INDEPENDENCE: Las Vegas doesn’t like them. Draymond Green doesn’t like them.

But with the Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors meeting in the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year starting Thursday, it was hard to tell if the defending champion Cavs will draw on their role as underdogs for motivation.

“The whole underdog thing is funny to me because, yeah, at the end of the day, we are defending our title,” Kevin Love said Saturday. “We’re trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel, we will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It’s tough for me to say that is the case.

“I don’t feel like we’re underdogs. We match up well with them, and I think they’d say the same about us.”

Minutes before, Love downplayed the odds as a factor.

“We’re always on our phones, [so] it’s hard not to see it. You have friends or family members, they don’t know what to text you at certain times,” Love said after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “You see it, you hear it, but the underdog thing, we don’t really pay attention to that.”

The website fivethirtyeight.com, which analyzes sports leagues and political races, gives the Cavs between a 10 percent (using advanced algorithms) and 13 percent (simple algorithms) chance to win the title.

The site said bookmakers are more generous, with the Cavs given a 30 percent chance. This season the Warriors added 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant to a lineup that already featured two-time MVP Stephen Curry and fellow all-stars Klay Thompson and Green.

The Warriors won the 2015 title at Quicken Loans Arena, while the Cavs rallied from a 3-1 deficit to capture Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years last June at Oracle Arena.

Love didn’t deny that the Cavs use bulletin-board material, but made it sound like they judiciously choose their perceived slights.

“Sure, you use different things as fuel and motivation,” Love said. “But in some ways, it almost has to be the right thing, I guess, because so much is just kind of fluff and stupid, for lack of a better word. I think both teams will have a lot to prove and it’s going to be a really hard-fought, great matchup.”

Love wasn’t referring to anyone specifically, although there was much to draw from in last year’s NBA Finals. In Game 4, Green punched LeBron James in the groin, drawing a suspension for Game 5, and James disrespectfully stepped over him. Thompson suggested the incident stemmed from the fact that James got his feelings hurt by Green’s trash talking.

Green has been gunning for the Cavs since Oct. 31. That’s when he told David Aldridge of NBA.com, “If Cleveland comes out of the East, I want to destroy Cleveland … If and when we get to that point, I want to annihilate them.”

“He’s one of the most competitive players in the league and he kind of spoke this into existence,” Love said of Green’s comments last fall. “He’s a guy who said he wanted us, and he has us starting next Thursday. He’s a guy who brings it every single night, so now with the way the Finals went down last year if I were in his shoes, I would want the same thing.”

Love said he believes his teammates are well aware of Green’s remarks.

“They probably already have seen it and heard it before. I think he said it earlier this season though, right?” Love said. “It’s going to be a great series and I think Draymond is speaking out of emotion, excited. He’s a competitor. You beat a team, they definitely want you back. I like guys like that. Tough and speaks out, says what he really wants.”

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said Saturday the Cavs won’t go to the under­dog card for motivation.

“We’re in the NBA Finals. That’s enough motivation alone,” Lue said. “Not worry about what it says in Vegas or what people are saying about underdogs. Our goals were set at the beginning of the season, and that’s to win a championship. So that’s what we’re focused on.”

After the Cavs captured the Eastern Conference title Thursday in Boston, forward Richard Jefferson said “barring injury or something cataclysmic,” the Cavs expected to meet the Warriors in the Finals.

“But none of that matters if you don’t take care of your business,” Jefferson said. “They did a great job, they’re 12-0, we’re 11-1 with a [21]-point lead at home. We understand it’s going to be two titans meeting.”

When it was suggested that the Cavs had been thinking of this matchup for quite some time, Love said, “We’re not the only ones. I think everybody wanted it or thought it was going to come to this point. We felt if we played great basketball through this time, which we knew we were capable of, that was very probable and highly likely. Two great teams playing great basketball right now. There’s not much more you could ask for.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.