Half of the NBA Finals has been set with Cleveland sweeping Atlanta & Golden State as big favorite to finish Houston in Oakland Tonight. Let's take an early look at NBA Finals MVP odds at sportsbooks.
Cavs-Warriors Has Been Anticipated All Year
A Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals has been the betting favorite at sportsbooks for months and as usual the NBA is going to go chalk. You see surprising teams reach the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup Finals or World Series but it almost never happens in the NBA. Superstars get to the Finals and that's that.
What LeBron James is doing in these playoffs might be the greatest achievement of his career because the Cavaliers are 12-2 despite not having Kevin Love since the opening round against Boston and with All-Star guard Kyrie Irving playing on one leg -- when he does play. He missed two games of the Hawks series, but it didn't matter because LeBron was so good and he raises the play of otherwise mediocre players like J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova (few casual NBA fans had heard of that guy outside of Cleveland before these playoffs). James averaged an obscene 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.3 assists in the Hawks series. Before that in a tougher test against Chicago, he averaged 26.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 8.8 assists and hit the series-changing buzzer-beater in Game 4.
James is in his fifth straight NBA Finals, the first player do to that since the 1960s, and looking for his third ring. He also has Cleveland in the Finals for the first time since 2007 when the Cavaliers were swept by San Antonio. There will not be a sweep this time. The city of Cleveland hasn't won a championship of any kind in a major pro sport since 1964.
The Finals don't start until June 4, with the Warriors holding home-court advantage. That is a great thing for Cleveland. James is a bit banged-up and now gets plenty of time to rest. Ditto Irving, who did play in Game 4 against Atlanta on Tuesday and had 16 points. Cleveland needs him against the NBA's best backcourt of league MVP Steph Curry and fellow "Splash Brother" Klay Thompson.
Curry Vs. LeBron
Currently at sportsbooks, the Warriors are -265 series favorites against Cleveland, which is +225. For the opener, Golden State is a 6-point favorite on NBA odds. I'm sure the Warriors will be motivated to finish things off Wednesday to avoid a trip back to Houston for Game 6 and get as much rest as possible themselves. But they are much healthier than the Cavs.
Because the Warriors are title favorites, Curry is the NBA Finals MVP favorite at -275. Obviously it would be his first Finals appearance. Curry had a scary fall in Game 4 against Houston but apparently avoided a concussion and is fine. The last regular-season MVP to win the Finals award was LeBron in 2012-13. Curry is averaging 29.4 points, 6.4 assists and 4.1 rebounds in the playoffs and already has set the NBA record for most 3-pointers made in a single playoffs.
Let's be clear here: Curry won't put up quite the numbers as James because he doesn't have to. And Curry won't be guarding James, barring a pick-and-roll or something, because that would be a mismatch. Draymond Green is likely to get most of the time on James. I can see LeBron getting some time on Curry because LeBron is quick enough to guard just about anyone. Plus Irving isn't a good defender even when healthy. James is the +210 second-favorite for Finals MVP. It's quite likely either Curry or James wins the award -- it will go to the superstar on the winning team because it usually does.
The Cavs and Warriors split two regular-season meetings. James had 42 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in Cleveland's 110-99 home win on Feb. 26. He didn't play the game in Oakland, won easily by the Warriors. Curry averaged 20.5 points, 8.0 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the two meetings.