The third consecutive NBA Finals series between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors finally begins on Thursday after a long layoff (9pm ET on ABC). With at least one week since their last game for both squads, the Cavaliers and Warriors should have the energy to put on a high-quality show in Game 1.
Cleveland comes into the Finals playing very well. It went 12-1 against its Eastern Conference competition in the first three rounds, and LeBron James was spectacular nearly all the way throughout. Maybe more importantly, the other two-thirds of Cleveland’s Big Three (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love) enter the series playing great basketball.
As well as the Cavs have played, the Warriors have been even more dominant. They did get lucky with some injuries to their opponents in their first three rounds, but going 12-0 with 10 double-digit wins is still extremely impressive.
Will the Cavs find the mojo that they had in last year’s championship round or will the Warriors continue their amazing winning streak? Let’s ask some of the most important questions for Game 1 in this preview and then make our betting picks and predictions on the spread and over/under.
Which No. 3 Option Will Play Better, Kevin Love or Klay Thompson?
Cleveland and Golden State both have explosive, albeit inconsistent, No. 3 scoring options. Kevin Love was very good in a variety of ways against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, averaging 22.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.2 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. It was a welcome sight for Cleveland after two lackluster rounds for the skilled big man.
Klay Thompson has been terrible on the offensive end in the postseason. He has averaged a mere 14.4 points and 2.0 assists per game on a shooting slash of 38.3/36.4/80.8. Those numbers were 22.3, 2.1 and 46.8/41.4/85.3 in the regular season, respectively.
Chances are, at least one of these guys will have a decent outing in Game 1. The team that gets better production from its inconsistent No. 3 scorer will have a leg up.
Can Golden State Stay Competitive on the Glass?
The Warriors swept the Spurs, but they struggled mightily to control the defensive glass. San Antonio averaged 15.8 offensive rebounds per contest in the Western Conference, up significantly from its season average of 10.0.
Cleveland is a formidable offensive rebounding team, especially in its starting lineup. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love are a strong tandem inside — even when they can’t actually secure missed shots, they often force loose-ball fouls.
Golden State can’t get too eager to start its fast break or the Cavs will kill them on second-chance points.
Can Cleveland’s Veteran Bench Stay Competitive With Golden State’s Athletic Lineups?
The Cavs’ bench did not perform very well in three of the five games against the Celtics. In Games 1, 3 and 4, they combined for 30 points on 10-of-39 shooting. Considering the fact that most of Cleveland’s reserves are offensive-minded veterans those numbers are unacceptable.
Golden State plays an uptempo brand of basketball no matter what lineup it uses. It has a lot of athleticism and usually keeps two of its four stars (Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson) on the court together at all times. Guys like Andre Iguodala, JaVale McGee, Ian Clark, Patrick McCaw and Shaun Livingston often fill in those lineups and supply a bunch of energy.
Cleveland doesn’t quite have the depth of two-way players that Golden State does. The Cavs’ bench shooters will need to catch fire to avoid getting run off the floor by the Warriors when Cleveland plays its bench-heavy lineups.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors Game 1 Betting Predictions & Picks
The Warriors have been a better team than the Cavaliers all year and are at home. Cleveland’s defense has definitely picked things up in the postseason, but it hasn’t faced anything near what Golden State has to offer.
Likewise, though, the Warriors’ defense hasn’t been tested by an offense nearly as good as the Cavs’ high-scoring group in this playoffs. The fact that the entire Big Three for Cleveland is playing well also bodes well for the defending champions.
This game could be close, since it will be a feel-out contest for both squads.
- The posted line of Warriors -7 with all the top US bookies seems like a pretty accurate prediction. However, I see this game as being slightly closer, though this preview reckons that the Warriors may win, bet on Cleveland +7pts on the spread @ -105 with BetOnline. It is -110 with Bovada, 5Dimes or MyBookie.
- 5 total points is a very high over/under, but these are two teams that both think they have advantages when they get out in transition. The Warriors’ crowd will be stir-crazy from their long layoff and will spur their team onto plenty of quick scores. Bet over 225.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes, MyBookie or BetOnline.