They have essentially cakewalked through the first two rounds of the playoffs, defeating the Detroit Pistons in the opening round and then disposing of the Atlanta Hawks in the conference semifinals. They have won the best-of-seven series by a combined tally of 8-0.
The Cavaliers are a very good team. Their 57-25 record was the best in the East, one game ahead of the 56-26 Toronto Raptors—who have revealed themselves to be a fraudulent No. 2 seed—and third overall in the NBA behind the record setting 73-9 Golden State Warriors and the 67-15 San Antonio Spurs. But they fall far short of being a great team.
The Eastern Conference just happens to be disturbingly weak. It is the sole reason the Cavaliers will not lose more than two games before inevitably reaching the Finals for the second consecutive season. Their next opponent has yet to be determined. It doesn’t matter. They are only going to be the Cavaliers’ sacrificial lamb.
The aforementioned Raptors and third-seeded Miami Heat were tied 2-2 in their conference semifinal matchup going into Game 5 last night (Wednesday) in Toronto. Game 6 will be played in Miami Friday and the series will move back to Toronto for the deciding Game 7 Sunday. In theory, both teams should be capable enough to offer the Cavaliers a formidable challenge. In actuality, neither has a chance of executing an upset unless LeBron James sustains an injury that prevents him from playing.
Despite the Warriors’ Stephen Curry deservedly winning his second straight league MVP Tuesday, James remains the most dominant basketball player in the world. The Cavaliers would struggle to be an eighth seed in the playoffs without James. Their success begins and ends with him. And as long as he is a Cavalier in his prime, and the East continues to produce feeble opponents, the conference will continue to be King James’ domain.