The Cleveland Cavaliers have been waiting for the chance to get even with the Golden State Warriors since June 16, 2015. Now they’ll have exactly that as for the second year in a row the Cavaliers will challenge the defending NBA champions in the championship final (Game 1 is 9pm ET, Thursday).
While this year’s rematch is different in more ways than one, what remains the same is that these two teams are hungry. For the Cavaliers, they are motivated by revenge and by legacy, specifically LeBron James’ (pictured). Not to mention, they are trying to bring a championship home to a city that has been starved for one for the longest drought in pro sports. For the Warriors, it is also legacy that drives their run, a legacy of dynasty and capping off the best season in NBA history.
Needless to say, there are any number of storylines entering into this series, but for the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus less on the emotionally driven ones and more on the statistical ones. This is going to be a wire-to-wire series and if you want to make the best betting picks, you’re going to need to know the numbers. So this NBA Championship Final preview will look at the keys each team needs to win the game. Let’s start with the defending champions.
Golden State’s Keys to Victory
- One Can Never Have Too Much Steph Curry: Earlier this postseason, there was a moment when it looked like the Warriors might not even be in position to defend their title. Their season it seemed, hinged on the ankle of one Steph Curry, who had injured it in the first round and whose timetable for return was uncertain. Much to the delight of Golden State fans as well as NBA fans around the country wanting to see the best regular season in history end in championship gold, Curry returned and did so to the line of 40 points in 37 minutes, his playoff high this year.
Against the Thunder, the league’s first ever unanimous MVP really didn’t get hot until game five. When he did, it was near impossible to cool him off. Curry came up clutch in game six, hitting six threes including one in the closing minutes of the game that the Warriors used to help them win the contest. Golden State needed every last point in that one and Curry showed himself to be a true closer. He scored 31, matching his game five total and then proceeded to score 36 in game seven.
As one may have expected, the story of these Championship Finals is Curry vs LeBron James. Both teams have established big threes behind the two stars and both have benches equipped to handle a long series much as this one profiles to be. While alone, it won’t come solely down to Curry or James, both players will no doubt be pivotal in the outcome. So, if Curry can continue his recent hot streak, his status as a high volume shooter will only be an asset to the Warriors, not to mention the ultimate gamechanger.
- Home Cooking Exactly what the Warriors Need: It is true that the Warriors dropped game one of the Western Conference Finals despite It being on their home court. But that didn’t stop the team from coming up big in two must-win home games. Golden State played their best in those two games and managed to use their home field advantage to turn around their 3-1 deficit.
During the regular season, Golden State lost just nine games, only one of which came at home. They have been the best home team over the past two years and aside from the hiccup against the Thunder, have looked dominant while defending their turf. So, if we look at this final series as being close statistically, which it really is, having home court might be the one factor that puts the Warriors slightly on top.
It is for this reason that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Warriors are actually favored by six points in game one, despite having less rest than their opponents.
Cleveland’s Keys to Victory
- A Healthy Big Three Makes all the Difference: Last year when these two teams went head-to-head, there was a pretty notable absence on Cleveland’s side. That’s because during all points of the postseason, especially the finals, injuries plagued the Cavaliers. Most notably, both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving missed time, thus serving as a catalyst among many as to why the Cavaliers were unable to pull off the win.
This year however, the story is different as not only are James’ two top teammates healthy and ready to go, but both have also been playing the way one would expect. James is averaging 24.6 points, Irving 24.3 and Love 17.3. They have been a dominant trio this postseason, bested only by that of the Warriors, which are averaging 26.7 (Curry), 26.2 (Klay Thompson) and 15.1 (Draymond Green) points per game.
Cleveland’s big three have made their journey up to this point seem easy and given James and the unhealthy Cavaliers took the Warriors to six strong games last year, it is anybody’s guess just how much of an impact the trio can have being at 100 percent. It’s certainly something the Warriors will have to take stock of.
- Cleveland by the Numbers: Believe it or not but by the numbers, Cleveland is actually the slightly better team. The Cavaliers have outplayed the Warriors this postseason in terms of opponents’ PPG (94.3 to 104.5), field goal percentage (48 to 46), three-point field goal percentage (43 to 40), defensive rebounding percentage (81 to 73) and turnovers (11.6 to 14).
If these numbers are any indication, the Cavaliers actually have a bit of an edge. Now, is it enough of an edge to make a huge difference? No, probably not. But given how closely the teams are matched in terms of their core, their bench, their overall metrics, any little advantage the Cavaliers can take into the finals is going to bode well for them.
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers Betting Picks Verdict
This is the series that the basketball world has been waiting for. Not only is it the rematch of a lifetime but it’s also one where both teams are at 100 percent. This series will allow a definitive answer to which team is better and will go on to define the legacies of all involved. Both teams have a lot to play for and I have no doubt both will leave it all on the line to emerge victorious.
Overall, I see this once again going the distance and once again, with Golden State coming out on top. Looking at the numbers, they do seem to favor the Cavaliers but overall, ESPN’s BPI (basketball power index) gives the Warriors a 75 percent chance to win the series. And this metric takes into account everything, both in the regular and postseason.
So for this Championship Final preview’s series and Game 1 betting picks, we go:
- Take the Warriors to win the series @ best odds of -210 with either Bovada or BetOnline sportsbooks. It is -220 with 5Dimes. We expect them to do it in seven.
- Expect the series to start on a positive note with Golden State winning Game 1 at home and covering the spread in the process. The best wager for this is Warriors -5.5pts @ -110 with 5Dimes Sportsbook. BetOnline are -113 for the same spread, while Bovada go -6pts @ -105.
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.