Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Thursday.
The underdogs hold a 2-1 series lead, but the team with the best record in the NBA could play like it from the outset Thursday night when those West Champion Golden State Warriors (80-20, 33-16 away) again pay a visit to the East Champion Cleveland Cavaliers (67-32, 38-11 home) for Game 4 of the NBA Finals from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH at 9:05 ET in a game televised nationally on ABC, with the Cavaliers leading the series 2-1.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Golden State as a modest road favorite for this contest with the current line at -2½ with odds of -104.
No Irving, No Problem?
Many people thought that the Cavaliers’ chances of winning this series went down with the fractured kneecap of Kyrie Irving in Game 1 of this series, but instead Cleveland has won both games since the season-ending injury and established a 2-1 series lead when holding on for a 96-91 win in Game 3 on Tuesday. Sure Irving’s scoring punch has been missed, but the unheralded Matthew Dellavedova has become an MVP candidate with his smothering defense.
In fact the entire Cleveland defense deserves credit is it has contained the highest scoring team in the NBA this season (110.0 points per game), allowing the one-man show on offense by LeBron James to be enough for the Cavaliers to be the winning NBA picks the last two games. However, there may have been a major shift in this series in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
Momentum Gained with Fourth Quarter Charge
Remember that this is not the first time that the Warriors have been in this position, as they were down in the series 2-1 to an even better defensive team than the Cavaliers in the Memphis Grizzlies in the Western Conference semifinals while getting smothered defensively in the first three games, only to finally solve the Memphis defense in Game 4 and win the next three games to take the series in six.
Well, the Warriors may have solved the Cleveland defense even earlier than they did vs. Memphis, as the fourth quarter on Tuesday was the first time in this entire series that Golden State resembled the team we saw all season. Remember that the Cavaliers began Game 3 by holding the Warriors to their lowest scoring half of the entire year as they were sitting on just 37 points at halftime, and then they were at another season-low after three quarters at 55 points after just setting their previous season-low for three quarters at 59 points in Game 2!
But then came what may become the turning point of this entire series as the Warriors were finally the Warriors and Stephen Curry finally looked like the league MVP again in that final stanza after being unable to find his stroke while being closely guarded by Dellavedova previously. The Warriors nearly matched their output for the first half with 36 points in the fourth quarter, as Curry had 17 of those points thanks to hitting five three-pointers.
That surge allowed Golden State to trim a 17-point deficit to begin the period all the way down to one at one point before Cleveland edged away in the final minute. It was still an encouraging sign for the Warriors though and we now expect them to ride that momentum to a much faster start here in Game 4, knowing the desperation of the situation with their season quite possibly being on the line.
Now, Dellavedova had not done much offensively the first two games, in fact getting shut out scoring-wise in Game 1 and scoring just nine points in Game 2, but the Cavaliers did not care much given the great defense he was playing vs. Curry. Then Dellavedova had an offensive eruption with 20 points on Tuesday while still containing Curry for three quarters, but just as newsworthy was that he was hospitalized after the game with severe cramping.
He took an IV treatment after the game and should be fine for Game 4, but that was just an indication of just how much Dellavedova and the rest of the Cleveland defense have left on the floor over the first three games. With that in mind, could the fourth quarter of Game 3 be an indication that the defense is beginning to fatigue while defending a superior offensive team?
That may very well be, and if that is the case and the Warriors top 100 points tonight, the Cavaliers may not be able to keep up as for all of LeBron’s greatness, he has had no offensive support this entire series other than the 20 points by Dellavedova in Game 3, which is a feat that does not really figure to be repeated.
If that fourth quarter was not a mirage and the Warriors have indeed figured out what may be a tired Cleveland defense, then we like the chances of a desperate Golden State team getting out of Cleveland with a safe win tonight to even the series and regain the home court advantage.
Yet to Lose Three in a Row
Finally, do not forget that the Warriors have yet to lose three straight games this entire year and this is just the sixth time that they have lost two straight. On the first five occasions, they have come back to win by an average of +13.6 points, and if we take it back further Golden State is 15-1 straight up and 10-5-1 ATS on the last 16 occasions that it has come off of two losses while winning by an average of +10.9 points.
Now the Warriors may not win by double-digits again here like they did in most of those games, but they do not have to with this modest point spread, so look for Golden State to cover the spread in the biggest game of the year so far as it evens up the NBA Finals at 2-2 in Cleveland on Thursday.
NBA Pick: Warriors -2½ (-104)