When the Golden State Warriors coasted down the stretch to take Game 4, the majority of NBA fans were comfortable with the idea that this series was about to be wrapped up in five. Then video of Draymond Green striking at LeBron James’ groin began to circulate and all bets were temporarily off. The Cavaliers were able to take care of business against the short-handed defending champions and now head back home, looking to force a Game 7. Will the series go the distance or will Green’s return to action be enough to end the season, for the second year in a row, in a Game 6 at Quicken Loans Arena?
Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers cleared the first hurdle, after falling behind 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors, by winning Game 5 112-97. Now they have to handle their business at home, in order to force the 2016 NBA Finals to a Game 7 finale. Both recent and overall history is firmly against Cleveland’s comeback push. The Warriors won the 2015 NBA title with a 105-97 Game 6 victory, in this same building and teams that trail 3-1 in the Finals have never won the title, in 32 all-time attempts. Even so, the Cavaliers have the right to be optimistic about their chances to force a Game 7, given that they remain one of the best home-court teams in the NBA (41-9) but a closer look at recent history between these two teams shows that holding home court advantage hasn’t played particularly large, in the NBA Finals (6-5). As far as The Big Dog is concerned, the Cleveland Cavaliers are false favourites, due to one simple fact. If Draymond Green was not suspended for Game 5, the Golden State Warriors would already be the back-to-back NBA Champions. With that being said, there is value to be had in backing the Warriors to win their ninth game in eleven meetings with the Cavaliers. Looking deeper into the value spots of this contest, the first player that stands out is Kyrie Irving. After scoring just ten points in Game 2, the volume-shooting point guard has blazed his way to three straight 30-point games, averaging 35.0. His individual points line is high (27.5) but recent form suggests it could be higher. The same has to be said for Klay Thompson, who is coming of a 37-point effort in Game 5 but has a points line of just 22.5, a line he’s cleared in 14 of 22 games over the 2016 playoffs. The Cleveland Cavaliers may have ranked 4th in the league at points allowed (98.3) but they have been perfectly mediocre when it comes to opposition shooting percentage. They rank 8th in opponent field goal percentage and 7th in opponent three-point percentage out of all 2016 playoff teams, after coming in at 14th and 13th in those same categories, through the regular season. For Thompson, it means that he will get his looks while the focus for Cleveland remains on their efforts to limit the impact of Steph Curry. Finally, The Big Dog is going to the well and backing Tristan Thompson to be a force on the glass. Golden State get their leading rebounder back, in Draymond Green but lose their leading offensive rebounder (Andrew Bogut) to a season-ending knee injury. Thompson has averaged 10.4 rebounds a game in this year’s NBA Finals and leads the Cavs with an impressive 4.4 boards per game on the offensive end. Bogut’s absence should help lift his output in terms of defensive rebounding, where he has performed relatively poorly (4.5 per game in the playoffs) and see him register double-figures for the tenth time from twenty 2016 postseason appearances. Overall, The Big Dog expects this to be the tightest game of the series, with the Warriors ultimately getting over the line. Game 6 should be the first in this year’s NBA Finals to be decided by less than eleven points but the odds are there for both teams, if you think the trend of 11+ margins will continue. Golden State are the better team. The only question will be whether or not LeBron James and Kyrie Irving can overcome their deeper, more team-oriented opposition with sensational individual performances, for the second game in a row.
Golden State Warriors (Head to Head) @ $2.16 (CrownBet/Sportsbet)
Over 27.5 (Kyrie Irving Total Player Points) @ $1.95 (Ladbrokes)
Over 22.5 (Klay Thompson Total Points) @ $1.88 (CrownBet)
Tristan Thompson Over 9.5 (Player F Total Rebounds) @ $1.79 (Sportsbet)