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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM



It's true. You have to go all the way back to the 2009-2010 season to find the last time a LeBron James-led team didn't make it to an NBA Finals and now here's "The King" and his court buddies a whopping nearly 3-to-1 betting favorite (- 285) for this year's NBA Eastern Conference Finals duel against the Boston Celtics beginning Sunday afternoon in Beantown.

In each of the last three years, James' Cavs have marched their way straight to the NBA Finals - last year they battered the Celtics in five games, in 2016 they disposed of the Toronto Raptors in six and back in the spring of 2015 it was a Cleveland clean sweep over the Atlanta Hawks.

Throw in the four consecutive NBA Finals that James played in as a member of the Miami Heat in 2011-through-2014 and here's the sport's preeminent star looking for an eighth straight showing in the championship round ... va-va-va voom!

In case you're wondering, prior to James' Heat teams from '11-'14, the last time an NBA Eastern Conference club advanced to four consecutive NBA Finals it was 1984-87. The team? The Boston Celtics.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continue to rock with NBA Playoffs with Side & Totals winners and we have daily MLB winners too, so make sure you cash in big right here at online or 1-800-323-4453. Get all the hoop winners beginning with the start of the Cavaliers-Celtics series on Sunday and make sure you're cashin' in with the NBA Western Conference Finals beginning Monday night between the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets.


On Sunday, it's ...CLEVELAND at BOSTON - Game 1, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Here's something you might want to consider as we head into the Mother's Day showdown / Game 1 of this Eastern Conference Finals best-of-seven series: The winner of Game 1 has gone on to win 10-of-12 playoff series this spring although must admit the Cavaliers dropped Game 1 in their opening-round set against Indiana and still came back to win it in seven.

In any event, the aforementioned LeBron James (34.3 ppg in 11 post-season games this year) is being counted on for major minutes - again - after averaging 41-plus minutes a game in all prior playoff outings but winning on the road usually means getting production from your supporting cast and both F Kevin Love (14.7 ppg / 10.1 rpg) and F J.R. Smith (a 41 percent three-point shooter these playoffs) must be stat-sheet stuffers here and that oft-overlooked Cavs bench has to thrive and we'll be keeping a close eye on F Jeff Green who played parts of four seasons with Boston back in the day ... revenge?

On the flip side, Boston's ability to wipe away the season-ending losses of best players PG Kyrie Irving and F Gordon Hayward (he played five minutes in the season opener and then was gonzo) has been amazing as best-coach-in-the-league Brad Stevens has leaned on their backups in a major show of confidence and gotta believe PG Terry Rozier (18.2 ppg these playoffs) and rookie F Jayson Tatum (18.8 ppg and plenty of clutch post-season moments already) must play heady ball and steer clear of ticky-tack fouls against James.

Tell us now the Celtics can win the board battle and score 15-to-20 fast-break points here and Game 1 could be theirs ... and you saw what we wrote about Game 1 winners, right?

Here's the 2017-18 regular-season head-to-head matchups between the Cavaliers and the Celtics (all home teams in CAPS):

10-17CLEVELAND- 4.5Boston102-99
1-3BOSTON- 3Cleveland102-88
2-11Cleveland+ 4.5BOSTON121-99


Here's the pointspread breakdown this post-season - note we've only included the four teams that will be playing in the conference finals:

Golden St.55.500


Here's the facts: There were seven teams that entered this May weekend with sub-.400 winning rates including worst-in-the-bigs Chicago White Sox (9-25, .265) and that's led to a whole lot of hand-wringing regarding the all-too-many bad teams in baseball but how about putting a shiny light on a couple of under-the-radar MLB teams?

The Seattle Mariners (21-15) - who entered the 2018 season with an over/under wins projection of 82 - has been a pleasant surprise and it's not just no-hit author LHP James Paxton who has wowed folks while in the so-called senior circuit the St. Louis Cardinals (21-14) have thrived despite recent key injuries to C Yadina Molina and an offense that ranks a lowly 11th in the NL in batting average (.229) but first in total home runs (43). One player the Redbirds have really been sparked by is OF Tommy Pham who has a .444 on-base percentage and 34 hits in just 103 at-bats. P.S., St. Louis has an over/under wins total of 86.5.

NOTE: Catch our NBA Western Conference Finals Preview in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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