Stein: Cavaliers headed back to Finals

The Cavaliers will once again play for an NBA championship ring, according to an insider.

Though they have been anything but at their best of late, one NBA insider says to not expect a different team to represent the Eastern Conference in The Finals than the one that’s done so the past three seasons, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Marc Stein of the New York Times writes it’s same old, same old in terms of the Eastern Conference.

Given how bad they’ve looked lately, especially defensively, this may be my boldest prediction. Even the Cavaliers have sounded pessimistic about pulling out of their recent 3-9 funk, but I still can’t talk myself into the idea that Boston or Toronto can win four times in a seven-game series against a LeBron James-led squad.

Mired in a stretch that has seen them lose four out of their last five games, eight of their last 11 and nine of the last 13, many in the national media are predicting an earlier-than-expected exit for Cleveland (27-17)  come playoff time.

Not so fast, Stein said.

James sat wearily at his locker in Toronto last week after a humbling 34-point rout and chided a reporter for even daring to suggest that Cleveland can flip the proverbial switch once the playoffs begin. But his Cavs did exactly that last season, playing .500 ball for more than half of the schedule (going 23-23 after Jan. 8) and then looking like a completely different team in the East playoffs (going 12-1). The Celtics and Raptors are indeed more formidable than they were then — and Kyrie Irving, rather crucially, plays in Boston now — but I’ll let others say Team LeBron can’t do it again.