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Within a matter of days we will know this season’s NBA Champion.

Will Golden State be able to cap a remarkable season in which it led the NBA with 67 regular season wins?

Or will LeBron James lead his Cleveland Cavaliers to its first NBA Title and the first major professional sports championship for the city in 51 years, accomplishing a goal he set when he returned home last summer?

As we go to press on Monday the odds heavily favor Golden State after the Warriors took a 3-2 lead with a 104-91 win Sunday night. Golden State opened as 4.5 point road favorites for Tuesday’s Game 6 in Cleveland with the Total at 195 (ironically, the consensus Closing Total for Game 5 that resulted in a Totals push).

Golden State’s wins in both Games 4 and 5 were very similar. Both games were competitive at the end of three quarters. In fact, Golden State held a 6 point lead in both games with just one quarter remaining, although both games had developed quite differently to that point.

In Game 4 Golden State overcame an early 7-0 deficit to take a 7 point lead after the first quarter and extend the lead to a dozen points at the half. The Cavaliers made a run in the third quarter to pull within 6 points after three quarters before the Warriors outscored Cleveland 27-12 in the final 12 minutes to win by 21 points. In their comeback the Cavs did pull to within 3 points before fatigue resulted in that horrible fourth quarter.

Game 5 was competitive throughout. Even though the Warriors led by 6 at the end of three quarters a James 3 pointer with 8.5 minutes left in the fourth quarter gave Cleveland a brief 80-79 lead. But then the Warriors took control, outscoring the Cavs 25-11 over those final 8.5 minutes to reward their backers and frustrate Cleveland bettors by covering the 9.5 pointspread. The first time the Warriors led by more than the spread was when they took a 96-86 lead with 2:44 left in the game.

As the season and the Finals series wears on, depth, or lack thereof, takes a greater and greater toll. We have seen this in the last two games as the Warriors were able to win the end game and go from a 2-1 deficit to a 3-2 lead heading into Game 6 – the first elimination game of this series.

Heading into the Finals the thought expressed here was that this would be a very competitive series with the Cavs the choice to win in 6 games. That prediction was predicated on a healthy Kyrie Irving being able to play reasonably effectively throughout.

But when Irving was lost for the balance of the series when he busted his kneecap in the overtime period of Game 1 the entire complexion of the series changed.

With Irving joining Kevin Love on the sidelines 40 percent of the Cavaliers’ starting lineup was lost for the duration. That created a void virtually impossible to overcome over the remainder of the series.

To their credit, and highlighting just how great a player LeBron James is, the Cavs found a way to win both Games 2 and 3. But you could see how fatigued James was at the end of those games. He basically carried his team to those two wins with mostly marginal support from his lesser talented teammates.

Then we saw how Games 3 and 5 played out with the Warriors imposing their will – and hitting their shots against a tired Cavs team – in the final quarter.

Even though Game 6 is being played in Cleveland (as were Games 3 and 4) we could see a similar scenario unfold. Cleveland, facing elimination, will bring all they have for as long as they can in an attempt to force a seventh game.

This might make for a first half play on Cleveland at a price of +2 to +2.5.

Ultimately it would not be a surprise if the Warriors come back to wrap up the title with another fourth quarter in which the Cavs are worn down. A better case can be made for laying the 4.5 with Golden State than in taking the points with the Cavs, but the first half play on Cleveland should be a better play than a full game play.

Of course, would it really be a surprise if James leads the Cavs to another upset win to force a Game 7?

Given his performance throughout this season – and the entire post season for that matter – anyone who criticized LeBron does so out of hatred, jealously, ignorance or stupidity – and probably a combination of all four.

This is his fifth straight trip to the Finals. Through five games he’s averaged 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game. Those stats are among the best ever posted in the NBA Finals. He’s had a pair of triple doubles in those five games, giving him six for his NBA Finals career and 14 overall in the Playoffs.

Even if Golden State wins the NBA Finals in six or seven games, it would not be a surprise if James becomes only the second player in NBA history to win the Finals MVP as a member of the losing team, joining Jerry West of the Lakers nearly a half century ago. Ironically, West won the award in 1969, the first season the NBA named a Finals MVP, when the Lakers lost to Boston in seven games.

If Cleveland does force a Game 7 it would be played on Friday, giving both teams two nights of rest rather than the one night that separates Games 5 and 6. Even though Cleveland would likely benefit more than Golden State from the extra rest, most other factors would again favor the hosts.

The Warriors would likely be close to 10 point favorites (the line for Game 5 opened 8.5 and closed 9.5). It would be very tough for Cleveland to be as competitive in a Game 7 as they were in Game 5 but 10 points would still be a huge number to lay.

In Game 7 the best play might also be a play in the first half but this time it would be on Golden State, looking to get off to a quick start to make amends for not closing out the series in Game 6. The line would likely be in the range of -5 to -6 but even at that number the Warriors are worth considering.

Should the Cavs manage to win both Games 6 and 7 and claim the NBA Title in James’ first season back in Cleveland it would be hard not to include James in a discussion of the greatest players of all time.

Such an accomplishment would even his Finals record at 3-3 and he would have won titles with two different teams. And, given the change in the Cavs in the four years he was in Miami, it could be argued he led three, rather than just two, different teams to the NBA Finals.

Regardless of how it turns out, this season’s NBA Finals has delivered more than many expected. The TV Ratings have been great, the drama has been high and the storylines have been many.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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