After winning Game 1 of the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors NBA odds jumped from –5.5 to –6.5 for Sunday's Game 2 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Was this the right move?
Jason’s record as of June 5: 81-83-5 ATS, 20-23Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-4 Series (plus-2.0 units)
Sweet baby corn, that was a hell of a basketball game. It wasn't pretty at times, but the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers kept throwing haymakers at each other Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. The Cavaliers had the upper hand for the most part, but the Warriors took the game into overtime, and then they pulled away to win 108-100 as 5.5-point home faves. Just the way we drew it up.
Now we've got a very interesting situation brewing for Game 2. Kyrie Irving hurt his knee again with 2:01 left to go in overtime and hobbled off the court, clearly in pain. Will he be able to play on Sunday (8:00 p.m. ET)? Hard to say, but the NBA odds went ahead and made the Warriors 6.5-point faves at the open. Did the books do the right thing by moving the spread?
Yes, yes they did. Our very early consensus reports for Game 2 show two-thirds of bettors putting the Warriors in their NBA picks, putting enough pressure to move the line even further to –7 at most books. The action would have been even more imbalanced had the Dubs opened at –5.5 again.
Maybe the bigger question is whether early bettors are correct to jump on the Warriors bandwagon after they needed overtime to cover Game 1. If we completely ignored Irving's left knee, it would be easy enough to make the argument that Cleveland's the better bet, based on Thursday night's results. You could even use the zigzag theory to back it up. But we're not convinced here at the ranch.
Before the Finals started, Neil Paine and the stat gurus at FiveThirtyEight ran the numbers and figured that, all things being equal, LeBron James would have to have an epic series if Cleveland were to win its first championship. How epic? Try in the 99th percentile of all Finals performances. You only need to be in the 98th percentile to join MENSA.
James came pretty close to genius in Game 1. He played iso-ball most of the night, but James was good enough for 44 points on 18-of-38 shooting (47.3 percent), pretty close to his 48.8-percent rate during the regular season. And that was against the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA. How unlikely was that? Bovada had James pegged at +400 to score at least 40 points in the opener.
Golden State will be more than content if the Cavs stick to the same plan in Game 2. James' remarkable performance aside, the Warriors did most of the things they wanted to do. They even won the rebounding battle 48-45, even though Cleveland was playing big most of the night – Tristan Thompson (two points, 15 boards) was on the floor for 47 minutes.
Maybe Cleveland would have played more smallball Thursday night had their reserves made some more shots. J.R. Smith was held to nine points on 3-of-13 shooting, and neither James Jones nor Matthew Dellavedova scored at all. But someone's going to have to step up in Game 2 on Sunday, even if Irving is at full health.
As for the Warriors, they used their ridiculous depth advantage to cut into Cleveland's early lead; our man Marreese Speights came through with eight points in nine minutes, and Festus Ezeli did his best Andrew Bogut impression in his 12 minutes of work. Golden State didn't even have to take David Lee out of mothballs. That's David Lee, two-time All-Star. He had a 17.8 PER during the regular season. Maybe Lee should switch teams for Game 2, just to make it fair.