After trading games three and four in Cleveland, the NBA Finals are all tied up at two games apiece. The series heads back to Oakland and here’s our Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors game five preview (8pm ET, Sunday on ABC).
After the first two games were split, the Cleveland Cavaliers entered game three with renewed purpose and a looming sense of achievement. A win would be their first ever NBA Finals victory on their homecourt. It was something that the great LeBron James teams could never achieve. The Cavaliers were focused, at one time taking a 20-point lead and holding the NBA’s best shooting team to just 37 first half points.
For Cleveland, taking that lead was vital because the Golden State Warriors fought back. Down 17 points to open the fourth quarter, the Warriors did what they have done all series. They picked the game’s final period to fight and claw and in doing so, they came within one point of the Cavaliers. The Warriors scored 36 points in the final quarter, despite their star and defending NBA MVP having a less than stellar game. Stephen Curry shot just 10-20 from the floor and while he totaled 27 points, missed opportunities were what ultimately cost the Warriors. Well, that and the 40 points and 12 rebounds laid down by James.
Game four then became must win for the Warriors. They needed to take one on the road and that wasn’t an impossible task. Golden State was the best road team in the NBA this year. And there was also the comparison. The Warriors were down 2-1 to the Memphis Grizzlies in the postseason this year and came back to win. Surely they could do it again.
But Cleveland was determined to go back to Oakland with a 3-1 lead. They opened the game on a 7-0 run and the crowd, hungry for a championship, exploded. Golden State fought back to cut the lead to 7-5, but another run had the Cavs up 14-7 and 16-9 early in the first quarter. It wasn’t until four minutes remained that the Warriors took their first lead of the game.
By the time the first half came to an end, the Warriors were up by 12 points. They expanded upon this lead in the third, keeping Cleveland at arm’s length for the remainder of the quarter. When the fourth quarter started, the Warriors led by six but when the final buzzer rang, Golden State had won by 21, giving James the largest home loss in his career.
Golden State again weathered a poor shooting night from Curry, largely as a result of the offense and defense of Andre Igoudala. Igoudala had a season-high 22 points in the win, matching Curry for team-high of the game. Tasked with guarding James for most of the night, Igoudala held the former champion and MVP to his worst shooting night of the Finals, just 7-22. His plus/minus of -15 was the second worst on the team.
So what does this look down memory lane tell us about what could be in store for game five?
First off, it seems that Golden State has regained the momentum. Game three was a tough loss for the Warriors but the team could take comfort in how they came back to almost win. Also, their two losses in the series were by a combined seven points.
The Warriors boast a strong bench with role players found throughout. David Lee (pictured) had only seven points in 15 minutes but he was crucial in the time he was on the court. The same goes for Draymond Green, who with starters minutes, put in his best game of the Finals as well.
While Golden State can rely on its bench for some level of consistency, such is not the case for the Cavaliers. After game three, I said that it was much more likely that James didn’t score 40 than to see Curry have such an off night shooting. That exact scenario came true in game four. James scored a measly 20 and the Cavs lost by 21. Coincidence? Not at all.
Despite a good game from Matthew Dellavadova here, a solid outing from Timofey Mozgov there, the hard truth for the Cavs is that they need James to be James if they hope to win the championship. They need him to be on for a lion’s share of minutes and they need him to score prolifically. If he doesn’t, outcomes like game four are not going to be all that surprising.
A metaphor I heard on the radio about James likened him to Atlas. He is the man and the world on his shoulders is the Cavaliers team as well as the city and its fans, who haven’t seen a professional sporting championship in 66 years. Even for a player of James’ caliber, that’s a large load to bear. It is one he has done admirably but one that might prove impossible in the end.
Cavaliers at Warriors Game 5 Preview’s Betting Picks
Ultimately, Golden State enters as the favorite, by 8.5 points according to the top offshore sportsbooks. This isn’t surprising. They return home, where both playoff and regular season success has been plentiful and they do so with a healthy roster. In fact, with Lee finally making an impact, it’s fair to say the Warriors might be returning home an even better team than they were when the Finals first began. In conclusion here are our NBA Finals game 5 preview betting picks and predictions:
- Without much hesitation, take the Warriors to come out on top in their first game back at home -8.5pts on the spread @ best odds of -105 with Bovada Sportsbook (the same betting line is currently -110 with Betonline & 5Dimes). If you’re betting futures as well, take the Warriors in game six too. The Cavs are spent while the Warriors, with better coaching and more depth, look as fresh as ever.
- Additionally, put your money on the under of 195. Again this is best @ -105 with Bovada, while 5Dimes and BetOnline both go -110 at time of writing. Given the way Cleveland’s defense has played, only one game this series has topped that total and it was the first game. The tone of the series has shifted since then. It’s a safe bet that game five will continue in this low-scoring, (as far as the Warriors are concerned), trend as well.
Marilee writes on NFL, MLB, NBA & tennis for USA Betting. Another area of her sporting journalistic expertise is pro wrestling. A native of Philadelphia and a big Eagles fan, she has been a sports writer for many major websites including Bleacher Report and Rant Sports. She started her journalistic career early, as sports editor for her college newspaper.