Warriors in 5

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Starting the week the NBA Finals has the expected result after the first two games have been played as Golden State defeated the Cavaliers twice on its home court to take a 2-0 lead to Cleveland where Games 3 and 4 will be played this Wednesday and Friday.

Of course Cleveland could easily have gained the home court advantage with a win in Game 1 but for a combination of bumbling officials and a brainlock on the part of the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith in their 124-114 overtime loss.

Game 2 went much more according to form as Golden State won by 19 points, 122-103. The Cavs actually performed better than expected and even outscored the Warriors, 34-31, in the third quarter, a quarter usually controlled by Golden State throughout the season.

Including the Playoffs, the Warriors outscored their opponents in the third quarter in 68 games, were outscored in 33 and had no ties. Their third quarter “winning percentage” of 67.3 percent was way the best in the NBA with Denver next best at 62.2 and Philadelphia at 59.8.

Even with that accomplishment the Cavs entered the fourth quarter down by 10 and the Warriors proceeded to lengthen that lead, outscoring Cleveland 32-23 over the final 12 minutes.

Andre Iguodala again did not play for Golden State and his status for Game 3 and beyond remains questionable. Whereas we witnessed a game effort (pardon the pun) from Cleveland in Game 1 the second showed LeBron James cannot do it all when the Warriors are focused and play their preferred game.

This series could well become a four game sweep although the Cavs could pull out at least (and likely no more than) one win on their home court.

Immediately following Game 2 Sunday night Golden State opened as a 5.5 point road favorite for Wednesday’s Game 3 but at many books was quickly bet down to -5. The line “adjustment” for the change in venue represents a 3 to 4 point home court factor as the Warriors closed Game 1 as a consensus 13 point home favorite and an 11.5 point chalk in Game 2.

It was not as tough to make a case for Cleveland in Game 1 as the double digit line was historically high for an NBA Finals contest. In the 2001 NBA Finals the Lakers were 12 point home favorites over Philadelphia in Game 1 (and lost outright) and were favored by 11.5 in Game 2 (which they won but failed to cover). The Lakers would win the series in five games, not losing again following that Game 1 upset.

Interestingly, in the eight regular season meetings over the past four seasons in which the Cavs and Warriors have met in the NBA Finals only, one went OVER the Total with seven staying UNDER, including both regular season meetings this season and last.

In their first two NBA Finals meetings the teams played seven UNDERS, four OVERS and two pushes. One of the OVERS needed overtime to get there.

In last season’s Finals the first game stayed UNDER the Total (by 20.5 points) but the next four went OVER – three of the games by at least 18 points. There were no overtime games in last season’s Finals.

Game 1 of these Finals ended OVER the Total due to overtime but had either just stayed UNDER or pushed when the score was tied at the end of regulation at 107 apiece. Sunday’s Game 2 went OVER by 9 points.

Cleveland is worth a play as a home underdog in Game 3 in the range of +5 to +6. Should the Cavs pull the outright upset, the play in Game 4 would be on the Warriors as favorites in roughly the same range.

If the Cavs lose Game 3 but cover the spread it might be best to pass on Game 4. If the Warriors win and cover Game 3 then a play in Game 4 might best hinge on the pointspread, needing at least +7 to back the Cavs facing elimination in a sweep or laying 4 or less to back the Warriors to complete the sweep.

Should there be a Game 5 back at Golden State, the Warriors, likely again double digit favorites, would be the play to either end the Finals in 5 games or to take a 3-2 lead in the unlikely event Cleveland swept both games on its home court.

The forecast here remains Golden State in five games. Cleveland is likely to shoot better on its home court than at Golden State so the OVER remains the preferred play with Totals in the range of 215 to 218.

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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