The age of parity hasn’t hit the NBA yet. There were some struggles through the regular season for both clubs, but in the end the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will meet in the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season. The Celtics and Lakers have played for the NBA title 17 times but they’ve never met in four straight seasons. In fact, there has never been the same matchup of teams in three consecutive seasons until the Dubs and Cavs met last year. In his 15th season in the league James is playing his best basketball and will have a few days of rest before trying to take down the defending champions.
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Game 1 of the NBA Finals is set for Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 9 p.m. ET from Oracle Arena in Oakland. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
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Both teams were on the brink of elimination in the conference finals before rallying to win the last two, including a decisive Game 7 on the road. After losing the first two games to the Celtics, the Cavs rallied to win four of five to eliminate Boston, going 4-1 ATS in those games. It’s harder to win on the road in the playoffs but the Cavs rose to the occasion when it mattered most. They are 4-5 SU and ATS away from the Q this postseason.
The oddsmakers like the Warriors to repeat and beat the Cavs for the eighth time in the last nine get-togethers, opening the champs as a 12-point favorite on the early line. Golden State was 12.5-point chalk in Game 6 against the Rockets, who were playing without Chris Paul, and the Dubs won by 29.
The Warriors won all three games of last year’s Finals at Oracle and they haven’t lost at home to the Cavs since dropping Game 7 of 2016 Finals. They are 6-0 straight up and 5-1 ATS in their last six games with Cleveland in NorCal.
The Warriors swept the season series winning the last matchup 118-108 in Cleveland. That came before the Cavs remade their roster at the trade deadline, but Golden State still had to deal with James, who scored 32 points in that contest. The Dubs’ strategy in that game was simple: let James do what he does and limit the complementary pieces.
And that’s what they’ll do on Thursday. James is the best player on the planet and he will get his points. But if the Dubs contain Kevin Love, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and others, they should escape with a victory. And the Cavs had a hard time defending the Warriors’ All-Stars with Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combining for 72 points and 11 three-pointers in that victory.
If the Warriors play a full game like they played in the second half of their last two contests with Houston, we can call it quits right now. The Dubs absolutely annihilated the Rockets after the break, outscoring them 122-63 in the second half of the final two games. Not only were the Dubs deadly shooting the basketball, their defense was smothering.
Shooting 55.5 percent from the floor and 57.8 percent from deep, the Warriors overcame a double-digit halftime deficit in both games to win going away. They were also able to limit the league’s second-best offensive attack to 33.8 percent from the field and 13.2 percent from behind the arc.
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We certainly didn’t expect the Cavs to win three straight games, including two at Oracle, to win the title in 2016. And they aren’t getting much love for this game and the series. But you can never underestimate what LeBron does and how he does it. He’s led a mediocre group of players to the NBA Finals, and that says a lot about him and his ability to lead.
The key for Cleveland obviously is James, and a few extra days of rest will help him after playing all 48 minutes in the clincher over the Celtics. The Cavs will also have to adjust to Golden State’s tempo after battling the Celtics. The Dubs are feeling good about their repeat chances after getting by their biggest obstacle and with Andre Iguodala ready to return, they have another body to throw at the Cavs. The opening line is big and I believe James and his group can cover. However, winning the game is not going to happen.
NBA ATS Pick: Warriors 117, Cavaliers 110
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