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Cleveland Cavaliers are on a quest to defend their NBA title, but that is easier said than done. Fellow title contenders San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors have never been stronger and Tyronn Lue’s troops will have to be on top of their game in the play-offs if they are to repeat the success.
Cavs are on the right track to clinch top position in the Eastern Conference, but Boston Celtics are breathing down their neck. The title holders have recorded only two wins more than Brad Stevens’ men, meaning that they should not afford any complacency in the remainder of the season.
As things stand now, Cavaliers are likely to face Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference quarter-finals. Bucks are led by Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo and preventing “The Greek Freak” from averaging more than 20 points in the play-off series should be the key to Cleveland’s success in a possible tie against Milwaukee. Yet another man to watch in Jason Kid’s team is Jabari Parker, who has 20.1 points per game this season, but, taking everything into account, Bucks are unlikely to make life difficult for LeBron James and his teammates.
Chicago Bulls are currently sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference and they are definitely capable of booking their place in the play-offs. I believe that Bulls would pose a much bigger threat for Cavs than Bucks as Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg has a number of top-class players to choose from. Jimmy Butler is considered as one of the best shooting guards in NBA, while on Dwyane Wade, who is a household name. The 35-year-old has three NBA trophies and the likes of Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo should not be underestimated as well. Anyhow, Cavs would be considered favourites to beat Bulls in the Eastern Conference play-offs, but avoiding the clash with the United Center outfit seems to be the best option for the defending champions.
Speaking of the Eastern Conference finals, aforementioned Boston Celtics are widely expected to face Cleveland Cavaliers in the conference finals. Isaiah Thomas is enjoying a season to remember and the “little guy” is definitely capable of spoiling Cavs’ party. The 175-cm-tall point guard has been averaging 29.2 points this season and, no doubt, the reigning champions would face an uphill task in the series against the high-flying Celtics.
Golden State Warriors are eager to get their revenge on Cleveland Cavaliers for the loss in the 2016 NBA finals, but they are no longer seen as No. 1 favourites to win the trophy. Key player and top scored Kevin Durant suffered a bone bruise against Chicago Bulls earlier in January and the former Oklahoma City Thunder superstar could be lost for the rest of the regular season. As a result, San Antonio Spurs are widely expected to finish the season in top position in the Western Conference as they will be in position to defend home court in the play-offs. Spurs reinforced the squad in the summer and Gregg Popovich’s men are determined to make amends for the unsuccessful 2016 NBA campaign.
Key to success
The first thing Cavs need to do if they are to defend their NBA trophy is to clinch top position in the Eastern Conference. Coach Tyronn Lue can count on key players LeBron James and Kyrie Irving, whilst Kevin Love is on schedule to return in late March. The bad news for the fans is that latest signing Andrew Bogut broke his leg after spending less than a minute on the court on his Cleveland debut against Miami Heat. It has to be noted that the season is over for the former Golden State Warriors and Dallas Mavericks center. Anyhow, the title holders must avoid serious injuries if they are to repeat the last season’s success. LeBron James will, undisputedly, play the most important role in Tyronn Lue’s team in the NBA play-offs and, no doubt, “The King James” still has an insatiable appetite for winning trophies.
Kevin Durant’ injury definitely strengthened Cavaliers’ title odds and it seems that the race for the NBA trophy has never been more interesting. San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors are among the favourites to go all the way in the 2017 NBA play-offs, but I believe that Cavs have the best chance of winning the major championship.