The trilogy is on. For the first time in NBA Finals history, the same two teams–the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers–will meet for the third straight year. The Cavs also made history in last year’s matchup as they became the first-ever team to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the title. But with Kevin Durant now on their side, the Warriors will be ready for retribution.
So, who will come out on top in this rubber match? Read on below as we make the case for both teams in this titanic NBA Finals matchup.
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Complete Series Schedule
- Game 1: June 1, 9:00 PM ET, at Golden State
- Game 2: June 4, 8:00 PM ET, at Golden State
- Game 3: June 7, 9:00 PM ET, at Cleveland
- Game 4: June 9, 9:00 PM ET, at Cleveland
- Game 5: June 12, 9:00 PM ET, at Golden State*
- Game 6: June 15, 9:00 PM ET, at Cleveland*
- Game 7: June 18, 8:00 PM ET, at Golden State*
Betting on the Cleveland Cavaliers (+210)
The Cavs might just be the best Finals team to be considered as big an underdog. They are 12-1 in the postseason, and started out with a 10-game winning streak. It needed an ill LeBron James and an unlikely comeback to end that streak back in Game 3 vs. the Celtics.
When James has been healthy, though, he’s been close to unstoppable. He’s averaging 32.5 points (while shooting 56 percent from the field), 8 rebounds, 8 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks in this postseason. No one needs reminding what he did in last year’s Finals against the Warriors, when he went for 30-11-9-2-2 and led the Cavs from a 3-1 deficit to win the title.
After struggling in the earlier rounds, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also erupted in the Celtics series to make an already outstanding offense even more unstoppable. Kyrie averaged 26 points on an obscene 62 percent shooting in the Celtics series, while Love put up 22 points and 12 boards with 1.4 steals, 1.2 blocks, and hit 4.6 3s per game at a 53 percent clip.
The Cavs enter the Finals averaging 120.7 points per 100 possessions, the highest postseason offensive rating in 40 years.
As it has been for most of the season, defense remains the Cavs’ big issue, but it’s gotten a bit better during the postseason. Tristan Thompson has proven to be an ideal weapon against the Warriors thanks to his ability to switch as well as his activity on the boards. Love is also having a quietly strong postseason defensively, although that will be tested to the fullest by the Warriors.
Betting on the Golden State Warriors (-280)
It speaks more to the Warriors’ utter dominance that they remain significant favorites over Cleveland in this series. The Dubs responded from their remarkable collapse in last year’s Finals by adding Kevin Durant to an already historic team. And as expected, KD’s addition alongside Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and co. has taken the Dubs to an entirely different level of supremacy.
Golden State strolled their way to a perfect 12-0 record during the West playoffs, with a ridiculous 16.8 net rating. While their offense hasn’t quite been at the Cavs’ level, it’s still outrageously good.
Curry has been cooking all postseason long. He’s putting up 28.6 points (50% FG, 43% 3-PT FG, 91% FT), 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 2 steals per game, and unlike last year, he will be fully healthy entering the Finals. Durant has been the definition of efficiency. He put up 28 points on just 16 shots per game in the Spurs series.
The two have more than made up for Klay Thompson’s prolonged shooting slump. The other Splash Brother is averaging just 14 points and shooting 38 percent in the postseason.
Meanwhile, their defense (99 points per 100 possessions) has unquestionably been the best in these playoffs. Led by the incredible Draymond Green (who has been on his best behavior this postseason and is not in danger of a costly suspension), defense is the biggest reason to like the Dubs over the Cavs. The Warriors have shown throughout the regular season and postseason that they are more capable of consistently producing key stops.
Designated LeBron James stopper Andre Iguodala hasn’t quite looked like himself after missing a couple of games with a knee injury, which is a bit of a concern. But the unit as a whole remains very deep and very strong.
No one should feel completely confident about betting against LeBron James. As last season showed, he’s much too great to be counted out of any series. But this Warriors team is unlike anything he’s faced in his career.
The Dubs are too good on both ends of the floor, particularly on defense. Defense wins championships, which is why Warriors will eventually come out on top. Golden State (-280) wins in 6.
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