The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are the two marquee franchises in the NBA. They have combed for 33 titles and 52 Finals appearances. But they or no other two teams have ever met three straight years in the Finals. That happens for the first time Thursday night when the Cavaliers visit the Warriors in the rubber match between these two star-studded squads. The Warriors are solid Game 1 and series favorites. Let’s take a closer look at the NBA odds for this matchup.
Cleveland at Golden State NBA Finals Odds & Game 1 Preview
Why Bet On Cleveland?
At 12-1 this postseason, the Cavaliers are the first Eastern Conference team to reach the NBA Finals with one or fewer losses since the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, who were led by a certain guy named Michael Jordan. Cleveland is 7-0 on the road and have won 9 straight road playoff games overall. The Cavs lead all playoff teams in field goal percentage (.507), three-pointers made per game (NBA-record 14.6), three-point percentage (.435), and offensive rating (120.7), while ranking 2nd in points per game (116.8) and 2nd in points differential (+13.6).
LeBron James has played his best basketball the playoffs: 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game, not to mention a 30.4 player efficiency rating, 126 offensive rating and .299 Win Shares per 48 minutes (last postseason, he was at .274). James (5,995 PTS) is five points away from becoming the FIRST player in NBA postseason history to reach 6,000 career playoff points. He is two three-pointers shy of passing Reggie Miller (320 3FGM) for 2nd place on the NBA’s playoff three-pointers made list.
This postseason, LeBron James has scored at least 30 points in 11 of 13 playoff games. He will become the 7th player to play in at least seven straight NBA Finals. The others occurred on Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics teams: Russell (10 in a row from 1957-1966), Sam Jones (9), Tom Heinsohn (9), K.C. Jones (8), Frank Ramsey (8) and Bob Cousy (7).
The Cavs won by an average of 30.0 points in the three road games at Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals (127.3 to 97.3), while also becoming the first team in NBA history to win two road games by a 30-plus-point margin in the same playoff series. The Cavs prevented the Celtics from holding a lead at any point during all three games in Boston, marking the first time in NBA history that a team did not lead at any point of three different home games in the same playoff series.
The Cavs and Warriors met twice this season, with each winning in a different fashion. In the Christmas Day matchup, Cleveland had a 3.4 percent win probability with 8:17 left (trailing 95-82) and 5.9 percent with 46 seconds left. But Kyrie Irving hit a fadeaway jumper with 3.4 seconds on the clock to cap the comeback in Cleveland. In the second meeting, the Warriors rolled 126-91 at home in a game that was never in doubt. The Warriors hit 15 3-pointers and outrebounded the Cavs 58-35.
Kyrie Irving averaged 27.1 points against the Warriors in the 2016 Finals, as he and LeBron (29.7) became the first teammates to average more than 27 points per game in an NBA Finals series since 1963.
Why Bet On Golden State?
The Warriors have a 7-6 record against the Cavaliers in the last two NBA Finals. Golden State defeated Cleveland, 4-2, to capture the 2015 NBA Championship. Last year, the Cavaliers outlasted the Warriors in seven games to win the title. The Warriors are 36-8 against everyone else since the 2015 NBA Playoffs.
After adding Kevin Durant, this year’s Warriors in many ways were superior to last year’s record 73-win club. For example, the 2015-16 Warriors had a season point differential of plus-10.8 and a net rating of 11.8. This year’s team was plus-11.6 and had a rating of 12.1.
In their 50-10 start, the Warriors were winning at an .833 clip. Since then they are playing even better (29-5, .853 winning percentage). Golden State is the first team in NBA history to start the postseason 12-0. The last team to enter the NBA Finals without a loss was the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers (11-0). Overall, including the regular season, the Warriors have won 27 of their last 28 games. No team has ever finished the playoffs unbeaten. The Warriors possess a point per game differential of +16.3, the highest in the history of the NBA Playoffs (minimum 5 games).
The Warriors averaged 19.3 points per game off turnovers, a league high in the regular season. By comparison, the Warriors had 17.1 points per game off TOs last year. Cleveland was tied for 26th this season at 14.6 per game, down from 16.3 last season. Golden State is all about fast breaks (a league-high 18.5 percent are in transition). Cleveland thrives on isolation, averaging 0.99 points per play while running isolation plays a league-high 11.9 percent of the time.
Stephen Curry, ranked 5th all-time in NBA playoff 3-pointers, has scored 20 or more points in 10 straight postseason games, a career-best playoff streak. Curry is 5 3-pointers shy of 300 career playoff 3-pointers and would join Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Manu Ginobili and LeBron. Durant, returning to the NBA Finals since 2012 when his Oklahoma City Thunder faced the LeBron-led Miami Heat, is shooting a playoff career-high 55.6 percent from the field (prev. .517 FG%).
Cleveland at Golden State NBA Finals Game 1 Pick: Golden State Warriors
The favorite is 17-9 ATS in Game 1 of the NBA Finals since 1991 (65 percent) – including runs of 14-4 ATS since 1999 (78 percent) and 11-1 ATS since 2005 (92 percent).