NBA fans get what they expected on Thursday night, when the Golden State Warriors host the Cleveland Cavaliers yet again to kick start another NBA Finals series. The two sides clash for the third consecutive season, as Golden State claimed their first title in nearly 40 years two seasons ago in a 4-2 series win over the Cavs and LeBron James and co. stormed back from a 3-1 hole to “win one for the land” last year.
A lot of history has been made between these two teams, as Stephen Curry and LeBron James played huge roles in unearthing two dormant franchises and also making this one of the unlikeliest rivalries in recent memory. Most of us are accustomed to wanting (or seeing) the likes of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics duking it out for the right to be named champion, but new days are upon us. The same NBA Finals matchup can be annoying to some, it really is the best matchup we could hope for, as it continues to pit the two very best teams in pro basketball against each other.
There will be storylines aplenty to manage, as the Cavs (51-31) and Warriors (67-15) both have reason to believe they can win their second ever NBA title. The Dubs have been the favorite all year after blowing a 3-1 lead in last year’s Finals, as they clearly had a repeat title within their grasp. Golden State got reinforcements with the addition of Kevin Durant and will look to use his desire to get his first NBA championship, as well as home court advantage, to finish the job this time around.
Cleveland won’t have quite as strong of a narrative as they did last year when they sought the franchise’s first NBA title with their backs against the wall. Regardless, the Cavs are somehow being seen as underdogs, even though they look as good as ever in their pursuit to defend their title. There’s no telling if they can make good on their new promise to “defend” the land, but we could very easily be headed for another intense 7-game series. Picking the series winner is a gamble, and picking each individual game winner could be even more difficult. Join us as we attempt to do so going into Thursday’s game one at the Oracle Arena:
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors Pick
It’s a little odd that the Cavs are clear underdogs going into this series, but considering that’s the case, we shouldn’t be shocked in the least to see Golden State (-7) hold the edge over the Cavs (+7). In fact, we might want to think long and hard about taking advantage of a spread this nice.
The Warriors might not be a team we want to mess with, we get it. After all, they are seeking revenge after losing the title in horrific fashion last year, they haven’t lost yet (12-0) during this current playoff run and they will naturally want to send a message early on with this series starting on their home floor. There is a lot to like about the Warriors, too. This was the NBA’s most efficient offense during the regular season and even though it lost some size and depth in order to land KD, it still turned in the 3rd most efficient defense.
Durant doesn’t just provide the Dubs with an elite offense weapons (although he certainly does with over 25 points per game during the playoff so far), but he also offers solid defense and perhaps most importantly, a high level shot-blocking presence. More importantly, Durant has paved the way for a healthy Stephen Curry to make up for what was a disappointing title run a year ago. Curry has been en fuego this year, as he’s averaged nearly 29 points per game during the playoffs and has played a huge hand in Golden State winning 10 of their 12 playoff games by 10+ points.
The big problem with trusting the Dubs is they clearly shrunk against the Cavs in a big spot last year and we saw glimpses of that in game one of the Western Conference Finals. For almost three quarters the San Antonio Spurs seemed to have this team figured out and it arguably took a Kawhi Leonard ankle injury for Golden State to get their swagger back.
Does that mean the Cavs will for sure be in Golden State’s head and race out to a win in game one or manage to win the series? Not necessarily, but right out of the gates the Cavs aren’t getting enough respect. It’s not as if this team doesn’t have the best player in the world, either. King James has been as dominant as ever this year, averaging over 32 points per game during Cleveland’s (nearly) impeccable postseason run, where they lost just one game. That game also required magic via a heroic rally by an otherwise defeated Celtics team in the Eastern Conference Finals.
There really isn’t much to be said about the Cavs that is negative. They were tops in the NBA in three point percentage on the year, they attack offensively as good as anyone and their awful regular season defense has given way to a more inspired style of play in the games that truly matter.
With LeBron James and company dialed in, I can’t see the Warriors putting their stamp on this series with a blowout win. Instead, it’s important to note both teams have everything you want in a champion and odds are neither will be backing down anytime soon. If we’re headed for a blood bath, we should probably treat game one as such, as well. You don’t need to bet on the Cavs to get the upset win in game one, but you certainly should take the points.