NBA Finals: Does Cleveland Stand Any Chance Against Golden State?
Let’s go ahead and answer the question in the headline: no, Cleveland doesn’t stand a chance. None. We get it, “never say never.” While that adage rings true, and crazier things have happened in sports (just look at the Golden Knights miracle run currently ongoing in NHL), it’ll take a rash of injuries to derail Golden State’s back-to-back championship bid.
Our friends at TopBet are pegging the Cavs at +650 to pull off the series upset. Similarly, they are +12.5 underdogs in Game 1 on Thursday — the most for a Finals opener since 2001. This has to be one of the biggest championship mismatches in modern NBA history.
However, that doesn’t mean the Finals has no betting value. A hefty sum can be earned by picking the series length. Will the Warriors use the broomsticks and pull off a sweep? Or will LeBron James single-handedly make this series interesting?
Exact Series Result: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
The last time an NBA Finals ended in a sweep was 2007, which coincidentally was James’ first NBA Finals appearance against San Antonio. More than a decade later, James’ situation feels eerily similar, only worse.
Once again, he’s run into a dynasty. Those Spurs had won two titles in four years. These Warriors have two in three seasons.
Likewise, James is seemingly doing it all by himself. Names like Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas have been swapped for Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, and Kyle Korver. Only one of James’ teammate is averaging double-digit points during the postseason this year, as opposed to three in 2007.
The lone advantage James has nowadays is himself. He’s way better than his 22-year-old self, evident by his jaw-dropping playoff stat line of 34 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. While James is stirring up the conversation for greatest player of all time, he can’t outplay four All-Stars alone.
Ultimately, defense — or lack thereof — will be Cleveland’s downfall. They don’t have the physicality nor rim protector to mimic Houston’s success against Golden State.
While the Cavs defensive rating (105.9) ranks second among postseason teams, behind only the Dubs, this is an entirely different challenge. It’s not hyperbole to say Golden State has more offensive firepower than Cleveland’s previous three foes combined. We’ll take Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, and Klay Thompson over Victor Oladipo, DeMar Derozan, and Jayson Tatum in a heartbeat.
The only thing going in Cleveland’s favor is Andre Iguodala remains out with a leg contusion. If such a thing as “LeBron stopper” exists, then Iggy is the closest thing to it. He’s already been ruled out for Game 1, but could return later.
His absence gives the Cavs a meager chance to steal a game early. Well, that is if Kevin Love isn’t out too. Love’s status is up in the air as he remains in concussion protocol.
We poured through any and every stat to find any reason to believe Cleveland can compete with Golden State, but that was like finding a needle in the haystack. With that, we’re picking Golden State to sweep.
While Dubs in five games (+150) is a popular choice, we’re not as optimistic. You can’t throw a roster together at the trade deadline and expect to compete with the greatest dynasty since the early 2000’s Lakers. This series won’t be remotely close so wager Warrior’s spreads game-by-game while you’re at it.
Pick: Warriors sweep (+235)
Bonus bet: NBA Finals MVP
Assuming Golden State wins their third championship in four years, MVP honors is practically a toss-up between Durant (+110) and Curry (+150). Durant took home the hardware a year ago, while Curry, for all his greatness, has never won the award — until now.
While Curry will never publically acknowledge it, he needs this plaque more than anyone. His legacy needs it. Curry is a two-time regular season MVP, the face of the franchise, and the greatest three-point shooter in league history. But for all that, he’s played just “ok” the previous three Finals.
This time out, he won’t have Kyrie Irving opposite him. George Hill takes Irving’s place, and that’s a huge boost for Curry’s MVP chances. Not chasing around the dynamic Irving on defense will give Curry more energy to do what he does best — make plays on offense.
After battling injuries, Curry is finally healthy and peaking at the right time. Over the past five games, he’s averaging 28.2 points a game on 47 percent shooting — and that was against a stingy Houston unit. Curry should feast against a very vulnerable Cavs defense.
Pick: Steph Curry (+110)
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