Fall from grace

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Fall from grace

By Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

BOSTON We always joked about what might happen in Cleveland if LeBron decided to split.

And on Tuesday night, those jokes played out on the parquet.

Basically, every potential consequence of LeBron taking his contraction talks to South Beach has turned into a reality. Throw in a couple of tough injuries and a head coach who doesnt exactly have the best track record in the motivation department, and youve got disaster.

The Cavaliers' 17-point loss to the Celtics was their 18th in a row, and their 28th in the last 29 games; yet another brutal showing in a season thats grown so ugly that even Popeye Jones is offended.

And its only natural for Celtics fans to get at least a little satisfaction out of that.

After all, over the last three years, theres been an unbelievable amount of anger and animosity built up towards the orange and yellow (or whichever of their million uniform combos theyre wearing on a given night).

In the 2008 playoffs, the Cavs took the Cs to the brink of elimination and would have ended their season if not for a legendary performance by Paul Pierce and the genius of PJ Brown. In the two seasons that followed, the Cavs won a combined 127 regular-season games (the Cs only won 112) and twice finished the as the Easts No. 1 seed. At one point, they beat Boston eight straight times at the Q.

And over that time, whether or not it ever played out that way, the Cavs always felt like the biggest threat to the Celtics Eastern Conference supremacy. Other than the Lakers, who only popped up twice a year anyway, Cleveland was the Celtics' biggest rival.

And then, with one pathetic playoff series, followed by one pathetic TV special, the Cavs were dead.

In an instant, they became the team we all casually joked they would.

Now, theyve just become a joke.

For years, the CavsCeltics games were two of the best three home games of the seasons. They were the games that always gave off the biggest playoff vibe. They were the games that felt like they actually had playoff implications; where if you had tickets there was always that moment when you thought: You know, I could probably sell these for A LOT of money right now. You never did. But you knew it was a big deal that you were going.

But that was then. Now, you might have trouble giving away those Cavs tickets. Now its the kind of game that the Cs use as a tune-up for their long-injured starting center, where you see Luke Harangody in the first quarter, where you watch without ever worrying about the outcome.

Now, the Cavs are . . .

I dont know, who the hell are they?

Christian Eyenga? Samardo Samuels? Who knew Manny Harris was actually in the NBA?

Theyre the worst team in basketball.

And while that might not all be about LeBron (theyd be a little better with a healthy Anderson Varejao and a less-scorned Mo Williams), it doesnt change the reality. In less than six months, the Cleveland Cavaliers have gone from a 66-win, Finals favorite to a team thats on pace for 16 wins and enough ping-pong balls to make Forrest Gump all tingly (although maybe not anymore since hes got to be in his late 60s).

The Cavs were maybe the sharpest thorn in the Celtics side. Now theyre a withered old toothpick. And that should be reason to celebrate in Boston. After all, we've celebrated every Cleveland loss for the last three years. It's only natural to see that uniform, fall back into that mode, and maybe have some fun with this runaway dumpsters of a season.

But on closer inspection: It's impossible.

With the Cavs, the animosity's gone. The hatred's all been transferred to Miami. There's nothing else left, and in the end, you just feel bad.

It's not like you want the Cavs contending every season, but nobody deserves to go down the way they have.

Its like, imagine if your worst enemy just some guy you really hate went on The Bachelorette. Except for this season, the twist is that the Bacherloette was the guy's actual wife.

It was him, a bunch of other single guys, and his wife.

Totally embarrassing, but this guy loved his wife THAT much. He was willing to do anything, just to get her back.

Now imagine he goes through the whole thing, all the ups and downs, and makes it to the Final 2. Then on the last show, the wifebachelorette invites his entire family to the set, kneels down before him on national TV, and picks the other dude.

Admit it, youd feel bad.

And if not then, youd definitely feel bad when you ran into the guy six months later and learned that since the divorce hed been fired for appearing on the show, gained 50 pounds and now spends his lunch at Centerfold's All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.

Now that's sad. Whoever it is.

And anyway, you start talking and realize that since his wife left, the guy's not even that big of a jerk. Turns out she was always the worst thing about him.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

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2017 NBA title odds are out, Celtics rank second in the East

Teams are still fighting for the 2016 Larry O’Brien Trophy, but the 2017 NBA title opening odds have already been released by the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook. The Warriors unsurprisingly come in as heavy 3/2 favorites. The Cavaliers already punched their ticket for this year’s finals and are second, with 5/2 odds. Then there’s the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers, as you’d expect rounding off the top five.

But then there’s the Celtics with 20/1 odds -- sixth-best in the NBA -- to raise Banner 18.

With eight draft picks and a chunk of cap space, the Celtics are in a position to capitalize on any opportunities that may come their way. There is a lot of uncertainty at this point in the NBA calendar, so Vegas must be hedging their bets on the Celtics making a leap towards contender status.

Celtics fans will also be happy to know the Nets have 500/1 odds to hoist the trophy next season, which ranks last of all teams. The Celtics have the right to swap first-round picks with the Nets in the 2017 draft, which could give them another swing at a superstar prospect.

For full draft profiles of players the Celtics could draft this year, click here.

Team Opening odds
Golden State Warriors 3/2
Cleveland Cavaliers 5/2
San Antonio Spurs 6/1
Oklahoma City Thunder 8/1
Los Angeles Clippers 16/1
Boston Celtics 20/1
Toronto Raptors 25/1
Miami Heat 25/1
Chicago Bulls 40/1
Atlanta Hawks 40/1
Minnesota Timberwolves 60/1
New Orleans Pelicans 60/1
Houston Rockets 60/1
Portland Trail Blazers 60/1
Memphis Grizzlies 80/1
Utah Jazz 80/1
Charlotte Hornets 80/1
Washington Wizards 100/1
Indiana Pacers 100/1
Dallas Mavericks 100/1
Milwaukee Bucks 100/1
Detroit Pistons 100/1
Los Angeles Lakers 100/1
New York Knicks 100/1
Sacramento Kings 100/1
Philadelphia 76ers 100/1
Orlando Magic 100/1
Denver Nuggets 100/1
Phoenix Suns 300/1
Brooklyn Nets 500/1

Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

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Warriors force Game 7 with 108-101 win over Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Klay Thompson made a playoff-record 11 3-pointers and scored 41 points, and the defending champion Golden State Warriors forced a seventh game in the Western Conference finals with a 108-101 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday night.

Stephen Curry bounced back from a slow start to finish with 29 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.

The Warriors, who set the league's regular-season record with 73 wins, will host Game 7 on Monday. The winner will play Cleveland in the NBA Finals.

Oklahoma City dominated Games 3 and 4 at home, but the Warriors made 21 of 44 3-pointers on Saturday, while Oklahoma City was 3 of 23.

Kevin Durant scored 29 points and Russell Westbrook added 28 for the Thunder. But Durant made just 10 of 31 shots and Westbrook was 10 of 27.

Trying to become the 10th team to overcome a 3-1 deficit, the Warriors trailed much of the game and trailed by eight going to the fourth quarter.

Thompson kept them in it with four 3-pointers in just over seven minutes to start the period. Curry then hit two 3s, the second of which tied the game at 99 with 2:47 to play.

Thompson's 3 with 1:35 to play put the Warriors up 104-101.

The Thunder, who blew a number of fourth-quarter leads during the regular season, fell apart in the final minutes after Golden State had finally gone ahead for good.

Westbrook lost control of the ball, and after Thompson missed a 3, Westbrook turned the ball over again. Curry's layup with 14.3 seconds to play put the Warriors up by five, the Thunder turned it over again, and the Warriors were in the clear.

The Thunder led 23-20 after one quarter, then seized momentum early in the second. Steven Adams' powerful one-handed dunk on Draymond Green drew a roar from the crowd and gave Oklahoma City a 37-28 lead. Green, who had hit Adams in the groin area twice during the series, was a constant target for the vocal Thunder fans.

Thompson opened the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Warriors a 54-53 edge, but the Thunder closed the quarter strong and led 83-75 heading into the fourth.