After exactly 1,315 games of the 2015-16 NBA season, it all comes down to this. Game 7 of the NBA Finals, between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, at Oracle Arena. In one of the more bizarre NBA Finals series of all-time, the Cavaliers have become the first team in 50 years to force a Game 7 after being down 3-1. No team in NBA history has ever won the title after finding themselves in that position, so the Cavaliers have a genuine opportunity to create history. Standing in their way are the Golden State Warriors, who many believe would have won this series in five games if not for the suspension of Draymond Green, who missed the last game at Oracle. Will Golden State cap a record-breaking season by successfully defending their title… or will LeBron James finally deliver a championship to Cleveland, the unluckiest town in professional sport?
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors
With no more margin for error for either side, it’s do-or-die in Game 7 of what may be remembered as one of the most strangely noncompetitive playoff series to go the distance, in any sport. The average margin of victory through the first six games has been an astonishing 19.7 points, with the closest contest being decided by 11 and both teams claiming a win by 30 or more. It would seem that the one guarantee for this match is that it won’t be a close result… and yet, this is Game 7. For The Big Dog, this comes back to the NBA’s decision to suspend Golden State forward Draymond Green for Game 5, after LeBron James successfully goaded Green into what can only be described as a brain-spasm. Having won Game 4 in convincing fashion, a full-strength Warriors would have gone home and sealed the deal in Game 5 but with Green (who leads the team in rebounds and assists) missing, the scales were tipped in the Cavaliers’ favour and they took full advantage. Game 6 was all about the start, as Cleveland raced to a 31-9 first quarter lead and a 115-101 victory. As good as the Cavaliers were in that game, the Warriors had their chances, cutting the lead to single-digits on a few occasions. Ultimately though, Cleveland have been a tremendous home-court team this season (42-9) and the fact they were able to force a deciding game should not have been a shock to the system. Now they face the biggest test in basketball. Game 7, not just on the road but at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors have lost only four games all season. As is to be expected at this stage of the season, there are multiple injury sub-plots to this game. Two-time defending MVP Steph Curry is expected to have shoulder and possibly knee surgery, in the very short-term. Andre Iguodala is expected to play, in spite of a back complaint and Kyrie Irving is all-but certain to play through a foot injury. One man who won’t be there is Warriors big man, Andrew Bogut. The seven-foot Australian landed awkwardly on his knee in Game 5 and his absence in the lane has been looked at as a key reason behind the Cavaliers resurgence. Looking back at last year’s Finals, The Big Dog doesn’t see how this is the case. Bogut played a total of three minutes in the last three Golden State wins in that series, as Steve Kerr opted to start with the “death lineup”. This will undoubtedly be the way he goes again and if Iguodala is anywhere close to fit, it’s the right call. Expect the Warriors to challenge LeBron James to beat them from the outside, which is not something he has been able to do on a consistent basis. James has shot at 53.4 percent from the field, in these playoffs but remains a mediocre 34.8 percent three-point shooter. He needs to find the range early or the strategy will be clear for Golden State. With Steph Curry having something to prove after two below-par performances and a controversial ejection in Game 6, The Big Dog is all-in on the defending champions to seal the deal. With the ravenous Oracle Arena crowd in full voice, the Warriors will win this game and the margin, as has been the case through the whole series, will be convincing. Look for Draymond Green to have a huge game, as there may be nobody under more pressure than the Warriors’ emotional leader… and there may be no player for whom the home crowd’s energy makes a bigger difference.
Golden State Warriors 11+ (Margin) @ $2.70 (CrownBet)