2015-16 NBA: 206-156 (56.91%)
Regular Season: 113-83 (57.65%)
Postseason: 93-73 (56.02%)
Golden State -4.5 (3u) / under 207.0 (5u)
The moment that mouthpiece took flight, I knew I was all aboard taking Golden State for Game 7. Steph has been bottled up for most of this series with the Cavs forcing him to give up the ball on PnR's, but his emotional outburst may have woken up the beast inside for us to witness an MVP performance by Steph tonight.
The Warriors were exposed in several different ways in the last two games. Without Bogut, the Cavs switched to have Dray guarding Love at the perimeter, which took him away from the rim and gave Bron/Kyrie all the room they needed to drive. Dray has no option but to stick to his man because as soon as he comes in to help, Love would be open for a three by 15 feet, which is a high percentage shot even for him. The Cavs also started utilizing the high PnR more with LeBron at PG to get Iggy off of him and blow past the likes of Varejao and other woeful defenders to not meet Dray in the paint who's camped out in the corner guarding Love. The Warriors need to switch efficiently on defense to not be exposed to bad matchups and leave Green in the paint as much as possible to provide the excellent rim protection he's capable of in Bogut's absence.
On the offensive end, the Warriors need to treat Steph as more of a SG who creates mismatches coming off of elevator screens to get open looks. Too many times has Steph brought the ball slowly up the court, giving Cleveland ample time to set up their defense and prepare for a usually predictable offensive set. In the Finals when Steph was on the ball, he shot 36% for only 0.83 pts/poss. When he was off the ball, he shot 57% for a remarkable 1.42 pts/poss. The Warriors thrive when they play at their usual extremely fast pace, creating mismatches with their screens/ball movement and not letting the defense get set up. They can't let the Cavs, who are bottom 3 in pace, take the lead early and dictate the pace for the rest of the game.
For those of you who like historical data, there's a reason the home team is 101-24 (81%) in postseason Game 7's and 15-3 (83%) in NBA Finals Game 7's. The home team is able to execute more efficiently and confidently at home in high pressure situations, especially for the role players that are usually affected more by the increased pressure. Let's not be so quick to dismiss the accomplishments of this 73 win Golden State squad from the last two games, this is still a historically great team with the ability to catch fire better than any other, and I fully expect them to come away with a hard fought win at home tonight.
The bigger play for me tonight is the under once again. If you were to simulate 100 games between these two teams, I'd bet an inadvisable amount that the under would hit in at least half of the games. The pace usually slows down for elimination games and especially in Game 7's, as the defensive efforts ramp up and teams tighten up their rotations. Losing Bogut and Iggy mid-game in Games 5/6 were absolutely a huge reason for the Cavs resurgence offensively, and lightning won't strike 3 times in the same place. With Iggy probably drugged up and ready to suit up one last time this season, he should be a key contributor in slowing down LeBron tonight.
Since 1994, there have been 4 Finals Game 7's, and the under hit on all 4 by an average margin of 15(!) points. All signs are pointing to the under being a max play for me in what should be a slow and tight Game 7.
Cleveland -2 (4u) under 207.0 (4u)
Spread: I think we'll be seeing a Game 7 on Sunday. People backing the Dubs are mentioning that Bogut was playing limited minutes and didn't play in Game 6 last year when they won in Cleveland. I think the Warriors are going to struggle keeping the score close in the ~10 minutes Dray will need a break. Dray playing 40+ minutes won't end well because the small ball death lineup relies on him playing at high energy on both ends of the court. Before we forget, Bogut is still a highly effective rim defender that clogs up the paint, an integral part on high PnR's with his (controversially legal) screens, and an excellent passing big man in his 12-15 minutes. Ezeli is still too raw and uncontrolled to be effective for extended run, Speights is a 7 foot shooting guard, and Varejao and his hair both deserve an Oscar for pretending he got sniped in the face last game. Bogut and his DNP-CD last year was by design because it was an entirely different Cavs team without Kyrie/Love. Just as we saw Dray's value by his absence in Game 5, I think we'll realize how big of a contributor Bogut was for the Warriors on the defensive end. Also I don't see how relevant it is that the Warriors won in Cleveland last year against a completely depleted Cavs team. Same goes for Foster and his road team bias. Warriors have a losing record with him this postseason, as do road teams in general. We all saw what Kyrie and LeBron are capable of, and recency bias or not, I don't see Cleveland letting Golden State to celebrate again on their home court, where they've been almost perfect all postseason.
Under: As we saw in Game 5, for every 122 point half, we could just as easily see a 32 point 4th quarter. As a Warriors fan, I was shocked at how fast the 28th fastest paced Cavs were willing to play, challenging the Warriors to a shootout on their home court in an elimination game... And walking away with a dominant win. This was partially by design due to Bogut's injury, where we then witnessed that ridiculous small ball lineup of Steph/Klay/Livingston/Iggy/Barnes. The Cavs attacked the paint hard using their size to their advantage, and they usually ended with easy finishes from Kyrie/LeBron. With Dray back to clog up the paint, the Warriors should be able to spend less time trying to double LeBron with two guards, and instead focus on Kyrie and the Cavs perimeter defense. I think we'll see the Cavs control the pace of the game at home and set up their half court offense to physically chip away at a depleted Warriors squad.
Golden State -5.5 (3u) under 205.0 (3u)
Spread: I'll keep it short today but I fully believe the series ends tonight, even with Dray's suspension. Iggy will be the primary defender on Bron and we saw how Kerr used McAdoo who rarely sees playing time to stay athletic on switches instead of Bogut/Ezeli. Cavs offense is an absolute dumpster fire with minimal set plays and plenty of LeBron or Kyrie 10-dribble iso mid range jumpers. Kyrie has an unbelievable 18 points on 31 iso plays (0.58pts/iso) which is pathetic and frankly inexcusable. People point out that Curry is having a tough series but he's averaging 1.26pts/iso. If Golden State jumps out to a sizable lead early, I don't think the Cavs have the mental toughness/energy/balls to keep their heads in the game and make a run at stealing one in Oracle tonight
Under: Rolling with the under once again. You guys have probably noticed by now, but I've taken the under 15 times in 17 games in the conference finals and finals, and I'm 12-5 in over/unders. If Dray had not been suspended, this likely would have been a max play for me, but now there's too big of a variable for me to go all in. People might lean toward the over because Dray being out creates more opportunities for Cleveland, which is a valid point, but any lineup that doesn't have Dray at the 5 will likely play at a slower pace. I don't think this game will be close enough at the end to warrant the intentional fouls at the end as we saw last game either. Live by the under, die by the under
Golden State +2.5 (3u) under 206.5 (5u)
Spread: Rolling with the Dubs for Game 4. Although it's true that the home team has been massively successful in this series as well as during this whole postseason in general, I'm not buying it that this Cavs squad who went 20-21 ATS at home this year will dominate the Warriors once again in Cleveland. Golden State averaged 40 uncontested shots per game in Games 1 and 2, and even though they were steamrolled in Game 3, they still had 37 uncontested looks of which they only connected on 15. For this reason, I think people are giving far too much credit to the Cavs defense. No matter how much Kyrie turned up the intensity, that doesn't change the fact hes one of the biggest defensive liabilities at the PG spot in the league. Love is expected to return tonight and he isn't any better at defending the deadly high PnR. The Warriors can't stay this cold for this long, and the Cavs will simply not shoot 20%+ better than the Warriors from downtown again. It's unsustainable for Cleveland to keep running a 6 man rotation with LeBron playing 40+ minutes every night and receiving zero bench support. I'll take Golden State in hopes that we'll see the team we've seen all season long that looks to finish off the season at home in 5.
Under: Big play on the under for me tonight. Love seems like he'll give it a go tonight but I expect him to come off the bench behind Jefferson. To counter this move, I really do expect Kerr to start Iggy over Bogut tonight, since this series has proven to be a terrible matchup for Bogut anyway. Usually when teams go small, it's to play at a faster pace and generate more offense. But a middle aged Jefferson is (sadly) far more effective than what Love can provide on a good day, and Iggy receiving the nod to start will ensure that he gets maximum time defending LeBron to prevent a large 1Q deficit like last game. So with both teams ramping up their defensive efforts, I like this game to be a slower and much lower scoring game than in Game 3.
Cleveland -1 (3u) W under 205.5 (3u) L
Kevin Love being ruled out for Game 3 is absolutely addition by subtraction. He's too much of a defensive liability and his offense does not justify how much he hurts his team on D. I expect to see Mozgov start tonight and hold up on the defensive end, RJ/Frye to step up and pick up the shooting production that Love offered, and for LeBron to have a vintage "fuck you im LeBron" game. The Cavs have a better chance to control the pace of the game at home, where they're one of the slowest paced teams in the league. I don't see Steph/Klay finding their stroke on the road tonight, especially when Cleveland will be locking down on defense in the back court at home.
Edit - adding why I think Love being out is a blessing in disguise from one of my comments below:
In this postseason, Love has a decent offensive rating of 114.4 and a not so decent defensive rating of 106.0 (lower is better) for a net rating of 8.4 on a Cavs team thats 12-4 in the playoffs.
For comparison, players who had better ratings were TT (12.9), Amir Johnson (13.8), LMA (15.2), Zeller (9.3), and Pachulia (8.5), with elite players reaching as high as Whiteside (37.1). Keep in mind that playing on a worse team makes it harder to hide bad defensive players as well as find good shots for players without guys like LeBron/Steph to draw double teams
I dont think it's a stretch to say that Love's lack of defensive abilities is crippling the Cavs because this Warriors team is so versatile. Mozgov barely played in the playoffs but in the regular season, he has a net rating of 8.6 over 76 games, 48 of which he started. Even Frye has a respectable 7.2 net rating over 32 starts and has been playing significantly better in the playoffs. Lue clearly hasn't found a way two hide two terrible defenders in Love/Kyrie, so maybe a change in strategy to going big will help
Cleveland +6 (2u) under 209.5 (3u)
Spread should probably be a no play but Scott Foster is the head ref tonight so...money's on Cleveland for me. The Splash Brothers both having bad games was partially by design, with the Cavs planning their defensive schemes to shut down Steph/Klay and challenging the rest of the team to beat them. Unfortunately for Cleveland, the Dubs bench stepped the fuck up all game long and ended up with a solid win to start the series. With two full days off to prepare for tonights game, I expect this to be another defensive showdown, and another subpar performance from the splash brothers with no cavalry from the bench coming out to rescue the Warriors
Golden State -5.5 (3u) under 210.5 (5u)
The Dubs will come out firing in Game 1. A lot of people have mentioned that Cavs have all this extra rest but I don't think that's as beneficial as people expect. Although it's obviously late in the season, these guys are used to playing every few days and the Cavs finally suit up tonight in their 6th day of rest. Too much rest could throw them off of their usual cycle and stop the momentum they had from winning Games 5 and 6. As for the matchup aspect, what the Warriors struggled with the most during the entire postseason was OKC's size and athleticism. When Golden State went to their small ball lineup, other teams usually follow suit because their bigs get burned by the Warriors' versatility. In Games 3 and 4 in OKC, we saw the Thunder stick with their bigs who were able to keep up with the small ball lineup and absolutely crushed Golden State on the boards. The big difference is that this Cavs front court is obviously nowhere near OKC's front court. Lue needs to hide KLove on defense because he'll get eaten alive by whoever hes guarding when the Warriors go small and Frye is a 7ft shooting guard. Anyone other than LeBron attempting to defend the Steph/Dray high PnR stands no chance. Also, the Warriors are excellent at defending the perimeter which is the Cavs biggest weapon. On the other hand, I don't see Delly/Kyrie/JR doing enough to slow down the splash brothers, especially when Klay is firing on all cylinders like in the past two games. This elite Cleveland defense will get exposed just as they did last year and the Warriors will end the 2nd half strong to seal the win and cover in Game 1.
Golden State -7 (3u) under 218.0 (3u)
Lock it in boys, it's been a hell of a series but it'll be the Dubs going back to the Finals for a rematch with the Cavs.
Golden State +3.5 (2u) under 220.5 (4u)
Cleveland -6 (2u) under 197.5 (2u)
Golden State -7 (2u) under 220.0 (3u)
Damn this has been the hardest game to cap all conference finals, it's hard to get a good read on what might happen tonight. But in the ECF, we saw Toronto handle this Cleveland team that won all 10 of their playoff games and thought the Cavs were gonna steamroll the Raps and cruise to the Finals. The majority of the public was on Toronto for Game 5 and they were spanked on national TV by the Cavs' big 3, who looked like varsity guys playing a middle school team out there. I think the same concept will apply tonight, where everyone thinks this OKC team is for real and writes the warriors off as a huge disappointment because of their last two games. There's a reason why the Dubs are still +220 (31% implied win probability) to win this series while down 1-3 and why they broke more records this year than we could count. Also before we forget, OKC is highly inconsistent and had the 2nd fewest wins ATS on the road this season, just ahead of the lowly Suns. They've had a great postseason run, taking down the Spurs on their home court twice and winning a close one at Oracle in Game 1, but something tells me lightning won't strike again tonight. It might be a bold call but I don't think OKC is showing up on the road at Roaracle, KD and/or Russ will get shut down, Steph will have a "fuck you I'm still Steph Curry" type of night, and we'll go back to talking about how this Warriors team is right back in the hunt for another ring. Taking the Dubs to win big tonight on their home floor behind 8+ threes and 40pts from Mr. Curry.
Cleveland -10.5 (3u) under 198.5 (3u)
Jumping on these early today. Toronto's 2 game streak was cute but this is absolutely the Cavs' series to lose. We've all been on the fuck Toronto fade train at some point during these playoffs because of their inconsistency and their poor play on the road. I'm not buying it that they can string together 3 solid games against this Cleveland team that returns to their home court. I expect Cleveland to come out firing and not look back as we all go back to cussing out the Trash Bros and their inability to play with any consistency
Oklahoma City +1.5 (2u) under 222.5 (2u)
Hurts to take OKC tonight as a dubs fan but they have all the momentum in the world and are probably feeling confident about the chance to go back to Oracle needing to win just one more game. What concerned me this series was that when GSW went small, OKC didn't follow suit right away as they did in the regular season. The fact that Donovan chose to keep two bigs in the game at certain points of the series against the Dubs small ball lineup and seeing OKC keep up against them is what makes me think they really could win the West this year. KD/Russ were on fire in Game 3 and the real difference was in the paint where OKC out rebounded the warriors 52-38 and out blocked them 8-1. With Bogut only playing 11 minutes due to Warriors opening the floor with stretch 5s, the Warriors defense crumbled against this ridiculously athletic OKC squad. I think today's game should go down to the wire, but I think OKC has the upper hand at winning Game 4 at home tonight
Toronto +6.5 (2u) under 197.0 (2u)
Looks like JV will suit up for tonights matchup, which means we'll see less of the sad Scola/Patterson combo when Biyombo is resting. Toronto not only won a "must win" game, but they also gained their confidence back on their home court behind solid performances from their guards. Kyrie and Klove should bounce back after their awful game on Saturday but I'll roll with the Raptors momentum to tie the series up at home where they seem to have some of the best fans. The under hit in all 3 games this series and although the first two were definitely flukey, the fact that these two teams are extremely slow paced and solid defensive teams (DEF efficiency, DRB%, fast break pts, 2nd chance pts) hasn't changed, and JV coming back only helps solidify Toronto's defense in the paint. I'll take the under because there's a good chance that one of these teams don't show up tonight and/or we see another low scoring 2nd half as we did in the first 3 games
OKC +3 (3u) over 220.5 (2u)
Toronto +6 (2u) under 199.5 (3u)
Toronto +12 (2u) under 198.5 (3u)
Cant believe I talked myself into backing Toronto but buckling in for a wild ride with the Raps and the under. Cleveland is dominant in just about every aspect of the game but this is more of a fade against the public's overreaction to Game 1, where the Cavs were shooting 60%+ until late in the game. A lot of things need to go right for Toronto to steal a game tonight and I have no confidence that they'll do so, but we should see a more competitive game than the drubbing we saw in Game 1.
Golden State -8.5 (2u) over 222.0 (4u)
Getting on these plays early today. OKC needed a perfect storm in the 2nd half to pull off the upset but lightning won't strike twice. Was planning on slamming the line if it dropped but looks like it won't budge much either way so keeping it as a 2u play. Both teams played significantly sloppier than usual, and they combined for 37 points in 4Q last game to hit the under last game. These are two high powered teams with the top two offensive efficiency ratings, especially in the first half, and tonight won't be the first time the Dubs lose back to back games at home this season.
Cleveland -10.5 (2u) under 201.5 (4u)
People are saying this is too many points to lay because it's the ECF but that's irrelevant in my opinion, it's how the team is performing rather than what round of the playoffs we're in. Toronto is a wreck offensively without Jonas in the paint and DeRozan doing everything he can to not get paid big this offseason. With Delly playing tight defense on Lowry whenever Cleveland feels like shutting him down, Toronto could very well struggle to break 90 points tonight. These two teams were both in the top 3 for slowest pace in the regular season behind Utah and the Cavs should be able to dictate the pace of the game all day to set up their half court offense. Toronto will have no answer for all of the Cavs shooters with Love as the stretch 5, which would cause Biyombo to guard the perimeter (bad idea) or create a mismatch elsewhere that the Cavs can take advantage of. Cleveland will expose this Toronto squad and come out firing with a statement win at home tonight.