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James, Cavaliers sending a strong message

By Matt Youmans  (VSiN senior editor) 

May 20, 2017 04:02 AM
It turned ugly early Friday in Boston. LeBron James scored 30 points in three quarters, and the favored Cavaliers embarrassed the Celtics 130-86 in Game 2 of the East finals.
© USA Today Sports Images

A message has been sent. LeBron James is not clowning around, and it’s way too soon to crown the Golden State Warriors.

It’s routine to overreact to one game in the NBA playoffs, but after the Cleveland Cavaliers handed down back-to-back beatdowns in Boston, LeBron has gained believers.

“LeBron is playing like a locomotive and you can’t stop him,” South Point oddsmaker Jimmy Vaccaro said. “I know the Warriors are a very, very good team, but this kid is capable of beating anybody.”

James and the Cavaliers turned the Celtics into the Washington Generals on Friday night, when “Sweet Georgia Brown” should have been whistling in the background as the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference got played for a bunch of stooges.

James scored 30 points in three quarters, and Cleveland embarrassed Boston 130-86 in Game 2 of the East finals.

The Cavaliers led 11-10 when Vaccaro left his South Point office. When he arrived home and checked the score, it was 72-31 at the half, the largest halftime lead in NBA playoff history.

“Dumbfounded. I thought it was a mistake,” Vaccaro said. “I’ve seen a lot of stuff, but I haven’t seen what I’ve seen lately.”

Not long ago, Golden State was more than a 3-1 favorite over Cleveland in a possible NBA Finals matchup. South Point sports book director Chris Andrews has lowered the line to Warriors minus-250, with the Cavaliers at plus-210.

The proposition price on Golden State going 16-0 in the playoffs is back to where it opened — “No” minus-1,100 and “Yes” plus-700.

“The Warriors are not sweeping this team, not if Cavs are playing like this,” Andrews said.

James is playing the best basketball of his life, which is saying a lot, and the Cavaliers are certainly a serious threat to repeat as NBA champions.

Here are some impressive numbers:

* Cleveland has won 13 consecutive playoff games, tied with the 1988-89 Lakers for the longest streak in NBA history.

* The Cavaliers are 34-4 against East opponents in the past three postseasons.

* James has scored at least 30 points in eight straight playoff games, becoming the first player to do so since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970.

* James is 20-0 in series (soon to be 21-0) when his team takes a 2-0 lead.

The NBA announced Friday that James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Kawhi Leonard were the finalists for the Most Valuable Player award. It’s the first time since 2008 that James is not in the top three, and it shows the MVP voting is nonsense.

The Cavaliers closed as 5-point favorites in their 44-point blowout of Boston. The Celtics did cover — and this is not a joke — the peak in-game wagering line of 44½. So they had that going for them, which is nice.

Underdog bettors are not amused. Home ‘dogs are 2-14 against the spread in the NBA playoffs this year.

Two teams are clearly superior to the rest of the field, yet the perceived gap between Golden State and Cleveland is closing.

The cool, casual Warriors should be worried. James has sent a strong message out West.

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