For the third straight year, the NBA Finals odds in Las Vegas favor the Golden State Warriors to win the Larry O’Brien Trophy over the Cleveland Cavaliers. But if history tells us anything, it’s that the rubber match series is anything but a foregone conclusion.

NBA Finals odds Cavaliers Warriors

LeBron James’ defending champs are the 2017 underdogs according to the NBA Finals odds, but that was also the case a year ago. (Image: Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images)

On Thursday night, the Cavs took care of business by beating the Boston Celtics to end the series in five games. They now have a week to prepare for the Warriors, a team that’s a perfect 12-0 in this year’s playoffs.

The best-of-seven showdown doesn’t begin until next Thursday, June 1, but Las Vegas sportsbooks are of course already taking bets. While the NBA Finals odds favor Golden State, the early action has been on the defending champs.

The Westgate SuperBook opened the series prices at Cleveland +220, and Golden State -260. That means a winning $100 bet on the Cavs returns $220, while the same bet on the Warriors returns just $38.46.

However, the odds are tilting in Cleveland’s favor since they were first posted. The moneyline has shrunk the Cavs’ chances to +200, with the favorite now at -240.

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love look to repeat and give Cleveland sports its second major championship in as many years. That follows a 52-year drought that caused so many Ohioans anguish over the decades.

They face Kevin Durant, who was added to the already all-star-like Warriors roster last offseason, and mainstays Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green.

It’s the matchup every basketball fan outside the Bay Area and Ohio wanted to see. That includes oddsmakers, which stand to see heavy betting on the Finals rivalry.

More Than Rings at Stake

The Warriors took the 2015 title, defeating LeBron in his first year after returning home from his four-year stint in Miami where he won his first two titles. They matched again last June, and after a record-setting regular season from the team out west, and down 3-1 in the series, the Cavs pulled off the unthinkable in coming back and upsetting the champs.

Now, it’s Golden State’s turn to get revenge. Last fall, Green said should the two teams meet again, “I want to destroy Cleveland. I want to annihilate them.”

Along with deciding which team takes the lead in the three-game NBA Finals showdown, analysts believe the identity of the league is also at stake. Will it remain LeBron’s, or is it time to hand over the reins to Curry and Durant?

James Praises Warriors

Following his Eastern Conference Finals win, LeBron dished out plenty of respect for the “juggernaut,” as he called them, that he faces next.

James, who is going to his seventh straight Finals and passed Michael Jordan on the all-time playoff scoring list on Thursday, said, “They’ve been the best team in our league for the last three years. And they’ve added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant so it makes it even more difficult.”

Game one is Thursday night. Las Vegas currently has the home team Warriors spotting the Cavs seven points.