After two convincing wins at home, to start the 2016 NBA Finals, the defending champion Golden State Warriors appear to have one hand on the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy. The Warriors head to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 3, knowing that no team has ever lost the NBA Finals after taking a 3-0 lead… but there are a few interesting side-plots to this game and as usual, The Big Dog has gone deep into the statistical quagmire to pull out the facts you need to find value in what is possibly the most intriguing individual match of these playoffs.
Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers
There are no two ways about it, Game 3 of the 2016 NBA Finals is a must-win for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. After the Warriors routed the Cavs by an aggregate of 48 points over the first two games, setting a new NBA record in the process, the series moves back to Ohio and the Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland are undefeated at home (7-0) in these playoffs and 40-8 for the season but they enter this game on a seven-match losing streak to the Warriors, with their last victory over Golden State coming in Game 3 of last year’s NBA Finals. In fact, this game will see one of two year-long losing streaks end, as the Warriors haven’t won a Game 3 since the 2015 Conference Finals. It’s an accepted fact in the NBA that role players typically play better at home and with the Cleveland bench on the receiving end of a thrashing at Oracle, being outscored 85-40 over the first two contests, The Big Dog expects an improved performance from the Cavaliers’ second unit. The big question is how much will these role players be able to help the desperate Cavs, down the stretch. Golden State have been especially dominant in the fourth quarter (+22), after both halftime scores could best be described as “manageable” from the perspective of the trailing side. The Big Dog thinks the greatest change in this game should be visible in the first half, with the key for the Cavaliers being the ability to build an early lead that can withstand the inevitable crunch-time run by the defending champs. Whether they can do that or not, especially without a member of their “big three”, is very much up for debate. Kevin Love (9.4 rebounds per game) will not line up for Game 3, after sustaining an elbow to the head from Harrison Barnes in Game 2 and being subject to the NBA’s concussion protocol. In his absence as the team’s leading rebounder, the pressure will be squarely on Tristan Thompson to clean the glass in a big way. Thompson has been doing his bit during this playoff run, averaging 8.4 boards and registering double-figures in seven of sixteen games, so taking his overs should be the safest pick of the day, shortly followed by overs on LeBron’s points line. There isn’t much that needs to be said about LeBron, in this game. Simply put, if he doesn’t have a big game, the Warriors can start planning their victory parade through the Bay Area. The frustrating thing for him is, a big individual performance doesn’t guarantee a Cavaliers win and The Big Dog thinks that the Warriors might just have enough confidence and unshakable self-belief to find a way to sneak home.
Cleveland Cavaliers/Golden State Warriors (Half Time/Full Time) @ $7.00 (Ladbrokes)
LeBron James (Top Point Scorer) @ $3.00 (Sportsbet)
Over 28.5 (LeBron James Total Points) @ $1.88 (CrownBet)
Over 9.5 (Tristan Thompson Total Rebounds) @ $1.77 (CrownBet)