After disappointing back-to-back losses to the Golden State Warriors, it's going to be tough to put the Cleveland Cavaliers in our Game 6 NBA picks this Tuesday night.
Jason’s record as of June 15: 82-86-5 ATS, 22-24-1 Totals, +0.15 units ML, 6-4 Series (+2.0 units)
Well, that just about tears it. The Cleveland Cavaliers were formidable opponents in the first two games of the NBA Finals, but once the series returned to Oakland, they just weren't the same team – literally. The Cavaliers, shorthanded and exhausted, lost 104-91 to the Golden State Warriors Sunday night in Game 5, dropping the cash as 9.5-point dogs on the NBA odds board. Looks like it'll be the domestic wine for lunch, Jeeves.
With the Finals returning to Cleveland for Game 6 on Tuesday (9:00 p.m. ET, ABC), and with the Cavaliers running out of bullets, we're likely to flip our basketball picks and recommend the Warriors again. They're available at –4 or –4.5 as we go to press; Cleveland bettors are starting to claw back some of the early support on the Dubs, but we're otherwise encouraged that most of the “sharp” money is on our side.
Center of Attraction
The rationale behind supporting Cleveland in Game 5 was sound, but the obvious risk was that the Cavaliers would be less productive than they were earlier in the series. The extra day off did appear to help at first, as the Cavs built a 37-30 lead halfway through the second quarter. It wouldn't last. Now they have to come back to Cleveland and play Game 6 after just one day off, and it's not really a day off – it's a travel day.
We're trying not to write off the Cavaliers just yet. Tactically, there are still some adjustments they can make to counter what the Warriors have been doing. The smallball lineups from Game 5 had some success; perhaps we could see even more of LeBron James playing center on Tuesday, doing his best Magic Johnson impression. But these horses have been ridden too hard, too often.
It's easy to knock the Cavs in retrospect for putting too much burden on their starters, James in particular. We wouldn't have taken that route here at the ranch, even though it almost worked – and it still might. But now that the Cavaliers have been put through the wringer, we definitely wouldn't want to invest in a commodity that's producing diminishing marginal returns.
If the NBA is going to insist on playing 82 regular-season games a year, plus exhibition games and the postseason, with all that flying around from arena to arena, well, this is what they're going to get. Players are already being pushed too hard as it is – how many stars, veterans and rookies alike, suffered major injuries this year? We can name two right off the top of our heads: Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
The Warriors, on the other hand, have gotten through this season with almost their entire roster intact. And their roster is amazingly deep and talented. While the Cavaliers have been trying to replace two All-Stars, Golden State has had the luxury of giving more minutes to Andre Iguodala and David Lee, a pair of All-Stars in their own right. It's an embarrassment of riches.
Okay, technically the Cavaliers have one more All-Star in reserve, but Shawn Marion (11.0 PER) appears to have already retired. GMs need to reconsider the way they fill out the roster with veterans like Marion, Kendrick Perkins and Brendan Haywood if these guys aren't going to be capable of contributing in the playoffs. Whatever value they have in the dressing room and during practice (or even as friends of Player X, or clients of Agent Y) can't possibly match what Iguodala and Lee have done for Golden State in this series.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Warriors –4 (–105) at WagerWeb