Make no mistake about it, the situation is way beyond critical for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who find themselves down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors as the series heads back to Oracle Arena for what many expect will be a close-out Game 5. No team has ever rallied from Cleveland’s position to win the title (0-32 all-time) but the enforced absence of a key Warrior might just provide a slither of hope that the Cavaliers need, in order to extend the Finals to a Game 6.
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors
When the dust settled on a 108-97 Warriors win in Game 4, it was game over. Prepare for the back-to-back victory parade. Golden State will wrap this up in five games. Then footage emerged of a previously unseen strike on LeBron James by Draymond Green and the retrospective flagrant foul that will keep the Warriors’ emotional leader off the court, in what still could be the final game of the series. Although that is now not to be considered a forgone conclusion. Green has played in all but one game this season, a 112-110 loss in Denver, making it very tough to anticipate exactly how the team will compensate for his usual production. In that game, back on January 13th, Steve Kerr started Jason Thompson at power forward. Thompson was later traded to the Toronto Raptors, which means he will need to go a different route today. Looking at the available options, it would not surprise The Big Dog to see Harrison Barnes starting at power forward and either Andre Iguodala or Brandon Rush called into the starting lineup at small forward. This will put great pressure on the Warriors in terms of rebounding (Green averages a team-high 9.7 rebounds per game, in these playoffs) but maintains their “small ball” strategy, to a large extent. Expect to see Andrew Bogut play more minutes than he otherwise would, with his ability to rebound and block shots absolutely paramount. The other biggest change to the Warriors will be the reliance on Steph Curry (5.7 assists per game) to distribute the ball. He had nine assists in the loss to the Nuggets and will be the man to pick up Green’s 5.9 assists per game, which is also a team-high. For the Cavaliers, expect LeBron James to come out in attack mode, especially if Brandon Rush is promoted to the starting lineup. If Cleveland is to keep their slender hopes alive, LeBron is going to need to play three consecutive monster games.
Over 28.5 (LeBron James Total Points) @ $1.88 (CrownBet)
Over 5.0 (Andrew Bogut Total Rebounds) @ $1.88 (CrownBet)
Over 6.5 (Stephen Curry Total Assists) @ $1.77 (CrownBet)