The Cleveland Cavaliers can’t ask LeBron James to do more than he did in Game 1. With the King dropping 51 points the Cavs still succumbed to the defending champion Golden State Warriors in overtime, losing the first game of the Championship series on the Dubs home floor in all four years they’ve gotten together. Entering the contest as a big underdog, the Cavs were right there with a chance to win the game, only to have a missed free throw and an offensive rebound go awry. Cleveland will try to regroup for Game 2 on Sunday.
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Game 2 of the NBA Finals is set for Sunday, June 3, 2018 at 8 p.m. ET from Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.
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The Cavaliers aren’t given much of a chance in the series despite their heroic effort on Thursday. They closed as a 12.5-point dog, the largest line either way in any of their playoff games this season. The Cavs made their backers happy by covering in the 124-114 overtime loss. It was the Cavs’ third straight cover win and they are 5-1 ATS in their last six postseason games.
The early line for Game 2 had the Warriors favored by the same amount and homecourt has plenty to do with that. The Dubs are 9-1 SU at Oracle this postseason, but only 5-5 ATS. Dating back to last postseason, the Dubs are 18-1 SU on their home floor with the loss coming in the conference final to Houston.
The teams completed regulation under the Game 1 closing total of 217.5. Playing an extra five minutes allowed the over to cash, breaking a streak of five straight under wins for the Warriors. The total for Game 2 hit the board at 216.
The Cavs hung close in Game 1 by pounding the glass. They outrebounded the Warriors 53-38, including a 19-4 advantage in offensive rebounds. This allowed the Cavs to outscore Golden State 21-10 in second chance points.
That edge allowed the Cavs to stick around, but they couldn’t convert their final offensive rebound in regulation. With the game tied, George Hill missed his second free throw with 4.7 seconds remaining. J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound and instead of a put back for the win, he dribbled the ball out to the perimeter and the clock expired sending the game to OT. The Cavs couldn’t recover and surrendered the first nine points in the extra session.
After watching LeBron go off for 51 points while making 19 of 32 shots, you have to believe the Warriors missed the defensive presence of Andre Iguodala, who missed his fifth straight game with a leg injury. Iggy is widely considered one of the team’s top defenders and he would have drawn the assignment of defending James much of the time, and he’s been good at his job.
Like every other team in the league, the Warriors had no answer for James defensively. They tried mixing things up and disguising defenders with switches, but nothing worked. Iguodala, the 2015 NBA Finals MVP, will be re-evaluated prior to Sunday’s game and a decision will be made on his availability.
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Thursday’s loss will be a tough one to overcome. When you’re trying to beat the defending champs on their floor, you can’t make mental mistakes. And Smith made a huge one. But even before that there were issues with the Cavs. They missed seven of 20 free throw attempts and shot just 26.5 percent from three-point land in regulation. As poorly as they executed on offense, James kept them in it.
It’s hard to expect another 50-point game from LeBron and his teammates have to step up. They combined to shoot just 37.3 percent from the field and were a dismal 7 of 30 from behind the arc. The Cavs showed a lot of resiliency in staying close when most expected a blowout, but how will they respond after a crushing defeat? They are trying to win and the competitiveness of LeBron will be a difference-maker. The spread is large and I like the Cavs to cover. However, like we saw in Game 1, they just don’t have enough to beat the Warriors on their floor.
NBA ATS Pick: Warriors 114, Cavaliers 106
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