No Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving, no problem.
The Cavaliers’ 95-93 overtime upset at Golden State in Game 2 of the NBA Finals as an 8-point underdog (+290 on the moneyline) revealed several things about both squads that should be interesting to watch unfold as the series now shifts to a best-of-five with the next two games played at The Q in Cleveland beginning Tuesday night. The Cavs are 1-point favorites.
Despite Cleveland now having home court advantage, the Warriors are still listed by MGM Resorts as -230 favorite to win the series, which is only 30 cents off from where the series opened before Game 1. The big difference in not seeing much of a price shift is the absence of Kyrie Irving who will be out the remainder of the series and worth at least 2-points to the number.
After seeing the Cavs battle in Game 2 where they outrebounded the Warriors 55-45 and played a stifling defense that cooled off the ‘splash brothers’ to 6 of 27 shooting from beyond the arch, you have to kind of wonder if the Warriors are in trouble. Golden State has been playing life on the edge throughout the postseason, where they live and die by the jump-shot. They have played well below their rating by covering only eight of 17 playoff games.
Perhaps the most glaring notation that the Warriors have played below their stellar top rating from the regular season has been the flow of their games where opponents have dictated pace. The sports books have been trying to keep up with the pace by adjusting the totals downward, but Golden State has still gone 12-4-1 to the UNDER during the playoffs. And now in Game 3, the total set at 194.5 is the third lowest we’ve seen on the Warriors all season – the other two went OVER.
As each of the series has gone on, teams get a better feel of how to harass what the Warriors want to do. Obviously they are the better team and have won 13 of the 17 playoff games, but the one difference in this series is that the team on the other side has the best player in the game. It’s not only about LeBron James’ scoring and rebounding, but also the combination of him being a coach of the floor and a psychologist in the locker room.
After 44 points in Game 1 and 39 in Game 2, where he also had 16 rebounds and 11 assists, we’re seeing perhaps the greatest Finals performance ever unfolding.
Cleveland has muddied the game up by playing to the Warriors weakness which is being physical and getting into the paint. They’re frustrating the Warriors by slowing the game down and not letting them get into a rhythm. The Grizzlies did a good job of that as well as they took the series to 6 with five of the games staying well UNDER the total.
The big difference between their game plan and the Cavs is LeBron being able to continually take it to the rack and score or get fouled. In Game 2, the plan worked so well that even though they shot only 32.6 percent from the field – a Finals record low for a winning team – the gritty pace was in their favor.
I said before the series that I was concerned about the Warriors lack of an inside game and relying on their jump shots because those type of teams don‘t win NBA titles. In a grueling series that is tight and the chips are on the line, you need that player on the low post that can make the high percentage shot up close. Stephen Curry is the greatest shooter I have ever seen, and he’ll probably make a few big shots in this series before it’s over, but I’d rather have the horse wearing No. 23 driving to the basket in a close game than relying on a Curry jump shot.
And there will be a few more close ones to come.
When Irving was listed as out, not many gave the Cavs a chance to win the series. Between the combination of sports books adjusting and bettors laying the series price, the Warriors went from -450/+370 all the way up to -700/+500 by game time. The Cavs are still considerable underdogs, but I’m starting to like David over Goliath a little more after Game 2 as long as King James is healthy.
Battle Royal for first
A fun and unique three-game series started Monday with the Twins one game ahead of the Royals for first place in the AL Central. It’s a rivalry we don‘t think too much about because there really hasn‘t been one. Despite the Twins and Royals being in the same division since 1969, the two teams have had only one season where they finished 1-2 in the division. That was 1987 when the Twins ended up winning the World Series. KC hasn’t won a division title since 1985 when they won the World Series. Seeing both teams play well is kind of a refreshing scene on the baseball landscape.
At the beginning of the season the betting public was loving the Royals chances of making the playoffs again and winning the World Series this time around. The odds dropped from 30-to-1 down to 5-1. Meanwhile, the Twins were 100-1 – just like in 1991 when they won the World Series – and have been lowered to 40-1 with not too much public appeal.
Micah Roberts is a former Las Vegas race and sports book director, one of The Linemakers on SportingNews.com , and longtime motorsports columnist and sports analyst at GamingToday. Follow Micah on Twitter @MicahRoberts7 Contact Micah at [email protected].