9:00 PM EST, ABC- Line: Golden State -7, Over/Under: 208
And the second verse is the same as the first. Now we know what you’re all thinking, that we very well may be getting ahead of ourselves in proclaiming that these NBA Finals are indeed over after just ONE game, but after watching the Golden State Warriors dispose of the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games a year ago, only to humble them again Thursday Night, there is a very real sense of deja vu in the air. And that’s if your one of the unbiased few. Now imagine the anxiety if you’re a Cavs fan? With that said, they’d all be a fool to have not seen this coming. Cleveland (57-25, 1st in Central Division) predictably rolled through yet another creampuff Eastern Conference, with just a pair of losses to the Toronto Raptors in the Conference Finals serving as a blight on their resume’. They were expected to get to this point for months now. The real question though, was whether or not they would be able to collectively raise their game against whosoever emerged from the Western Conference. Well, with one game in the books, the answer appears to be a resounding no. In Thursday’s 104-89 defeat, Tyronn Lue’s charges proved they could compete with the reigning champs for periods of time, but ultimately not for the entirety of the contest. Trailing by nine points at Halftime, the visitors rallied to take the lead 68-67 late in the Third Quarter, but then stood by helpless as the home side ran off fifteen consecutive points to break the game wide open. At that point there appeared as if there was nothing they could do. And the story at the end of the night checks out too; the Cavaliers only shot 38.1% from the field, including 7-of-21 from beyond the arc (33.3%), while committing as many turnovers (17) as they managed to log assists. The turnovers proved very costly, as the visiting side saw twenty-five points go the other way in that regard. In fact, the only reasons Cleveland was able to draw even in the third stanza was on the strength of their rebounding (plus-13), particularly of the offensive variety (plus-6), and their ability to get to the Free-Throw Line, where they were a solid plus-9 on 18-of-20 shooting (90.0%). However, a cynic would quickly point out that they registered so many offensive rebounds because they missed so many shots, while Kyrie Irving accounted for eleven of their eighteen Free-Throws, which in turn accounted for all but fifteen of his game-high twenty-six points. It was a difficult shooting night for the All-Star Point Guard, who could only muster 7-of-22 shooting from the field (31.8%), including 1-of-4 from downtown (25.0%). LeBron James didn’t fare much better, scoring twenty-three points on 9-of-21 shooting from the floor (42.9%), including 2-of-4 from three (50.0%), along with twelve rebounds, nine assists, and a pair of steals, yet also four turnovers. To his credit, the four-time MVP played excellent defense on Steph Curry for long stretches of the game, but as he and his teammates figured out eventually, their opponent had more to offer than just the two-time reigning MVP. As we’ll get into shortly, the Cavs’ supporting cast was virtually nonexistent, as their Bench scored a mere ten points, while everyone NOT named LeBron James or Kyrie Irving combined for just 40 points on 16-of-41 shooting (39.0%). Lue will have to coax a better performance out of the rest of his guys if they’re going to avoid going home in a two-game hole.
Meanwhile, after surviving an epic assault in the Western Conference Finals by the Oklahoma City Thunder, it appears that the Warriors (73-9, 1st in Pacific Division), have regained the momentum that helped them put together the best single-season record in NBA History. Then again, staving off elimination in three consecutive games against Kevin Durant and Co. would boost anyone’s confidence. However, what appears to have happened, is that Steve Kerr’s charges had to collectively take their game to another level to get to this point, and now that they have, it doesn’t look like anyone can stop them. Granted, we know this all reeks of hyperbole, but think about this for a second: Golden State hammered LeBron and Co. by fifteen points despite Steph Curry and Klay Thompson scoring eleven and nine points respectively. Waitaminute, they only scored twenty points, yet their team still managed to score 104 points? That’s correct, folks. Neither All-Star proved effective Thursday Night, shooting a combined 8-of-28 from the field (28.6%), including 4-of-13 from beyond the arc (30.8%), but when it was all said and done, it simply didn’t matter. While Curry was hounded by the aforementioned James throughout the night, his teammates more than picked up the slack, scoring eighty-four points on 35-of-56 shooting from the floor (62.5%). In fact, the Bench alone accounted for forty-five points alone. Andre Iguodala, last year’s Finals’ MVP, dropped eleven points on 5-of-9 shooting (55.6%), including 2-of-4 from downtown (50.0%), along with seven rebounds, six assists, a steal, and a block, while Shaun Livingston scored a team-high twenty points on a blistering 8-of-10 shooting (80.0%), with four rebounds, three assists, and a steal. Not to mention, both defended James for long stretches of the contest. Furthermore, Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, who both struggled against Oklahoma City, proved to be very effective against Cleveland’s porous defense, scoring sixteen and thirteen points respectively. The former got back to his stat-stuffing ways, adding eleven rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and a block in forty minutes of action. Hell, even the 33-year old Leandro Barbosa got into the act, scoring eleven points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting (100.0%). On the night, they were extremely efficient, assisting on a stellar twenty-nine of their forty-three field goals, while having their way in the paint, outscoring the Cavaliers 54-42 in that regard. And perhaps the one thing that made Kerr and his Staff smile the most was the fact that the reigning champs only turned the ball nine times, which was a real sticking point in the Western Conference Finals, particularly through the first four games.
Predicted Outcome: Warriors 104, Cavaliers 97