The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James look dominant. They are 6-0 in the playoffs so far, crushing the Atlanta Hawks 105-85, no game has been closer than 11 points Their average margin of victory is 18.2. They have played fantastic defense and with the MVP they have an offense that can score as well.
But if you think they are on course to win a title with ease, think again. Or, just think back to last season.
The Los Angeles Lakers cruised in large part through the Western Conference — Utah took them six games but that series was never really in doubt. The vaunted San Antonio Spurs could only last five games. The Lakers offense was unstoppable and the team was clicking in a championship way.
On the other side of the bracket, the Celtics were being tested by teams not supposed to be in their class. The Atlanta Hawks took them seven games. Then these very same Cavaliers (well, not quite the same) took them seven games. By the time they reached the finals, the blueprint on how to beat the Celtics existed. Meanwhile the Lakers looked invincible.
But a funny thing happened on the way to that easy Lakers championship — the battle tested team won.
The Celtics came into the Finals with the intensity they needed to get there. The Lakers came out playing like this was another series they could walk through and win. The Lakers never completely adjusted to the big stage or the intensity the Celtics brought to it. Younger Lakers players wilted, particularly in the blow out game six.
Back in this season, the conventional wisdom favorites are the Cavaliers and Lakers meeting in the Finals, although this year the roles would be reversed (if they both get there). The Lakers are being challenged — physically and mentally — by a very good Rockets team. If the Lakers do advance, a hot and confident Denver team awaits. Meanwhile the Celtics are 6-0 and may well be 8-0 after the first two rounds of the playoffs. Then they will face a banged up Celtics team without its best player or an Orlando team without its star point guard. Cleveland could cruise into the Finals.
And if history is any indication, that may not be a good thing.