Kyrie Irving won't be suiting up for the Cleveland Cavaliers this Sunday when they visit the Golden State Warriors. Is there any reason left to put the Cavs in our NBA picks?
Jason’s record as of June 6: 81-83-5 ATS, 20-23 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-4 Series (plus-2.0 units)
Well, that tears it, folks. Kyrie Irving isn't going to be in action this Sunday (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC) for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Irving is out for the rest of the NBA Finals after Friday's MRI revealed a fractured left kneecap. Were you one of the early birds who added the Golden State Warriors at –6.5 when the NBA odds opened for Game 2? Good work; as we go to press, the Warriors have been bet all the way up to –8.
The spread might be even bigger by the time you read this. Now that both Irving and Kevin Love are out of commission, LeBron James is the only member of Cleveland's Big Three left standing. The Warriors used their depth to survive and cover Game 1 despite James (44 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Irving (23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks) playing their hearts out. Does Cleveland even have a prayer now that Irving is gone?
So You're Saying There's a Chance
Technically, yes. We've already laid out a path to victory for the Cavaliers, and it's not rocket surgery. Everyone's saying the same thing, including head coach David Blatt: More things have to be happening around James. But for those things to happen, Blatt has to give more players more opportunities. If one guy isn't getting the job done, maybe the other guy will.
We don't mean to pile on Blatt specifically. He's part of a larger culture that expects star players to risk their longer-term health for short-term gains. Irving played 44 minutes in Game 1 before his ailing left knee gave out from underneath him. That decision almost won the battle for the Cavaliers, but now they're almost certainly going to lose the war.
Almost certainly. Irving missed two games of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Atlanta Hawks; Cleveland went 2-0 SU and 1-1 ATS. Of course, the Hawks were missing Kyle Korver as well as Thabo Sefolosha, but at least the Cavs prevailed. Matthew Dellavedova and James Jones shot a combined 11-for-25 from long range in those two games. How about some more of that on Sunday?
All well and good, but now that Irving is out of the picture, the Cavs need more. They also need one or both of Shawn Marion and Mike Miller to wake up from the dead. Or how about giving Joe Harris a chance? He didn't do much during the regular season, but Harris did shoot 36.9 percent from downtown. Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Ready To Wear
Golden State's position is anything but desperate. We've been trumpeting how insanely deep this team is, and after Cleveland broke down late in Game 1, Kyle Thompson said it best: “That's what we've been doing the whole year, wearing down teams.” The Warriors ran the fastest pace in the league during the regular season at 100.7 possessions per game. That doesn't happen if Thompson and Stephen Curry are playing 45 minutes a night.
In this case, James (46 minutes) and Tristan Thompson (47 minutes) do have a couple days off to recover from their heavy usage in Game 1. But Golden State will still be the fresher team by far – Curry (43 minutes) was the only Warrior to hit the 40-minute mark. Combine that freshness with the loss of Irving and the already-large talent gap between the two benches, and we're comfortable enough to keep Golden State in our NBA picks at the best price available.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Warriors –7.5 (-115) at The Greek