The NBA odds for Sunday's Game 5 have the Golden State Warriors favored by eight points. Is it time to switch to the Cleveland Cavaliers, or are they toast?
Jason’s record as of June 12: 82-85-5 ATS, 22-24 Totals, +0.15 units ML, 6-4 Series (+2.0 units)
Now that's what we're talkin' about. The Golden State Warriors had their coming-out party Thursday night in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, drubbing the Cleveland Cavaliers 103-82 as 4-point road faves to knot their series at 2-2. Not only did the Warriors give us more David Lee, they also started Andre Iguodala in a smallball lineup, cutting down Cleveland's tall timber and pulling away late to ensure the cover.
There does seem to be an air of finality about these Finals. The series returns to Oakland for Game 5 this Sunday (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC), and as we go to press, the Warriors are 8-point favorites on the NBA odds board. But that's down from –9 at the open. Our consensus reports still show 59 percent of early bettors on the Cavaliers. And after recommending Golden State in the first four games, we're sorely tempted to flip our basketball pick to the underdogs.
Although the Warriors shifted to a smallball lineup and finally appeared to solve Cleveland's defense, there will still tons of similarities between Thursday's action and the previous three games. Once again, the Cavaliers jumped out to an early lead at 7-0. They ran the ball through LeBron James like clockwork, slowing the game down (88.0 Pace Factor) and limiting Golden State's possessions. And once again, the Cavs tired down the stretch.
We expect more of the same in Game 5. The big question is how quickly the Cavaliers will break down. They were pushed to the brink and beyond in Game 4; Matthew Dellavedova was largely ineffective after his overnight stay in hospital to recover from dehydration, shooting just 3-of-14. As a team, the Cavs were just 33.0 percent from the field and 4-of-27 (14.8 percent) from behind the arc. Tired legs will do that to you.
Delly's Got Electrolytes
Here's the good news for Cleveland supporters: Their heroes get an extra day off before playing on Sunday. Yes, one of those days has to be spent flying to the West Coast, and we're always stressing how difficult these road trips can be when you're near the end of a gruelling season. But flying to the Bay Area is a hell of a lot easier on the body than playing smashmouth basketball against the Warriors. Dellavedova in particular will enjoy the opportunity to get his electrolytes balanced and all that.
We also have to expect some regression to the mean after Cleveland's awful shooting performance in Game 4. Tired legs can't explain away J.R. Smith missing all eight of his trey attempts – dumb luck is part of the equation. And while James is almost certain to continue running plays in isolation, sacrificing his efficiency in the process, he'll likely shoot better than his 7-of-22 from Sunday.
Gone in 24 Seconds
It's the iso-ball more than anything that has us thinking about the Cavs as a viable NBA pick for Game 5. We said going into Game 3 that we'd have to consider making the switch for Sunday, given how few possessions the Warriors are getting every night. Cleveland came within an eyelash of winning both games straight-up in Oakland, never mind against the spread. Now that spread is even bigger.
It's entirely possible that the Cavaliers go to The Oracle and get stomped on. Extra rest notwithstanding, the Warriors have proven themselves flexible enough to deal with Cleveland's size and strength. But after everything we've witnessed up to this point, we have to anticipate another low-scoring game on Sunday, and that benefits the underdogs. Plus, there are some tasty deals on vigorish out there. Shop smart.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Cavaliers +8 (-101) at 5Dimes