Following their impressive recovery from a three-games-to-one deficit in the Western Conference Finals to defeat Oklahoma City, the defending NBA Champion Golden State Warriors rode that momentum with what has to be classified as a most interesting win in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Eastern Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Warriors won, 104-89, with a dominant fourth quarter performance that had the lead up to 20 points following a mostly competitive first three quarters of play. But that’s not what made the win so interesting. Nor was the fact that, despite leading much of the contest, including by double digits at times, the Warriors actually trailed 68-67 in the third quarter.
What made Game 1 so interesting was the scoring distribution that included Golden State’s big guns – Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson – scoring just 20 combined points on 8 for 27 shooting. Seven Warriors scored in double figures, showing just how deep Golden State is.
Sunday night’s Game 2 was not all that much different although Cleveland did play well early in the contest. The Cavs led 28-22 two minutes into the second quarter before the Warriors took control, building an 8-point lead at halftime that was extended to 34 points before winning by 33, 110-77.
Curry (18) and Thompson (17) combined for 35 points on 13-for-24 shooting but Draymond Green had the biggest game for the Warriors, scoring 28 to lead Golden State.
In winning by a combined 48 points the Warriors set the new record for largest points differential in the first two games of an NBA Finals.
Of course, despite the record margins of victory, all that Golden State did was hold serve by winning at home. The pressure clearly shifts to Cleveland for Wednesday’s Game 3 and again for Game 4 on Friday.
In order to win the NBA Title the Cavs will have to win at least one game in Golden State but unless their level of play picks up dramatically in the next two games the Finals may not return to the Bay area.
Cleveland’s Kevin Love was banged up during Sunday’s game and is going through the NBA’s concussion protocol. His status for Game 3 is uncertain as of Monday morning although the early lines that showed up offshore shortly after Game 2 ended had Cleveland a 1-point home favorite, which suggests Love will play. The early money did come in on Golden State and as of mid-morning Monday the consensus line was a Pick ‘em.
After the first two games produced total points of 193 and 187 the Total for Game 3 has been adjusted downward by about a trey, ranging from 206 to 207.
It’s long been said, a best of seven series does not gain its identity until the road team wins a game.
It may be tempting to make a play on Cleveland to win on Wednesday and pull within 2-1. But the Warriors have presented problems for the Cavs in the first two games that may not be easy to overcome.
LeBron James has gotten very little support from both Love and Kyrie Irving, whose absence from last season’s Finals, that went six games, gave reason to believe that duo could be what would propel the Cavs to this season’s Title.
But through two games Irving and Love are a combined 21 for 60 as the Warriors have played great defense.
Golden State is clearly the better of the two teams, even with Irving and Love in the lineup for Cleveland. The Warriors won both regular season meetings, making it 7 straight wins over the Cavs dating back to winning the last 3 games of last season’s Finals after trailing 2-1.
What Golden State has done to Cleveland thus far makes what Oklahoma City did against the Warriors ever more impressive.
If Cleveland is going to make this a series they will have to win Game 3 on Wednesday. But the best wagering opportunity for this series may be in backing Golden State in Game 4, regardless of the outcome of Game 3.
If the Warriors win on Wednesday and are in position to complete the sweep, they should be favored to do so in Friday’s Game 4. Should the Cavs get the win on Wednesday, the Warriors will bring added intensity to avoid making this a best-of-three series heading back home for Game 5.
It’s easier to make a case for the Warriors to win both games in Cleveland than vice versa. A split of the two games is a very realistic scenario with the Cavs more likely to win Game 3 than Game 4.
Had the Cavs been more competitive in dropping the first two games there might be more confidence in expecting the Cavs to extend this series to perhaps even the full seven games, which was the prediction in this column last week.
And whereas a Game 7 series would mean a Warriors’ win at home, that would be the same location for a Warriors win in 5 games.
Barring a four-game sweep by the Warriors, the final NBA column for this season will be in next week’s GamingToday with a look at how the Finals might play out with Game 5 scheduled for next Monday, June 13, and a potential Game 7 scheduled for the following Sunday, June 19.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]