Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (-6, 207.5 o/u)
The Cleveland Cavaliers (12-3, 5-3 Road) are running out of excuses for why they keep getting their butts handed to them by the Golden State Warriors (13-5, 10-1 Home). Last year, they were missing Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving in the Finals. During the regular season, they chalked their lopsided losses up to David Blatt’s horrendous coaching. Now, even at full strength and in the midst of a dominating playoff run, they still can’t hang with the defending champs, dropping a lopsided Game 1, 104-89.
The Cavs need to steal at least one game at the Oracle to win this series. We’ll see if they can correct their mistakes and get it done tonight, or get run out of the building one more time (8:00 PM Eastern).
Perhaps the most embarrassing thing about Cleveland’s latest setback is that it didn’t even come by the hand of Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. No, it was the infamous Shaun Livingston leading the way with 20 points, as the Warriors flexed their depth with 45 bench points to Cleveland’s 10.
Considering how much they played in last year’s Finals, you’d think J.R. Smith, Matthew Dellavedova, and Iman Shumpert would’ve been more prepared for this spot. But they barely factored into the box score, shooting a combined 3 for 7.
If you think it’s ridiculous to blame Cleveland’s loss on a trio of role players who only took seven shots, you’re right.
The fact is, the Cavs only have their “Big Three” – or two-thirds thereof – to blame for Game 1. Kyrie Irving led the team with 26 points, but shot just 32-percent from the field (7 of 22) and got shredded on D. Kevin Love was more efficient on offense (17 points on 41-percent from the floor), but his soft underbelly was also exposed on the defensive end.
It’s hard to pin much blame on LeBron James. He had 23 points on 43-percent shooting and just missed out on a triple-double (12 rebounds and nine assists). But Golden State was intent on turning him into a jump shooter and keeping him out of the lane, and they largely succeeded.
Both teams have a ton of room to improve in Game 2. They both shot just 33-percent from three after both averaged over 40-percent in the first three rounds. Getting into a shooting contest with the Warriors is probably not the best strategy in the world, but it certainly seemed like the Cavs spent all postseason gearing up for one. It was bizarre to see them abandon that plan in Game 1.
Even though the first game established that Cleveland is not as talented or as deep as the Warriors, it doesn’t mean they’re hopeless. The Cavs tend to show better on the heels of a rare loss. They’re also 7-3 this year as an underdog.
LeBron James has no doubt gotten on his teammates’ cases after Game 1. Even if the supporting cast doesn’t show up tonight, a pissed off James should still be able to keep this one close.
Pick: Cavaliers (+6).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])