I got a little outside of my comfort zone last night, laying double digits in a Conference Finals game, but the Cavaliers shook off the rust in about twelve minutes and made it one of the most stress-free wagers of the postseason. They laid waste to the Raptors in the second quarter and coasted to a 31 point win. I think it is a sign of things to come and, as I wrote yesterday, a sweep is in quick order. Perhaps Toronto gets hot and salvages a game at home, but without their big man Valancunias, it feels like the Cavs just have WAY too much for Toronto to handle.
And just in case people are casually omitting LeBron from the “best player on Earth” discussion all of a sudden, he provided a nice reminder of why he isn’t just still in the conversation, he is the opening sentence – and he does it so much differently than any other superstar in the last twenty years. He threw in a casual 24 points last night. He started shooting 9 of 9 from the floor and finished 11 of 13. The fascinating thing about LeBron, to me, is not how efficient he was but how restrained. What other superstar in the NBA who was 9 for 9 from the floor wouldn’t start hoisting heat-checks and get up 25 to 30 shots? Not LeBron. It’s all about winning.
I am still not ready to move to the “Cavaliers are the favorite” camp, but I am now more and more convinced a loss to the Warriors is not a foregone conclusion. They can beat Golden State.
But will they even HAVE to??
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Today’s Free Pick:
Oklahoma City Thunder at Golden State Warriors -8.5
It is wise to not overreact to a single game in a playoff series. Vegas hasn’t. The Dubs are still an overwhelming favorite in Game Two, despite losing Game One on a night where neither Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, or the Thunder played their best games. They smartly realize that the Warriors shot terribly, well beyond two statistical standards of deviation more poorly, and that it is likely they drift back towards their mean tonight. That’s a nerdy way of saying that the Warriors shot improbably badly, and it wasn’t particularly defense-driven. Those shots will likely fall more often tonight.
But is that enough to equate to a double-digit victory?
The things that frightens me about laying that fat spread is that as much as the Warriors shooting should regress to the mean, Durant and Westbrook shot a combined 17 of 51, far below their normal efficiency as well. If they can get closer to 50% from the floor, as well as creating foul shot opportunities, the massive shift back to the mean could be relatively negated.
These two teams have played tight games head to head. The Warriors are 6-4 in their last ten, but only won easily twice. The Thunder have now won three straight road games against teams that were a combined 79-3 at home in the regular season – pretty mind-boggling stuff. There is NO FEAR in these Thunder of going on the road, and I think they are loaded up for a knockout haymaker tonight.
I’ll take the Warriors to make a few more plays and edge this game out at home, but I don’t think it will be nearly as easy as Vegas does. Look for a tight, tense, VERY competitive game. I’ll take the Thunder with the points and see if we can notch our fourth win in five NBA plays.