After back-to-back overtime games to begin the NBA Finals, the series between the Warriors and Cavaliers is even at one game apiece and headed to Cleveland for games on Tuesday and Thursday night.
Following a Game 1 victory and a season-ending injury to Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving, Golden State coach Steve Kerr surely felt his team was on their way to a two-game lead. While losing Game 2 was a blow to the Warriors, it is a blessing to bettors.
There are only so many opportunities to bet on the superior team (not to mention better, more experienced coaching staff) without a huge handicap. The Warriors continue to be a two-to-one favorite to win the series, meaning they will have to earn a victory in at least one of the three possible games to be played at Quicken Loans Arena during the remainder of the series.
During the two games played thus far, Cavs star LeBron James has scored 83 points in 96 minutes. In Game 1, he was clearly tiring down the stretch and settled for jump shots. He is one of the greatest players of all time, however, expecting a star who averaged 25 points per game in the regular season and nearly 29 per contest in the playoffs to up his scoring average by more than ten a game is over the top.
The Warriors will not continue to let Bron go one-on-one; they’ll double constantly to make other players beat them and, while Cleveland’s role players have performed reasonably well, asking them to be better than Steph Curry and Klay Thompson is unrealistic.
Meanwhile, during the two games where LeBron has been unworldly, the Warriors have seen their stars struggle. In Game 1, Thompson was 5/14 from the floor. In Game 2, Curry finished 5/23 and just 2/15 from three. Golden State’s third-best player, Draymond Green, is 6/20 shooting and has missed all four of his triples. During the regular season, the Curry and Thompson were both among the top-five in the NBA in three-point percentage, while Green knocked down a solid 34-percent of his threes.
Give the Cavs’ defense credit, but the law of averages says all three Warriors will improve as the series moves along.
Golden State was an eight-point favorite in their Game 2 loss. Most people recognize home court in the NBA to be worth about 3.5 points. All else being equal from Game 2, that means the Warriors should be about a one-point road favorite in Cleveland. However, sportsbooks know that people like to bet on superstars, and the public will jump on the squad that almost stole two games on the road from the best home-team in the Association. As a result, the Cavs are small favorites in Game 3, making the Warriors plus the points a value play.
What about the series as a whole?
Irving and Kevin Love are both out and not coming back. The Warriors had the much better regular season by almost every metric – offense, defense, record, etc. – and did so while playing a tougher schedule. For a multitude of reasons, Golden State dropped Game 2 at home – just the team’s fourth home loss of the season – but that doesn’t change everything that came before.
The Warriors continue to be the better team and are more likely to win the series than Cleveland. Bet Golden State in the individual games, and look very closely at the prices for Warriors-in-five and Warriors-in-six. Furthermore, if the Warriors lose Game 3 – like they did against Memphis before coming back to win three straight – bet with both fists in Game 4.
There is no way the series is returning to Oakland with the Cavs holding a three games to one lead. LeBron James is amazing, but he is not a magician.
(Photo credit: Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA (Stephen Curry) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)