The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers needed overtime to go OVER in Game 1. With Kyrie Irving out for Game 2, the UNDER still looks like the right NBA pick.
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)
The operation was a success, but the patient died on the table. We had the UNDER in Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland leaned heavily on LeBron James playing iso-ball, and at the end of four quarters, the combined score was a few buckets short of the 203.5-point total on the NBA odds board.
Too bad the game wasn't finished. The score was tied 98-98 after 48 minutes, so they played five more, and by the time it was over, it was OVER. Golden State won 108-100. Oh, and Kyrie Irving collapsed in a heap with about two minutes left; he's out for the rest of the playoffs with a broken kneecap, and the total for Game 2 has been shaved down to 200 points. Our consensus reports at press time show 57 percent support for the OVER.
The Bucket List
Yeah... we won't be among them. We talked about how the Cavaliers needed to play smallball if they were going to score enough points to beat the Warriors. They still do, but now Irving isn't there to contribute – he was shooting 45.0 percent from long range in the playoffs. So the Cavs will have to get those buckets from someone else who isn't nearly as good as Irving. That makes us less fearful of the OVER.
We're not convinced the Cavaliers are going to stop playing iso-ball, anyway. For the most part, they handed James the rock in Game 1 and let him do his thing, like he's been doing ever since Kevin Love got injured in the opening round. Taking Irving off the floor doesn't instantly change the game plan. It didn't when Irving missed two games in the Eastern final against the Atlanta Hawks, although the totals were split 1-1 in his absence.
What did happen was the supporting players making their shots. In the game that went OVER, Cavaliers not named LeBron James shot a combined 13-of-30 from behind the arc as Cleveland won 114-111 in overtime (OVER 190.5). That total was already in the rear-view mirror by the end of regulation, too. If they can shoot like that again, Sunday's game could definitely go OVER, too.
We're not betting on it. The Warriors played some excellent defense in Game 1, even if James and Irving – and Timofey Mozgov (16 points on 5-of-10 shooting) – were getting theirs. Golden State held the Cavs to an Offensive Rating of 103.8, their lowest since Game 4 of the Eastern semifinal against the Chicago Bulls. Golden State also stayed big for the most part, as Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli and our man Marreese Speights got their minutes in.
If both teams do end up downsizing in Game 2, that gives sixth-man extraordinaire Andre Iguodala more of an opportunity to defend James. Iguodala did a fine job of that in the opener, particularly down the stretch as Cleveland ran out of gas. As Kevin Pelton (also our man) pointed out on Friday, James shot 4-of-14 in halfcourt situations when Iggy was his defender. Against everyone else: 12-of-22.
As far as we're concerned, all the right ingredients are there for the UNDER to cash in on Sunday. If the Cavaliers decide to turn this series into a track meet instead, we'll deal with that downstream. If Mike Miller pops out of the WABAC Machine and starts draining threes like he used to do, we'll deal with that, too. But we're going to stay the course for now, and we're going to recommend waiting until closer to tip-off before pounding the UNDER with your NBA picks. Every half-point counts. Meanwhile, we'll take the best deal on the NBA odds board at press time.
Free NBA Pick: Take UNDER 201 (–110) at The Greek