Barely holding on to the chance of an upset, the Cleveland Cavaliers look forward to home court advantage as underdogs against the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals today (9pm ET, Wednesday).
If I had told you prior to this series that the Golden State Warriors would have been up 2-0 after the first two games in Oakland, you might have believed me. After all, it would have been quite plausible to assume the team that went 73-9 in the regular season might be just a little bit better than the one that went 57-25 in a much weaker Eastern Conference.
However, if I had told you in my NBA Finals series preview that not only would the Warriors be up 2-0 but that they would have done it by beating the Cavaliers by a combined 48 points in two games and that the NBA’s first ever unanimous MVP Stephen Curry would only score 29 total, less than single game outputs from each of his previous three, you probably would have laughed in my face.
But the truth of the matter is that this series has gone exactly like that for the Cavaliers. Despite holding Curry to just 11 and 18 point games, his lowest of the postseason and a shooting percentage south of 50 (11-for-26), the Cavaliers aren’t just losing but they are losing bad. So if the formula going into this series was to limit Curry, congratulations because they’ve done just that. Now however, they need to find a way to win because simply limiting Curry’s production and impact on the game has not been enough.
Once Again, Cavs Can’t Rely on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love
Last year, it was different. Held out of much of the Finals due to injuries, the impact of the Cavs’ two young superstars was largely limited in last year’s six-game series loss to the Warriors. Given LeBron James and company had managed to take Golden State to six without his two battery mates, basketball fans everywhere lit up at the prospect of both Love and Irving being 100 percent healthy.
Against a much weaker Eastern Conference slate, something you’ve likely heard me mention before, Irving and Love showed their dominance and put on an offensive clinic beside the always reliable-in-the-conference-finals James. However, when it came time to taking on the best in the West, the Cavaliers have gotten just about as much production and value play from Irving and Love this year as they did last year when the duo weren’t even healthy enough to suit up for much of the series.
In fact, it’s quite possible that Love and Irving in the line-up has actually been worse for the Cavaliers than when the two missed time. That’s because if this run in the NBA Finals has done anything for Cleveland it’s been that the team has been exposed for their weaknesses, not the least of which seem to revolve around the inconsistent and sometimes counterproductive play when both Love and Irving share the court, especially on the defensive end.
One will not beat the Warriors by matching them bucket for bucket. It’s just not going to happen. The team is too deep and too lethal from beyond the arc for that to be a realistic possibility. The only way to beat Golden State is with size and power, enough to dominate the glass and be physically imposing against the likes of the smaller Curry, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston (pictured), just to name a few.
Last year, the Cavaliers accomplished this thanks to step-up play from Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Both still on the team, neither have gotten significant minutes to domineer the glass the way they did last year, making it possible for Cleveland to steal two games. Matthew Dellavedova, who doubled as both a Love and Irving replacement at times, also had the series of his life last year.
But this year, Cleveland is seeing its bench outscored to catastrophic levels. That’s been partially because of fewer minutes for guys like Dellavedova and Thompson. It has also been because offensively, Golden State is playing with house money, not even really having to manufacture open looks but rather just finding them due to Cleveland’s inability to guard or post-up. They have been woefully outperformed on the glass as well, leaving the Warriors with second chance opportunities which frankly, most of the time they don’t even need.
Coach James has said himself that he is baffled by why his team isn’t playing up to the level he believes they are capable of, and it’s clear from all comers that adjustments need to be made. But after what we’ve seen so far in the first two games, are adjustments even possible at this point? It is going to be pretty hard to conclude this preview with a betting pick prediction in favor of the home team.
Several are already saying this series is over and that Cleveland is merely fighting for pride, not a ring. That may be true, but even their pride might not be able to be saved if Golden State continues to play the way they have, with or without Curry going off for 30.
The revelation that the Warriors don’t need that from Curry is one that has to horrify the Cavaliers, which are going to need 30 or more from James and at least 20 from Irving and a double-double from Love to boot. During the regular season, they didn’t seem like much of an ask but now, with the way that absolutely everything is going right for the Warriors, it could be an impossible task.
There is no way around it, the Cavaliers need to do something and do it fast otherwise they risk earning themselves a place in NBA history alongside Golden State. Only instead of the best team in league history they will be the ones with the worst Finals loss in league history, making James the owner of not just the one, but two spots at the top of that list.
Our Preview’s Golden State Warriors at Cleveland Cavaliers Game 3 Betting Picks
When it comes to thinking about my preview’s betting picks’ predictions, I’m just not sold on Cleveland’s ability to do anything at this point to stop Golden State from rolling through the Finals in a clean sweep. The Warriors are even favored on the road with one of the offshore sportsbooks.
- So, without much hesitation, take Golden State @ ‘pk’ on the spread (meaning the spread is effectively the moneyline) @ -105 betting odds with BetOnline Sportsbook. It is the same ‘pk’ with 5Dimes but at -110, while Bovada make the Warriors the -1.5pts road favorites.
- Also, go under 206 total points in this Game 3 contest with BetOnline or 5Dimes @ -110 odds. Bovada go -105 for under 205pts.
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.