After a blowout Game 1 victory, the Golden State Warriors look to go up 2-0 against the Cleveland Cavaliers in what would be a repeat of the start of last year’s NBA Finals (Game 2 @ 8pm ET, Sunday on ABC).
The quest for perfection reached 13-0 as the Warriors won in dominant fashion on Thursday night against the defending champions. Unlike last year, when the Warriors went up 2-0 and eventually blew a 3-1 series lead, the mood in the building was different. That’s largely because of Golden State’s newest weapon, Kevin Durant, who very well could be the difference-maker the Warriors need.
Durant, who joined Golden State in the offseason in large part as an answer to last year’s meltdown, certainly performed like the star he is. He scored from long range, he scored from the paint, he scored at the rim. Durant did it all and finished with a game high 38 points as well as nine rebounds and eight assists. It was the fifth time this postseason that he scored at least 30 points in a game. Stephen Curry added 28 points, shooting 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, and 10 assists.
The Warriors won the battle of the boards, snagging approximately 24 percent of their offensive rebounds. They won the battle of the possessions, recording 20 more shots than the Cavaliers. They won the most important basketball battle, that of turnovers. Cleveland had zero steals, which led to one of the cleanest playoff games in NBA history as the Warriors committed just four turnovers. The Cavaliers meanwhile had 20, which, combined with how well Golden State protected the ball, was a clear recipe for disaster.
The final score reflected just how much the Warriors outplayed their opponents as the home team won by 22 points, getting off to the exact start they needed. Golden State will be looking to repeat that performance in Game 2, which once again takes place at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors lost just five games all year. That might be a significant factor when we conclude this preview with our betting predictions and Game 2 picks.
Learning from Game 1
If the Cavaliers learned anything in Game 1 it should be that last year’s strategy of stopping the Warriors simply isn’t going to work based on the makeup of this year’s team. As the Cavaliers came back from a 3-1 deficit, including winning two on the road, to stun Golden State, they utilized a slow, physical game plan. It allowed Cleveland to stay close and then let James and Kyrie Irving handle the rest and take over late.
This year however, the Cavaliers lack the same roster to be able to implement this type of game plan. Their personnel is more fit for a shootout than it is to grind out wins and stay physical. Defensively, the Cavaliers are outmatched by the Warriors and offensively, it’s not even a question of who the better team is. Cleveland simply lacks the weapons to keep up and Thursday night showed that firsthand.
Cleveland made mistake after mistake and for a team which had locked down defensively in the playoffs, seemed to revert back to the one that was the second-worst defensive team following the midseason all-star break. They were sloppy and failed to defend Durant at every turn. When the team finally did focus on Durant, they neglected to defend the three point line, which allowed Curry his pick of shots all night. As one of the league’s best three point shooting teams, this is a mistake the Cavaliers cannot afford to make if they hope to match the Warriors offensively.
Perhaps the biggest worry for the Cavaliers is that they lost by over 20 points in a game where the Warriors shot just 42.5 percent from the floor and 36.4 percent from three point range. Both of which were well below the team’s season averages.
Last year’s blueprint worked and it’s why the Cavaliers were able to defeat Golden State despite the Warriors still being the better team. This year however, it seems that Cleveland will have to throw all of that out the window. If the series goes anything like Game 1 did, with the Warriors just overwhelming the Cavaliers with their depth and presence, Cleveland could be on the wrong end of NBA history.
The Warriors did just about everything right as their game plan of the past still worked. Golden State basically let James do whatever he wanted while limiting the rest of the Cavalier players. In the end, James got his but the rest of the team did not as every single Cleveland player finished with a plus/minus on the negative side of things. It was hardly a surprise as this same formula helped the Warriors win the NBA Finals in 2015 and was a big factor in the team’s early successes in the 2016 finals as well.
Golden State played well enough on Thursday but as Durant observed, there was much room for improvement. Klay Thompson scored just six points on a horrid 3 of 16 shooting. Draymond Green had just nine points. These two have been key players for the Warriors all season and postseason and the fact that they played so poorly and the Warriors still won by over 20 points, has to be downright frightening for the Cavaliers.
Our Preview’s Cavs @ Warriors Game 2 Predictions & Betting Picks Verdict
One of the biggest differences between this year’s finals and last year’s is Kevin Durant. Over the course of his career, Durant has been losing to LeBron James and it’s clear that this is a monkey he wants to get off his back. Durant was the biggest factor in Golden State’s Game 1 victory as he played one of the best postseason games of his career. He was involved in every possession and was effectively unstoppable on the court.
It’s unlikely the Warriors will see this from him every game but Durant is clearly a man playing on a mission and his intensity is certain to be a difference maker.
- Turning to our preview’s betting picks and predictions, and following Game 1, the Warriors enter this second contest as lofty eight and a half to nine-point favorites with the USA betting companies. It is way too early in the series to write off the Cavaliers especially given last year’s outcome, but expect the Warriors to take Game 2 at home and to cover the spread in the process. The best option is to bet on Golden State -8.5pts @ -110 with MyBookie or 5Dimes sportsbooks.
- As for the total points likely to be scored in this NBA Finals Game 2, the pick is to take the over 220.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline, MyBookie or 5Dimes. It is over 221pts with the other betting firms.
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.