The Cavs will kick off their fourth straight finals series Thursday after barely getting past Boston. Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Cavs were winning, but downtown bars weren't feeling like champs.
"This year, this season is different," said Winking Lizard General Manager Adam Wilson. "With the changes, with Kyrie [Irving] leaving."
The feeling inside Winking Lizard Tavern downtown for Wilson isn't all that different from the feeling inside the Cavs locker room in Boston.
"It's been Cedar Point," said Lebron James, referencing the amusement park known for its roller coasters when describing the course of the Cavs' season. "Sorry for all you guys who don't know much about Cedar Point, but it's been a roller coaster."
Trading off big chunks of the roster at a time, a mid-season leave of absence for Head Coach Ty Lue, plus the expectation of a long playoff run each year all add up to plenty of "Champs of the East" shirts leaving the team store before Thursday's Finals. Before then, it meant fewer customers bringing their business to Wilson's bar for the first two playoff series.
"You take it for granted that LeBron is here and it's like, 'Well, it's not even the Conference Finals yet,'" said Wilson.
On the street, superstition and overconfidence are thrown to the wind.
"People are getting used to it, but like I said before, it's the hard way," said Cavs fan Will Banks.
"My youngest son, he doesn't have a year that he doesn't remember the Cavs being in the Finals," said Rebecca Adkins.
"LeBron did what he was supposed to do last night," said Cavs fan Daniel Chavez. "Not to be cocky, but I mean it goes with the territory. We got the best player in the world, we got the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time). It is what it is. This is what's gonna happen."
That confidence is back for bar owners too. They say the Boston series woke up the fan base and they're expecting their normal finals crowds starting Thursday.