Game 1 of this Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals series wasn’t supposed to be a close contest. Golden State has a much better roster and was playing at home.
However, behind 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists from LeBron James, Cleveland pushed Golden State to overtime before losing 124-114. The Cavs nearly won in spite of poor outside shooting and a clean offensive performance by the Warriors that was aided by officiating that seemed to favor Golden State.
Cleveland guard J.R. Smith made a huge mistake at the end of regulation, passing up a layup to bring the ball out to the perimeter when he thought the Cavs had a lead. It was actually a tie game at the time.
Cleveland will certainly have a bad taste in its mouth heading into Sunday’s Game 2 in Golden State (8 p.m. ET on ABC). Will it be enough to overcome the Warriors’ star-studded roster and home-court advantage? With Game 1 behind us, let’s analyze some key factors that will affect Sunday’s Game 2 contest before making our predictions and betting picks from the USA sportsbooks’ odds.
Can Golden State’s Big Men Step Up On Glass?
Cleveland certainly had an advantage in the rebounding battle in Game 1, out rebounding Golden State 17-4 on the offensive glass and 53-38 overall. Besides LeBron James’ dominant performance, that was the biggest factor in Cleveland nearly winning Game 1.
The Warriors, however, are a better rebounding team than they showed on Thursday. Their main five post players grabbed 18 boards in 95 minutes (one rebound per 5.3 minutes), while the Cavs’ three main post players grabbed 29 boards in 78 minutes (one rebound per 2.7 minutes).
When Golden State can’t secure defensive rebounds consistently, it really messes with the team’s flow in transition on offense. Also, Cleveland is more likely to draw fouls and get easy shots when it stays active on the offensive glass, which it did in Game 1.
Will Cavs Knock Down More Wide Open Threes?
One thing that Cleveland needs to do in this series is hit open threes. This is especially true for LeBron James’ teammates. James loves to force the Warriors’ defense to switch a smaller or slower defender onto him and then create a shot or find a teammate for an open shot when the help defender arrives.
When LeBron’s teammates are hitting their outside shots, the Warriors defenders can’t afford to sag and help on his drives. When they are off their game, LeBron sees a crowd on all of his drives.
In Game 1, non-LeBron Cavs hit just 7-of-30 on their threes (23.3 percent), including 4-of-17 on wide-open shots from behind the arc (23.5 percent). Normally, the success rate on those shots in the average game is above 40 percent.
The Warriors are usually pretty good at not allowing those wide-open shots. But that means it’s all the more important that Cleveland converts on its quality jumpers when it gets the chances.
Will George Hill Re-Emerge As Reliable No. 2 Playmaker?
Ideally, LeBron James won’t have to score 51 points again to keep the Cavs in the game, but it very well could happen. Golden State’s roster has a lot more balance and is capable of getting 30 points apiece from Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on any given night.
Kevin Love is a solid No. 2 scorer for the Cavs, but he is also recovering from the head injury he experienced in the Celtics series. His 21 points were nice to have in Game 1, but it wasn’t a spectacular performance by any means. He is also not so much of a shot-creator — he often scores as a result of teammates setting him up for good shots.
The biggest thing Cleveland needs in this game is a strong game from Hill. He was an above-average starting point guard for the Utah Jazz last season, but his game took a tumble at both of his stops this season in Sacramento and Cleveland. The Cavs need him to be more aggressive with the ball to prevent LeBron James from carrying an unreasonable load.
Our Preview’s Cavs at Warriors Game 2 Betting Picks & Predictions
Game 1 was a special performance by LeBron James and the Cavaliers’ big man in the rebounding department. While LeBron is amazing and the Cavs are a good rebounding team, the Warriors have proven too good in the past few years for me to expect a less-talented Cleveland squad to stay as close on the road as it did in Game 1.
- Golden State is a unanimous favorite by 11.5 points in Game 2. For the first of our Cavs vs Warriors Game 2 predictions, this preview’s recommendation is to bet the Warriors -11.5pts on the spread @ best odds of -105 with Bovada.
- Game 1 was played at a somewhat slow pace, but the squads still had 214 points. Expect Golden State to push the pace and get more chances in transition in this contest, and for the Cavs to hit a couple more three-pointers. Bet the over 215 total points @ -110 with Bookmaker.
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.