What a great couple of days it has been in the NBA as two exciting Game 7’s were played out in both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals! With the results, two teams in the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors have now secured passage into the 2018 NBA Finals and will get the best of seven game series underway this Friday (AEST). We preview the series and give our best bets below!
Who: Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers
When: Game 1 Friday 1st of June (11am AEST)
Golden State and Cleveland will face off in the finals for the fourth consecutive year this season, with the Warriors having won in 2015 and 2017 while LeBron James and the Cavaliers caused an upset in the 2016 finals, giving Cleveland their first championship in the four major sports since 1964.
Golden State edged past the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, having some luck along the way as Houston star playmaker Chris Paul missed games six and seven with injury when the Rockets had a commanding 3-2 lead and the home court advantage.
Golden State Road to Finals:
dft. San Antonio 4-1
dft. New Orleans 4-1
dft. Houston 4-3
The status of Golden State forward Andre Igoudala could be a huge issue for the Warriors in this series. ‘Iggy’ last played in game three of the Western Conference Finals, missing the end of the series due to a leg injury. He was the Finals MVP back in 2015 because of his defensive efforts on a rampant LeBron James, and without him the Warriors are short in lengthy defenders to stop James.
Draymond Green’s three-point shooting is also a massive issue. The power forward shot just .117 from three in the Houston series and without his ability to space the floor, defending Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson becomes a lot easier.
It’s amazing to think that after everything he has done in his career, that this playoffs run from LeBron James might be his greatest ever achievement. He has been absolutely monumental in the postseason, singlehandedly dragging his team across the line on multiple occasions as he has received minimal help from the rest of the Cavaliers.
Throughout the postseason so far, James has averaged 34 points, 9.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists plus over one block and one steal per game. His effective field goal percentage is also the third highest it’s ever been in the playoffs at .582%, which is absolutely ridiculous given how much he has been asked to do.
Cleveland Road to Finals:
dft. Indiana 4-3
dft. Toronto 4-0
dft. Boston 4-3
Cleveland have only played one extra game than Golden State in the playoffs, but their star in LeBron will feel like that number is higher after playing 41.3 minutes per game over the course of the Cavs 18 playoff contests. In comparison, Kevin Durant has only averaged 37 minutes per game while Steph Curry only averages 34.
The minutes per game stat is interesting, because I actually think that the Warriors have a thinner bench coming into this series. With Igoudala out, Warriors coach Steve Kerr has experimented in starting Kevon Looney at the five, which has to be a risky move in the finals. If Cleveland can somewhat replicate Houston’s small ball line-up by maybe playing LeBron himself or a Jeff Green at the five it will give the Golden State roster, which amazingly uses up 8 of its 15 roster spots on power forwards or centres, some real trouble.
In the end, this series is going to boil down to two things in my opinion. Number one, can Igoudala get back into the starting line-up and play effective defence on LeBron James? Number two, can the Cavaliers role players make some shots?
When you think about it, a lot has gone right in the past for the Warriors to clean up three of the last four championships. Back in 2015, LeBron was playing with a shell of his Cleveland team as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were both sidelined with injuries. In 2017 the Warriors trailed the San Antonio Spurs by 25 points in game one of the Western Conference Finals before star Spur Kawhi Leonard rolled his ankle, ruling him out for the remainder of the series. And this year, as we mentioned above, the Warriors were down 3-2 against the Rockets and looking out of it before Chris Paul injured his hamstring. They are definitely more beatable than people think, the problem is, this is far from LeBron’s best team he has ever had.
The Warriors start as ridiculously low $1.10 favourites for the series, while I think that’s way too low, I’m not confident to take them on. I do, however, love the +2.5 game line in favour of the Cavs. I think LeBron one, if not two games singlehandedly and odds are the Cleveland role players will shoot the house down in another.
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