Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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How one man, one team and one city can change the perception of the NBA playoffs in a matter of a week.
Seven days ago, I gave up on the NBA finals. Today, I'm excited about them for the first time since the Jordan era.
A week ago, I threw in the towel on the Eastern Conference as a whole. I called it a step up from the WNBA. Today, I think the Cleveland Cavaliers don't just have a shot, they have a great chance.
Just last week, it looked like the NBA didn't have that player like Jordan, who'd just say, "screw it, we're winning if it's the last thing I do." Today, LeBron James is on the cusp of real basketball royalty.
And a week ago, after my Buffalo Sabres and the city of Buffalo - a town that really needs to win something, anything - lost in the NHL playoffs, I cursed the sports gods for not letting a town and team that needs to win actually win. Today, the town of Cleveland - the second worst town to Buffalo for sports luck - has a reason to be excited about sports for the first time since the Indians made it to the World Series in 1997.
Cleveland and James have peaked the interest in the finals. They made the Eastern Conference respectable not only this year but for years to come.
I didn't think they'd beat New Jersey. I would have bet the bank they were going to lose to Detroit.
Yet with James, whose Game 5 was one of those games where you'll always remember where you were, the Cavs are four wins away.
I'm not huge into the NBA - it's not hard when you're rooting for a Nuggets team still searching for an identity the past three years - but Cleveland's a story worth rooting for.
The Browns and Art Modell moving. Jordan ripping out Cleveland fans' hearts year after year.
And now, finally this 22-year-old LeBron James might just save the city and professional basketball.
Will the Cavaliers win?
If I absolutely knew that, I'd be at the sports book in Caesars Palace, but here are three reasons they have a shot.
1. They've played the best defense of any team in the playoffs. Enough said.
2. Their supporting cast isn't as bad as everyone thinks. Daniel Gibson - who went off for a career-high 31 points in the game clincher against the Pistons - is a really good player. Remember, just two year's ago before his sophomore year at Texas, Gibson was talked about as a player of the year candidate and a lottery pick. But after a year of trying to make him a point guard Gibson fell to the second round.
3. Believe it or not, LeBron didn't play that well in the Pistons series. Besides his unreal Game 3 and 5 performances, he was average in the rest only shooting 23-for-64 from the field.
Hey, my heart says the Cavaliers will win. My head says no way they can touch San Antonio.
As we already know, my predictions - whether made with my head, my heart, my belly or my toes - are usually wrong.
But screw it.
Cavs in seven.
For the city and the team.
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