Well, this is a familiar matchup. For the fourth straight year, the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers will meet in the NBA Finals (Game 1: 9pm ET Thursday on ABC).
The Warriors won in 2015 and 2017, while the Cavs won in 2016. Golden State had to beat the San Antonio Spurs, New Orleans Pelicans and Houston Rockets to get to this point this year. Cleveland defeated the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics in the first three rounds.
Thursday’s Game 1 of this matchup in Golden State should go the Warriors’ way, given their far superior talent, but the Cavs do have LeBron James, the best player in the NBA.
James has led his lackluster supporting cast to many unexpected wins in this postseason, with spectacular averages of 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game in the playoffs. However, the Warriors have four All-Stars and two former MVPs.
Let’s discuss what factors will swing this one way or the other before deciding on the best betting choices for this Cavs at Warriors Game 1 preview with our predictions and picks.
How Many Warriors Turnovers Can Cavs Force?
The Warriors’ turnover issues have reared their ugly head at several different points in both the regular season and playoffs of the past few years. They haven’t usually doomed the team, but it’s the main thing that can allow inferior teams to keep up with them.
When Cleveland opponents have at least 13 turnovers in this postseason, the Cavs have a 7-1 record. When opponents have fewer than 13 miscues, the Cavs are just 5-5. That 5-5 record comes against the Indiana Pacers, Toronto Raptors and injury-riddled Boston Celtics, not the vaunted Warriors.
Cleveland has a three-point shooting game that thrives when it gets going in transition when opponents don’t have time to match up. The squad usually moves the ball very well in these situations, which is not the case in the half-court offensive possessions. On those possessions, LeBron James usually holds the ball for most of the clock before making his move for a shot or pass.
Can Warriors Get a Fifth Player to Step Up?
The Warriors have four All-Stars: Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. Honestly, if all four of those guys are their normal selves and every other Warrior who plays is absolutely horrible, Golden State would probably still win this game.
However, Golden State is absolutely unbeatable when it has a fifth player playing well, often in a five-man lineup with Curry, Durant, Thompson and Green. Andre Iguodala is usually that guy, but he’s dealing with a knee injury and it is doubtful he will play in Game 1. The Warriors were a plus-60 with him on the floor and a minus-26 with him off the floor in last year’s Finals series.
That last player could be Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell, Nick Young, Shaun Livingston or even Patrick McCaw, who recently returned from a serious back injury. However, Golden State needs respectable play on both ends of the floor from at least one of those guys if it wants to cover the spread in this contest.
What is Kevin Love’s Status?
Love suffered a concussion in Game 6 of the Cavs’ previous series against the Celtics. Cleveland did really well without him subbing in guys like Jeff Green and Larry Nance Jr., but that was against a shorthanded Celtics team.
Golden State arguably has four players better than anyone on the Celtics’ roster, and Cleveland just barely won its series against Boston. This means that the Cavs need LeBron James’ teammates to majorly step up in this series, or it could be over very quickly.
Love is still questionable for Game 1, but if he is back and confidently looking for his offense, the Cavs will be much tougher to contend with. He is the one guy aside from LeBron who can really explode as a big source of offense. If Love plays but still isn’t all the way recovered, though, he then becomes an even bigger liability on defense than normal, and he also wouldn’t help the team that much on offense.
Our Preview’s Cavs at Warriors Game 1 Betting Picks & Predictions
LeBron James often uses Game 1 to get a feel for his opponent and the Warriors are just so much better than the Cavs on paper. The most likely outcome, to me, for this game is that the Cavs will get down by double digits in the second half, and pull the plug early knowing that it only counts as one game whether the Warriors win by one point or 40 points. Expect a relatively easy victory for Golden State here.
- The Warriors are favored by 12.5 to 13 points on the spread with most USA sports betting sites. The smart choice is betting on the Warriors -12.5pts @ -108 with BetOnline. It is -110 elsewhere.
- With a little bit longer layoff for both teams, this game’s pace should be on the higher side. Also, the prolific Golden State offense against the terrible Cavs defense looks like a recipe for lots of points. Take the over on a surprisingly low line of 214pts @ -105 with BetOnline, who once again have the current best odds.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.