Cavaliers vs. Warriors – NBA Finals Game 5 Pick

by Kevin Roberts
on June 11, 2017

I can’t be sure if the Cleveland Cavaliers gave one last gasp in front of their home crowd in game four on Friday night, or if we just saw the beginning of a historic run. Usually the latter would be crazy talk, but after LeBron James and co. raced back from a 3-1 hole to win their first NBA title a year ago, nothing feels off limits.

How the Cavs beat the Warriors in game four to prolong this series makes you wonder, too. Cleveland’s defense was prevalent, their role players existed and their stars were stars. Everything went right, with the Cavs putting up an astonishing 137 points and an NBA record 24 three-pointers in the easy win.

It’s amazing how one big win can change things, as the Cavs suddenly feel like the aggressors and we can look back to game two and how a bad one-minute stretch could be keeping us from the 2017 NBA Finals being tied up, 2-2.

These past two games have shown us that while the Golden State Warriors are the superior team, the gap isn’t that wide. Cleveland is technically back in this thing and while winning four straight games to claim a second consecutive title feels like a reach, we now at least have to entertain the idea of it happening.

Where does that put us from a betting perspective going into game five? Let’s find out:

Cleveland Cavaliers (+8.5)
Golden State Warriors (-8.5)
Total: 231.5

The Cavs march into Oracle Arena on Monday with every intention of stealing a huge road game. If they can find a way to do that, this series gets completely flipped and we’re headed back to Cleveland for a massive game six. At that point, we’d be locked in for another game seven.

The Dubs aren’t in panic mode by any means why three chances remaining to ice the Cavs and secure Kevin Durant’s first ring, but they need to look at game five as their last stand. Winning in Cleveland with a shot at game seven staring the Cavs in the face doesn’t make much sense, and if the Cavs work their way back to another game seven, it’s awfully hard to see them coming up short.

Golden State had a chance at history in game four, where they could have not only finished off the Cavs and won a title, but they also would have been the first team in history to complete a perfect 16-0 run through the playoffs. It’s ironic that Cleveland fired off for 49 first quarter points en route to keeping Golden State from history, just as they emerged from the depths of a 3-1 hole last year to stop a 73-9 team from perhaps being labeled as the best team ever.

We do need to be clear about two things: the Cavs have been impossible to trust throughout the 2017 NBA Finals, winning four straight games is a lot to ask and absolutely everything had to go right for the Cavs to do what they did on Friday night.

For one, the Dubs weren’t just listless. They chipped in 33 points in the first quarter and another 35 in the second. Their 68 first half points – in any other game – would have been good enough for a lead and possibly put Cleveland on the brink of elimination.

But the Cavs played out of their minds and out of this world on Friday, as Cleveland’s role players stepped up. Cleveland shot 52% from the floor and an insane 53% from long range, with seven players hitting a long ball and three starters knocking down 5+ three-pointers.

The Warriors got to the line more, only committed one more turnover and had just one less rebound on the day. This game, quite obviously, was all about the long ball and Golden State’s hesitation to defend it or Cleveland’s sheer ability to knock down deep shots they had no business knocking down.

Or maybe they did have business doing that. After all, this was the NBA’s best three-point shooting team during the regular season. If the Cavs are shooting the lights out, spacing the floor and also defending, this is a team that can give the Warriors serious problems.

J.R. Smith didn’t arrive until game three. Kevin Love has been hit or miss. Kyrie Irving saved his best for game four. These three guys all were on when it mattered most on the same night and with LeBron James attacking at will as the foundation of this offense, the Cavs responded and very rarely gave the Warriors much reason for hope.

One counter argument here is that Golden State flat out missed a ton of wide open looks. The Warriors still made 11 long balls on the night, but Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were not great from long range. Thompson shot 40%, but required 10 shots to get his four makes from deep, while Curry had a poor night from the floor, overall.

The series shifts back to California, where the Dubs have lost four times all year and easily handled the Cavs in the first two games. Cleveland has burned us against the spread with our NBA picks in this entire series, but after showing serious signs of life, we feel inclined to back them going into game five.

For starters, we had the Cavs as our pick to repeat all year. A 3-0 lead has dampened that considerably, but when LeBron James and co. refuse to go out, it forces you to pay attention to all of the potential remaining in this series. The Warriors should win on Monday night, but the laws of LeBron James may not allow it. At worst, we’re interested in Cleveland fighting and beating this spread as they try to get the Finals back to Cleveland one more time.

Pick: Cavaliers (+8.5)
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