The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are the first two teams to square off in three straight NBA Finals as hard as that may be to believe. The Lakers and Celtics seemed to always meet in the Finals but never three years in a row. This series is a rubber match between the Cavs and Dubs as they have split the previous two Finals matchups. Sports Interaction’s basketball odds have Golden State as the favourite to win it all for the second time in three seasons.
Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors
NBA Finals odds: Golden State -250, Cleveland +190
Game 1 odds: Warriors -7
Game 1 total: 226
Date: Thursday, June 1, 9 p.m. ET
Location: Oracle Arena, Oakland
Michael Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history and never lost an NBA Finals in six tries. In fact, Jordan’s Bulls never even were forced to a Game 7 in the Finals. When it’s all said and done, however, LeBron James could have an argument as the GOAT – especially if he can pull off an upset of the favoured Warriors for the second straight June.
In the five-game Eastern Conference Finals win over Boston, James passed Jordan as the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer with 5,995 points, albeit in more than 30 additional games. No active player is close to James and the guy is only 32 and still going strong. Thus LeBron is going to put that record way out of reach. He also ranks in the Top 10 in playoff rebounds (seventh), assists (third) and steals (second).
LeBron has never been better in his postseason career, either, as he’s averaging 32.5 points on 56.6 per cent shooting, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists in leading his team to a 12-1 record. The only game the Cavs lost was Game 3 at home vs. the Celtics when James had one of the worst outings of his career with 11 points. He was fighting a flu bug. Cleveland is the first Eastern Conference team to reach the NBA Finals with one or fewer losses since Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls. The Cavs also have won an incredible nine straight road playoff games. The NBA record is 12 in a row.
The Cavs are the first team in league history to score at least 100 points in their first 13 playoff games (which Warriors can match in Game 1). They have been averaging 116.8 points per game and beating teams by 13.6 points. While LeBron has been incredible, he has gotten plenty of help. Kyrie Irving is putting up 24.5 points and 5.6 assists per game and Kevin Love is playing his best basketball since joining the Cavs in averaging 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds.
Cleveland didn’t have Love at all in the 2015 NBA Finals due to injury and Irving played one game. Golden State won in six. Last year, the Cavs became the first team in league history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit to win the Finals. James had one of the iconic blocked shots ever late in Game 7 of a potential Andre Iguodala layup. This is James’ eighth trip to the Finals and seventh in a row. He’s 3-4.
Golden State Warriors
The 2015-16 Warriors had a chance to go down as perhaps the best single-season team ever as they won a record 73 regular-season games. However, chasing that mark might have worn them down and contributed to some playoff struggles. The Dubs were very fortunate to beat the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals, coming back from a 3-1 series deficit of their own. I believe Golden State beats Cleveland in five games last year if Draymond Green doesn’t get suspended for Game 5. That 112-97 victory started the Cavs’ comeback.
While Green isn’t the Warriors’ best player – that would be Kevin Durant and then Steph Curry – he is probably the most important to the team because Green can defend multiple positions and is a terrific rebounder. He allows the Warriors to play small as Green can even guard centers despite being listed at just 6-foot-7, 230 pounds. He has a huge wingspan. You will see Green on James plenty.
Had the Warriors not ousted the Thunder in the 2016 playoffs, it’s likely that Durant would still be in Oklahoma City instead of joining Golden State in free agency. Durant has been excellent in averaging 25.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 blocks in these playoffs. He’s the reason this year’s Warriors team is superior to the 2015-16 squad despite winning six fewer regular-season games. The Dubs didn’t attempt to break their own record of 73 victories. Their season point differential of plus-11.6 is one of the best marks in history and superior to the 2015-16 team’s number of plus-10.8.
No team has gone unbeaten in a single postseason. The Warriors are the first to start it 12-0. The last team to enter the NBA Finals without a loss was the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers (11-0). Golden State has had only two games in these playoffs decided by single digits and is winning by an average of 16.3 points, the highest in the history of the NBA playoffs (minimum 5 games). They are averaging 118.3 points per game.
Cavaliers vs. Warriors Predictions
These teams split in the regular season, with Cleveland winning 109-108 at home on Christmas on a late Irving jumper. The Cavs were down 14 in the fourth quarter. On Jan. 16 in Oakland, the Warriors rolled 126-91. Green and James nearly got into it.
This series could be a lot like the 2014 Finals. The San Antonio Spurs should have won the previous year’s Finals against LeBron’s Heat but blew Game 6 and then fell in Game 7. Those Spurs were motivated all year to face the Heat again for the championship. It fueled them, and it worked as San Antonio won the 2014 Finals in five games over Miami.
The Warriors have made it no secret that they wanted to face the Cavs again and believe the better team lost in last year’s Finals. Go with Golden State winning Game 1 and this series in six. That exact result is +380. Green (+750) is the Finals MVP.