The Cleveland Cavaliers played just enough smallball to get a push on the total for Game 5. The NBA odds for Game 6 opened at the same 195 points before heading south.
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)
We keep saying timing is everything when you make your NBA picks. That's because things like this keep happening: The Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 101-94 Sunday night, creating a push against the 195-point total. Unless, that is, you were among those who were able to grab the OVER when the total dipped to 194.5 or 194 points on game day, before moving back to 195 just before tip-off.
The over/under for Game 6 this Tuesday (9:00 p.m. ET, ABC) opened at 195, as well. Makes sense. But as we go to press, the total has already fallen to 194 on our NBA odds board, with about two-thirds of early bettors preferring the UNDER this time. This is going to be a tough call. One on hand, these are still some of the lowest totals Golden State has seen all year. On the other, the UNDER is 3-1-1 in the NBA Finals.
A Boy Called Trampoline
We're happy enough with our OVER pick from Game 5. That extra day off seemed to give Cleveland a lift early on; J.R. Smith was back on track, hitting 4-of-7 from downtown in the first half (one of them was a desperation heave at the end of the first quarter) and playing energetic defense, to boot. But Smith missed each of his last seven trey attempts.
The Cavs even did us a solid by going with more smallball lineups, surrounding LeBron James with three and even four shooters. Smith was one of the beneficiaries; so was Iman Shumpert, who went 3-of-6 from downtown. The spacing was better for both the shooters and for James, who ended up with 40 points on a semi-respectable 15-of-34 from the field.
But it wasn't enough to cash in the OVER – unless you were one of those aforementioned lucky ones, of course. Which makes us wonder what it would take, other than an extra five minutes of overtime, to get that final score up above 194 points on Tuesday. Maybe they could play Game 6 using SlamBall rules.
The Power of Mabey
Having only the one day to travel back to Cleveland and recover for Game 6 isn't going to help. It isn't just the Cavaliers who are tiring, either. Stephen Curry was dealing with dehydration issues after Game 5, but was reportedly feeling better after taking “drinking fluids.” In that case, Curry should be fine – I took plenty of drinking fluids Sunday night, too, and I can report feeling quite fantastic.
As low as these totals have been, the key to this series has been the way the Cavaliers are slowly bringing the ball up the court – even to the point of getting whistled for an eight-second violation on Sunday. For Cleveland, “going small” didn't lead to a significant increase in possessions; Game 5 had a Pace Factor of 89.7, up slightly from 88.8 in Game 4. It was still James running isolation plays for the most part.
At least James is probably going to get the Finals MVP award, if not his first title as a Cavalier. His individual numbers are impressive enough. James got another triple-double in Game 5, and the advanced stats show that he's provided more value than any but a small handful of players in NBA Finals history. If only that value didn't come with such a high usage rate. Imagine if Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were still around, maybe James would be a little less valuable – and maybe the Cavs would be able to score more often.
Free NBA Pick: Take UNDER 195 at SportsInteraction