Don’t call it a re-match. The 2016 NBA Finals tip off with the Golden State Warriors bidding to do exactly what they did 12 months ago – knock off the Cleveland Cavaliers to lift the title.
It was 4-2 then in the series. The Dubs are favourites for a repeat with odds of 6.00 for another six-game success mightily tempting. But it’s a very different Cavs team they’ll face when Game 1 begins tonight at Oracle Arena.
And just how much Kevin Love might add to the mix may determine if Cleveland can win their first-ever NBA title in their third trip to the Finals in nine years.
The former All Star missed this clash in 2015 through injury and even though Kyrie Irving appeared in only one game and Iman Shumpert played through a shoulder injury, it’s the forward’s consistency that figures to be the X-factor.
Love, who is 2.35 to lead the series in rebounds, averaged a mere 6.5 points in the two regular season match-ups, both of which were won by Golden State by an average of 20.
In this post-season, he has been notching 17.3ppg but in the Eastern Finals, it illustrated that where he leads, the Cavaliers follow, even with the omnipotence of LeBron James.
In the four victories over Toronto, he averaged 19.5 but in two reverses, a mere 6.5. While his rebounding in limiting extra possessions for the Warriors – and his role in initiating fast breaks – are critical, Cleveland need his offense to match the sprees of the reigning champions to offset the frequent lapses in his D.
Even that may not be enough. Golden State, despite some stumbles, look to have regained their stride in winning three straight to oust Oklahoma City, especially with Stephen Curry firing on all cylinders – with the MVP 1.70 to score the most points.
The Warriors can gain a lot from being able to match either Curry or Klay Thompson with Kyrie Irving on offense, especially off the pick and rolls to get three-point attempts that GSW love.
It’s no shock that the Cavaliers are 2.80 to pull off an upset triumph. Golden State will be ready to grind or go, depending on the situation although taking under 206.5 total points in Game 1 at 2.28 is worth a punt.
Ultimately, the Warriors have lived up to their name. It should be enough to see them through to a repeat.
Best Bet: Take Golden State at -7.5 over Cleveland in Game 1 at 2.16.
NBA Finals Facts
- The series between the Warriors and Cavaliers marks the 14th time in NBA history that the same teams are meeting in The Finals in consecutive seasons. Defending champions are 6-7 in these instances, with the 1960s Celtics accounting for four of those six series victories. Runner-ups have won six of the last seven rematches; the only exception was Chicago’s victory over Utah in 1998.
- The Warriors are making their eighth Finals appearance, tied with the Knicks for the fourth most in NBA history. A series victory would give the Warriors their fifth title, which would tie San Antonio for the fourth most all time.
- Three-pointers will be flying. This season, the Warriors (1,077) and Curry (402) set team and individual single-season NBA records, respectively, for most three-pointers. The Cavaliers made a franchise-record 880 three-pointers during the regular season, the fifth most all time. Cleveland is averaging the most threes in the playoffs and Golden State is second. Thompson – great value at 5.00 to score the most points in the series - is the post-season leader in three-pointers, followed by Cleveland’s J.R. Smith and Curry. In certain Finals lineups, all 10 players on the court will be three-point threats.
- Only 11 players in NBA history have won the MVP award in consecutive seasons. Two of them will match up in The Finals: James (who has repeated as MVP twice) and Curry (the two-time reigning MVP). Curry is 1.75 to win Finals MVP and James 3.25.