Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (-5, 206.5 o/u)
Hyperbole alone can’t capture the magnitude of the final game of the 2016 NBA season. For the Cleveland Cavaliers (15-5 SU, 11-9 ATS), either they pull off one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history, and end a 52-year title drought for “The Mistake by the Lake,” or their Game 7 loss will take its place next to other iconic Cleveland shortcomings, like “The Fumble” or “The Shot.”
For the Golden State Warriors (15-8 SU, 14-9 ATS), a victory will give them an NBA record for most wins in a season and put them in the conversation of greatest teams of all-time. A loss will put them in a different conversation, one that includes the 18-1 New England Patriots from 2007.
No pressure guys.
Game 7 goes tonight at ORACLE Arena (8:00 PM Eastern).
When you look at how momentum has gone this series, it’s amazing we even got here. After Games 1 and 2, we thought the Warriors depth alone would lead them to victory. Then the Cavs discovered something with Kevin Love out of the starting lineup that gave them life. Golden State’s devastating three-point shooting put them within a game of clinching the title, before a Draymond Green suspension gave Cleveland life again.
Now entering Game 7, it feels like all the momentum is back on the Cavs’ side (for whatever that’s worth). That swing is almost entirely because of the efforts of LeBron James. The King has back-to-back 41-point games, and has completely rattled Steph Curry and the Warriors. As if James finding his stroke wasn’t bad enough news for Golden State, Andre Iguodala, the man primarily tasked with guarding LBJ, left Game 6 with back problems. He did return, but looked off for most of the night.
Green’s return to the lineup was also over-hyped, as the versatile forward couldn’t get much going offensively. Despite starting the game with their so-called “lineup of death,” the Warriors scored a season-low 11 points in the first quarter.
Going home may cure some of what ails Golden State’s offense; their field goal percentage at home is far better than on the road (.473 vs .436) and their ball movement is better, too, averaging two more assists per game.
The ORACLE crowd, alone, won’t be enough to win, not with the pressure that’s on this team. Golden State can’t fall behind early again: the Cavaliers are a front-running team and opening up early leads gets the confidence up for shooters like J.R. Smith. The Warriors will also need a better showing from one of their reserve bigs, because going small allowed a lot of easy looks for Tristan Thompson.
The Warriors responded well last round when their backs were against the wall. But Cleveland hasn’t exactly shrunk in elimination games. Expect a lot of clenched you-know-whats, as this game could come down to the wire.
No team has beaten Golden State twice at home this season, and they haven’t lost three straight games since 2013. While I lean to the Warriors straight up, I think we’ll finally get the close game these playoffs have been missing. Take the Cavs to keep it close.
Pick: Cavaliers (+5).
(Photo credit: Keith Allison (Andre Iguodala) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)