and chased down Michael Jordan as the No. 1 scorer in playoff history, James has not only positioned himself for a fourth title, but intensified the debate over whether he's the greatest player in NBA history.

    He isn't slowing down while building his case.

    James has always dismissed the Jordan comparisons, saying that kind of talk is ''only great for barbershops'' and that original gravity-defying No. 23 has been his motivational muse, not a target. But after the Cavs won their third straight conference title, punishing an overmatched Boston team in five games - he supplanted Jordan during the clincher - James discussed his place alongside someone who was ''like a god'' to him growing up.

    ''I did pretty much everything that M.J. did when I was a kid,'' James said. ''I shot fadeaways before I should have. I wore black and red shoes with white socks. I wore short shorts so you could see my undershorts underneath. I didn't go bald like Mike, but I'm getting there. ... But other than that, I did everything Mike did. I even wore a wristband on my forearm. I didn't do the hoop earring, either. That was Mike.

    ''But I did everything Mike did, man.''

    And he's not done, not by a long shot.

    James is on a mission, and it's far from accomplished.

    By having one of his finest statistical postseasons - 32.5 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 57 percent shooting through 13 games - James is dismissing any argument about the league's true MVP. Although he'll finish behind Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard when the regular-season award is given out next month, James has reminded everyone over the past six weeks that he remains the measuring stick at 32.

    He's raising the bar even higher, during a decade in which his actions - on and off the floor - have shaped the league.

    ''LeBron James has dominated, seriously dominated, this era of basketball. His domination has been about the equivalent to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's in his time,'' Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas said. ''He's playing for his place in history, to be talked about as one of the best to ever play. The conversation will come down between he, Kareem and Michael Jordan. Then it's just a matter of taste. Who do you want?''

    Of all his accomplishments, making seven straight final rounds is near the top of the list. When the ball goes up in Game 1 on Thursday, James will be the seventh player to appear in seven consecutive Finals, and the first since Bill Russell led a handful of Celtics on their dynastic run in the 1960s.

    James reluctantly reflects on what he's done. As the Cavs prepared for the Warriors, he took a moment to consider his latest feat.

    ''It's going to be great for my legacy,'' he said. ''Once I'm done playing the game and can look back on the game and say, `Oh, this guy went to three straight Finals, four straight Finals, five, six, whatever. It's great to be talked about, see what I was able to accomplish as an individual. When you talk about longevity and being able to just play at a high level for a long period of time, I've been fortunate enough to be able to do that and take two franchises to four Finals apiece - and no one has ever done that either.

    ''I've always been proud to be part of the biggest stage in our league, and it's the Finals.''

    And this is Act III of a three-year drama with Golden State.

    After ending Cleveland's 52-year championship drought last season, James has been unburdened, free of the criticism or consequences. Early in Game 1, he will become the first player with 6,000 points in the postseason, and there's no reason to think he won't pass 7,000 in due time.

    Whatever he finishes with, Cavs veteran forward Richard Jefferson doesn't think anyone will catch him.

    ''Like the Joe DiMaggio hit streak, Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100, there are certain records that will be unbreakable,'' Jefferson said. ''Whoever tries to get to that is going to have to play in 10 NBA Finals and average 30 points a game to get there. Let's put that in perspective: that's impossible. What he's doing right now is obviously on a level that has never been seen before. To pass Michael Jordan when you're still in the prime of your career, one of the greats of all-time? That record will be unbreakable.

    ''If he adds another 1,000 points, who's going to be able to come in and go to 10 NBA Finals in this modern age? It's impossible.''
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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    Capsule preview of the Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals matchup
    May 30, 2017


    Capsule and prediction for the NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland that begins Thursday:

    No. 1 GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS (67-15, 12-0) vs. No. 2 CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (51-31, 12-1)

    Season series: Tied, 1-1. The Cavaliers pulled out a 109-108 victory in their heavily hyped Christmas Day matchup in Cleveland when Kyrie Irving made a turnaround jumper with 3.4 seconds remaining to complete a comeback from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Golden State answered with a 126-91 rout nearly a month later, leading by as much as 39 points at home against a Cavaliers team that lacked energy in the last game of a six-game road trip.

    Story line: The Warriors and Cavaliers make NBA history by becoming the first teams to meet in three straight NBA Finals. Golden State won in 2015, Cleveland erased a 3-1 deficit to win its first championship last year, and the rubber match that was expected all along was set up easily with the teams combining for just one loss through three rounds.

    Key Matchup: Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Their second NBA Finals matchup comes five years after their first, when James won his first championship as Miami overpowered Oklahoma City in 2012. Durant has a much better team and has become a much more complete player now in his first season with the Warriors. But this also may be the best all-around version of James, who is averaging 32.5 points on nearly 57 percent shooting, and adding 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game.

    Prediction: Warriors in 7.
    Remember the 3 G's Gambling, Golf, Girls not in any particular order.....

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