The Cleveland Cavaliers gave the Golden State Warriors all they could handle in game one of the 2018 NBA Finals, but a horrible gaffe by J.R. Smith did them in. With the game tied and 4.6 seconds on the clock, Smith grabbed a rebound and dribbled out the clock, seemingly unaware the Cavs didn’t have the lead:
It was an epic mistake on the biggest stage in basketball and it’s quite possible this is already the beginning of the end of the Cavs.
The good news is Cleveland hung tight to beat the gaudy +13 spread and scored me a win. That marked my third victory in a row and lifted my NBA playoff picks record to 15-12-1. It’s not an amazing record, but being above .500 in any sport is often easier said than done.
I was in a far better spot before the Eastern Conference Finals threw a wrench in my picks, but I’m building positive momentum and fortunately am also ahead of this year’s Finals at the moment.
Let’s see if I can keep the good times rolling in game two, where LeBron James and company try to steal a win and even this thing up at 1-1:
Cleveland Cavaliers (+11.5, -110) @ Golden State Warriors (-11.5, -110) Total: 216 (-105/-115)
I had a feeling the Cavs would keep things tight in game one and they certainly did, with LeBron James almost willing Cleveland to a 1-0 lead behind a crazy 51-point performance. The way they lost had to be pretty deflating, though, so I can see why Vegas is right back where we started with a -11.5 point advantage for the Dubs.
You can look at this two different ways; this spread is again way too thick to not roll with Cleveland, or the Cavs had their chance and blew it.
Personally, I see game one as a good thing for the Cavs. Had it not been for a ridiculous brain fart on behalf of Smith, Cleveland just might win that game. At that point, I’d expect the Dubs to house them in game two to tie the series back up.
However, the pressure is now off the Dubs and they’re at risk of giving one up in game two.
I still think Golden State wins this one and takes the commanding 2-0 series lead, but there is enough here to get on Cleveland’s side when it comes to this inflated point spread.
I touched on the fact that the Dubs just haven’t been that great ATS this year before game one and that doesn’t change going into game two. Cleveland also tends to raise their level of play when Vegas doubts them, but LeBron James clearly looks ready to beast out in every game in this series.
The possible return of Andre Iguodala could give the Dubs a lift on their bench, but that still doesn’t stop King James.
There is also a lot of room for improvement from James’ supporting cast. Kyle Korver hit just one long ball and Cleveland’s bench produced just two outside shots as a whole. Their bench wasn’t atrocious, but Jordan Clarkson was a waste and that group needs to be better.
Kevin Love actually had a solid game as the only starter not named LeGod to really chip in. Despite showing up, he only hit one of eight three balls as Cleveland shot just 27% from long range.
The bench needs to be better, Love needs to hit some of those three-pointers and the starting five needs to get James more help. Larry Nance provided a nice spark off the bench and probably needs to play more, while 13 minutes for an elite floor spacer like Korver simply isn’t enough.
Jordan Clarkson probably shouldn’t play much more in this series. He’s been bad ever since joining the Cavs and he’s just not helping them right now. I’d give Korver more time and maybe even give Rodney Hood a chance to redeem himself.
Defensively, the Cavs predictably gave up too many good looks to the Dubs, who shot 51% from the floor and 36% from deep. It’s scary that Golden State can be even better than that and game two is on their home floor again.
All things considered, Cleveland played a great game and lost because of a stupid mistake.
That’s heart-breaking and teams with a lesser star might cave here, but LeBron James has to smell blood in the water. If he grits out another amazing performance like I have to think he will, Cleveland is being given too long of a leash to ignore.
I loved the Cavs at +13 going into game one and I don’t see how I can pass on them at +11.5 going into game two.
Again, their +550 Moneyline is super alluring and it’s absolutely in play. I’m not fully on board with them winning, though, so I’ll just attack a solid value bet (-110) and bank on them keeping this one relatively tight.