Game 5 NBA Finals Game Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors

NBA Finals Game 5

Warriors Lead 3-1

Spread: GSW -9

Total: 231

Odds c/o Bovada

Despite wide-ranging conspiracy theories surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers dominant game 4 win LeBron James and company at a minimum managed to extend the Finals to a Game 5. In doing so, the Cleveland Cavaliers thwarted the Golden State Warriors’ chance at accomplishing an unpredicted playoff complete sweep.

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Can James come back from a 3-1 deficit now, again, as he did a year ago? Prediction sites were still low in predicting such a scenario, setting the odds of a Game 7 at about six percent. Even so, the Cavaliers are 9-point underdogs at Oracle Arena, where the Dubs have yet to lose in this postseason, of course.

Why are we not so quick to give up on Cleveland? For starters, Kevin Love woke up last game, and beyond that Kyrie Irving continued his brilliant play with another big game. James was his usual self. When Cleveland’s “Big 3” is cooking, it leads to events like its record-setting 24 three-point shots, and Cleveland’s historic 82-point first half, its 49-point first quarter. The Cavaliers were a different team in Game 4, and the series for its first time began to look rather interesting.

“Interesting” includes the debacle that led to a technical on Draymond Green being re-assigned to Steve Kerr, preventing the Warriors forward from receiving the automatic two-technical foul-ejection. Notwithstanding how strange that was, the Cavaliers did all the little things right in Game 4, which is requisite if a team is to defeat a stacked Warriors club like this one.

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And so, the Cavaliers Big 3 combined to score 94 points total on collective 33 of 63 shooting. The team shot 52.9 percent from the floor and 53.3 percent from behind the arc. The Cavs held a plus-1 advantage on the glass, and its weak bench still contributed 23 points. Deron Williams and Iman Shumpert each chipped in five points, and the ageless Richard Jefferson had eight points and three rebounds while playing a lot of strong defense on Kevin Durant. Durant, for his part, still finished with 35 points, and if the series ends tonight the MVP will likely be his. But James showed last year not to count him out through adversity, and certainly, James’ 40 points, 11 assists and 10 boards in 41 minutes spoke to that continued dominance.

James finished +7 for those minutes, and the Cavaliers, unlike in Game 3, were able to find ways to get buckets while James rested. In Game 3, the Cavs were -12 for James’ two minutes of rest, but in his seven minutes of downtime in Game 4 Cleveland was +14. What made such a tremendous difference?

One thing that factored largely was the fact James was making all the right basketball plays, and that Irving was unselfish despite taking 27 shots. The Cavaliers 1-man had four assists and James had 11, part of his triple-double that we all but expected when assessing the NBA Player prop bets. LeBron is averaging a triple-double in these NBA Finals, again posing an interesting case for an MVP award from the side of the losing team—should Cleveland ultimately lose this series.

The Warriors simply need more from the “Splash Brothers” Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry to emerge as Game 5 victors. They combined for just 27 points on 8 of 24 shooting in Game 4, and Curry had been sensational up to that point. Thompson appeared to be breaking out of his shell, and his 10 three-point attempts (making four) are a continuation of his increased aggressiveness. Green did accomplish the double-double we bet against, with 16 points and 14 rebounds, but he had just three assists.

The Michigan State star was also -19 for his 39 minutes, and Curry was -25 for his 38 minutes. With the Warriors unable to establish tempo, a lot of their game plan disintegrated before Steve Kerr’s watchful eyes. Shaun Livingston was elemental off the bench with 10 points and two assists on 5 of 7 shooting in 19 minutes, but the rest of the Dubs’ reserves did little to help his cause. The Warriors likely will be their usual selves at home though, and this game is a tough one to bet on with the Cavaliers pretty heavy underdogs at 9-points. The most likely scenario is that Cleveland covers the spread but falls short in the league’s toughest road venue, enabling Golden State to complete a 16-1 playoff run and win its second NBA title in three seasons.

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