Not so fast, said the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The NBA season lives on another day, thanks in large part to a historically brilliant offensive performance from LeBron, Kyrie, and the entire Cleveland Cavaliers roster. It started with a record-setting 49-point opening quarter, continued with a record-setting 87 point half, and finished with a record-shattering 23 three point field goals netted. That’s a lot of record setting, and not shockingly, it was more than enough to extend the series and force a Game Five back in the Bay tonight.
It wasn’t the closest game of the series, in fact like two others before it, it was a blowout. But it was easily the most COMPELLING game of the series. Perhaps the drama would have been different if it were the offensively historic Warriors running away and hiding, but because it was the reverse, even at double digit margins, there was always the menacing possibility of another Warriors run breaking the heart of The Land. There were chippy, physical moments. There was a Draymond ejection/un-ejection shrouded in controversy, a Zaza cup-check, and more than a few tense moments. There was also a bright enough flash of Cleveland brilliance to consider the possibility that this series could still get even more compelling…
Are we done tonight? Do the Warriors finish off the Cavs with ease now that they’ve returned home to friendly Oracle Arena, or do the ghosts of last year’s 3-1 get even more haunting?
Today’s NBA Pick:
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors -8.5 (Total: 231)
Two interesting things to note about this game from a Vegas standpoint. One, the Warriors have easily covered double-digit margins in the first two games at home in this series, but it is exceptionally rare for an NBA Finals game to see a team favored by close to double digits. Two, these games have been so rife with offensive explosions that a 116-114 Warriors win would hit the UNDER tonight. That’s pretty crazy stuff in 2017 NBA basketball.
So, is Vegas right? Will tonight be another high-flying up-tempo game? Everyone told the Cavs they had to slow it down if they wanted to survive, and all they did was score 49 points in the first quarter. However, in the second half, the game did tighten considerably and become much more physical and much more deliberate. The second half combined tally was just 99 points, barely eclipsing the individual first half performance from Cleveland. I would expect there to be plenty of offense again tonight, but a similarly belt-tightening defensive shift as the game grows later.
It is hard to bet against the Warriors winning the series tonight. They rarely lose at home and have thoroughly dominated the Cavaliers in Oracle in this series. It took a literally historically unprecedented offensive half of basketball to beat the Warriors in Cleveland. Asking them to replicate that effort two days later, on the road nonetheless, is a tough ask.
Alas, I like the Warriors, but I like the UNDER 231 even more. If Cleveland hangs around, the game will be tight and physical. Look for a second half of Game Four-like performance. If the Warriors DO get hot early and forge a substantial lead, then it might be hard for Cleveland to speed up the game late as the Warriors look to limit possessions slightly to secure the title.
I wished you all a farewell in the Game Four column, but this time, I think we can all agree it is likely we’ll chat hoops again in October…
Today’s NBA Pick: POINT TOTAL UNDER 231