Heading into the NBA Finals, the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers are recognized as underdogs to the Golden State Warriors not only by Las Vegas sportsbooks, but also among many NBA pundits and experts across the basketball world.
However, All-Star forward Kevin Love doesn’t agree with that label in any way.
"The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because, yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title," Love said Saturday after Cleveland’s practice. "We're trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel, we will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It's tough for me to say that is the case. I don't feel like we're underdogs. We match up well with them, and I think they'd say the same about us."
As of Saturday night, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has the Warriors as a wild -260 favorite while ESPN’s BPI gives them a 93 percent chance of winning the series. Therefore, the Cavs will be able to use that as bulletin board material.
Love certainly had a more emotional response than head coach Tyronn Lue, who downplayed the whole underdog premise.
"We're not going to use that as motivation," Lue said. "It's like, we're in the NBA Finals. That's enough motivation alone. Not worry about what it says in Vegas or what people are saying about underdogs. We're not using that as an excuse. We've got to come out and play. Our goals were set at the beginning of the season, and that's to win a championship. So that's what we're focused on.”
Love admitted that he saw the matchup with Golden State coming, as did the rest of his team.
"Want the Warriors? Like Bron said in his postgame presser, they've been right at the top, best team in the league for three years straight now. They've been super-impressive," Love noted. "It's kind of in our minds that that's who we were going to see. They played great basketball this year. Obviously, adding an MVP to a team that already has a two-time MVP, that makes them even more impressive. It's tough to say that we didn't expect it. We knew they'd be right there.”
Game 1 is scheduled for Thursday, June 1. By all accounts, it should be a series for the ages, as the two teams will square off for the third-straight time with each having the hopes of breaking the 1-1 tie.