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Can Warriors Send Early Message in Game 1?
Take the Cavs in Game 1
All odds brought to you by Topbet.
Ask anyone with a basic working knowledge of the NBA who will win this NBA Finals matchup, and 98 percent of them, or more, won't hesitate before telling you it's the Golden State Warriors. And for good reason.
Although the Cleveland Cavaliers have been mostly on point as they traipsed their way through the Eastern Conference, the Warriors' stylistic tendencies don't bode well for them in the long run.
What happens when Draymond Green plays center? Do the Cavaliers keep both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson on the floor? Do they pull Thompson? Is their defense good enough to survive playing Love at the 5? Should they just pull Love instead? What would that do to their offense? Might they consider playing LeBron James at center with four more perimeter players around them?
This is the type of uncertainty the Warriors' personnel incites. And while we know the Cavaliers' offense will prevail, Golden State's defense more than makes up the per-possession offensive gap currently sitting between these two teams, according to NBA.com.
And yet, under the circumstances, in this one game, there is reason for the Cavaliers to be optimistic.
To start off, Game 1 is the perfect contest for an underdog to steal. Both teams are still feeling each other out, and in the Warriors' case, they haven't played since May 22nd—roughly 10 days. That's a long time. And though the Cavaliers haven't taken the court since May 25th, it was the Warriors who came out flat and stale and off-balance for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals after enjoying a protracted rest period. James infamously isn't a fan of extended breaks in the playoffs, but he knows how to handle them—how to prepare for games when he's not playing them. The Warriors have experience doing that as well, but when you deploy such a freewheeling offense, rhythm is an important aspect of your success. It can take quarters, sometimes whole games, to regain your offensive groove.
Beyond this, the Cavaliers have been shooting the lights out of the ball all postseason. The Warriors' defense is a different animal, but that won't change much. James is still going to reach the rim on command, Kyrie Irving is going to score in one-on-one situations and the Cavaliers are going to knockdown a healthy amount of three-pointers.
Hitting a high percentage of your shots against the Warriors is crucial—especially if they're threes. And it just so happens no one has hit more threes per game in the playoffs than the Cavaliers. Successfully playing this way not only diminishes the talent variance, because your shots are typically worth more, but making shots at all forces the Warriors to inbound the ball, thus allowing you to get your defense set.
The more the Cavaliers keep the Warriors out of transition, the better shot they have. Deterring their fast-break attack for an entire series is impossible, but coming off this much rest, in a single game, it's most certainly plausible.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (-7)
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