Warriors Still Primed To Beat Cavs
Golden State to win but not cover in Game 5
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No NBA team has ever successfully come back from 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series. It’s important we rap about this disclaimer again, just in case people were feeling particularly optimistic for the Cleveland Cavaliers after their Game 4 victory over the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.
There is no feasible scenario in which the Cavaliers end up winning this series. Not only would it be the greatest comeback in NBA history, but it would come against perhaps the best team in NBA history. Such a combination would be truly bizarre.
Still, the Cavaliers showed guts in Game 4. They launched 45 three-pointers and stuck it to the Warriors early, dropping 49 points in the first and never once relinquishing the lead. They got more production out of their role players, finally, and it was the first time all series LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were firing on all cylinders in the same game.
They were nearly perfect.
But can they be that good again?
To be honest, it’s unlikely. They’ve gotten nothing from most of their role players at Oracle Arena thus far. They can’t bank on J.R. Smith being as automatic from three, or on Richard Jefferson providing so many quality defensive minutes. They also cannot count on the Warriors’ Core Four of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry combining to shoot under 27 percent from beyond the arc. If that happens again, you have permission to faint from sheer shock.
That being said, the Cavaliers have appeared to discover something—a way for them to keep the game close. That tactic? Shoot a ton of threes.
They jacked 44 long balls in Game 3 and 45 in Game 4—the two highest single-game attempt totals in NBA Finals history, according to Basketball-Reference. It’s no coincidence that they ended up going 1-1 in those two games, with an opportunity to go 2-0; they held the lead down the stretch of Game 3, only to squander it near the end.
It doesn’t even technically matter if the Cavaliers are making those threebies at an insane clip, as they were in Game 4. They knocked down just 27.3 percent of their attempts in Game 3, and they were still in a position to win. And why? Because they’re taking shots that are, by default, worth more value.
As long as you ensure you’re getting back in transition, since the Warriors can grab a missed three and sprint out on the break, it makes sense to try outshooting them. The Cavaliers have the snipers to do it, and by playing the points-per-possession game, you’re giving yourself a chance to be at least within striking distance, if not in the lead, when you enter crunch time.
No, we should not expect the Cavaliers to win tonight. But, again, there’s evidence to suggest it’ll be a closer contest than the sportsbooks seem to think.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (+8.5)
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