Cleveland at Golden St.
Time: 2 PM (CT) ABC/ESPN
Spread: GSW -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
Last year’s respective Conference champions both find themselves in funny places as they prepare to face one another again on Christmas day: Neither leads its respective Conference. Perhaps funnier still is that pretty much all fans expect both teams to collide once again after the postseason has run its course and reached the 2018 NBA Finals.
]Digressions aside, Golden State will be 5-point favorites at home against Cleveland, a team it disposed of in five games in last year’s NBA Finals. The betting total is set high and mighty at 217 points, and the game promises to really start the fun Christmas day at 2 PM on ABC/ESPN.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers have been pretty hot, just not hot enough to usurp the places of the No. 1 Boston Celtics or No. 2 Toronto Raptors in the standings. Cleveland has won eight of its past 10, despite not having its main trade piece from the Kyrie Irving deal healthy and available. Isaiah Thomas has continued to rehab a hip injury that was later identified as far more serious than the Celtics revealed at the time of its occurrence.
Beyond that, Derrick Rose basically retired seven games into this season. The Cavaliers have every reason to be struggling, and they are not, and one need look no further than the team’s two main cogs to understand why: LeBron James is playing phenomenal basketball, and Kevin Love is a consummate second option alongside the King.
Accordingly, with Cleveland getting 28 points a game from Bron and another 19.8 from Love, it has not required much from the supporting cast for Cleveland to average 111.3 points per game. Even the ancient Dwyane Wade has reinvented himself as a sixth man and quasi-1, distributing the ball and providing second unit scoring while James takes care of the starting core.
“Uncle” Jeff Green (not to be confused with Uncle Drew!) is consistently mediocre, but his 10.8 points per game help along with Kyle Korver’s shooting, Jae Crowder’s stringent defense, and, well, outside of that the rest of the team is struggling.
It is a true feather in LeBron’s cap that he can lead such a poor supporting cast to a 24-9 record, but at this point in his career it is hardly a surprise and one not need think back too far to remember the 2007 Cavaliers which were even less replete with talent than the core James now leads. It is tough to envision the Cavaliers ever managing to survive and win a seven-game series with its opponent today, but it is not difficult at all to imagine Bron and company coming in and stealing a Christmas day game at Oracle.
Golden State had its 11-game winning streak snapped the last outing as it fell 96-81 to the Denver Nuggets, at Oracle Arena. The Dubs were 8.5 point favorites in the game but lost by double-digits as the Nuggets got a well-rounded team effort and managed to play some (rare) defense.
The Warriors were without Stephen Curry, so Patrick McCaw got the start alongside Klay Thompson in the backcourt, but the second-year guard did precious little in his 23 minutes of play. The Warriors may not need Curry to go bonkers scoring the basketball, but they are a different team without their two-time MVP. Kevin Durant even struggled with Steph gone, hitting just 6 of 17 from the field en route to a team-high 18 points.
Thompson, too, was just 6 of 21 and even worse from deep (1 of 10), as the Warriors struggled on a team-wide basis shooting the rock. Golden State hit just 38.6 percent from the floor and was 3 of 27 from three-point range, while also uncharacteristically turning the ball over 17 times in the game.
With the Warriors merely a humble 12-4 at home this season and Curry scheduled to sit this one out too, we expect the Cavaliers to prevail as underdogs in this Christmas day matchup. Curry’s ankle is the primary reason why, but though it is unlikely Golden State struggles quite as bad as it did against Denver, Cleveland, and LeBron James, in particular, maybe both hungrier and better suited to snag a ‘W’ as the nation watches a highly anticipated matchup that lost a little of its luster without Curry.