After six months, thousands of games and hundreds of tips, we’ve finally arrived at the 2016 NBA Finals! In a rematch of “The Big Dance” from 2015, the Golden State Warriors will try to match their MVP by going back-to-back against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. After having a significantly easier path to the Finals, will the Cavaliers deliver Cleveland its first championship in half a century… or will Steph Curry and the record-breaking Warriors set their sights on a dynasty?
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors
Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals is finally upon us and as NBA fans, there’s little to dispute that we’ve been given the final series that everyone wanted to see. In one corner, the Golden State Warriors, who look to cap their 73-9 regular season by becoming back-to-back NBA Champions. In the other corner, the Cleveland Cavaliers, lead by LeBron James. This is the most important series in the history of the Cavaliers franchise and arguably of James’ 13-year NBA career. Win and they deliver a title to a city that has experienced nothing but heartbreak for 50 years. Lose and condemn Cleveland’s greatest sporting icon of the last 50 years to a 2-5 record in the NBA Finals. The pressure could not be higher. So what decides Game 1? The Cavaliers have spent far less energy in getting to this stage, compared to the Warriors… but the dirty little secret here might be the fact that the Warriors’ last opponent (Oklahoma City Thunder) were a far bigger threat to their title than Cleveland. Certainly from a match-up perspective, the Warriors will be significantly more comfortable facing the Cavaliers, thanks to what each team does in pick-and-roll situations. Of the 16 teams that made this season’s playoffs, the Warriors are the most effective at scoring from pick-and-roll sets, while the Cavaliers ranked 15th in defending the pick-and-roll. To that end, there might be no player under more pressure to lift his game than Kevin Love. After missing the bulk of last season’s playoff run with an injured shoulder, Love has struggled mightily with his shooting touch, this postseason. He’s shooting just 39.1 percent from the field (lowest of all Cleveland forwards), while still averaging the third-most shot attempts (13.7) per game. Add to that his obvious deficiencies on the defensive end and you have a potential weak link that Golden State will attack mercilessly. After losing Game 1 against the Thunder and having to battle back from a 3-1 hole, The Big Dog expects the Warriors to start this series with renewed determination and get a solid opening win, at home. An 11+ margin isn’t out of the question but covering a six point spread should be far safer.
Golden State Warriors -6.0 @ $1.95 (William Hill)