As the NFL celebrates its 100 anniversary, the league welcomes the Kansas City Chiefs back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 50 years. The Chiefs, 1.5-point favorites in Super Bowl 54, won Super Bowl 4 23-7 over the Minnesota Vikings as 12-point underdogs. Their opponents, the San Francisco 49ers have won five of six Super Bowl appearances but none since a 1995 victory in Super Bowl 29.
Cavaliers Have Golden Opportunity in Game 1
The Cavs will keep it close in Game 1
All odds brought to you by Topbet.
Golden State Warriors (-7) vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (+7)
Out of all the games the Golden State Warriors have played this year, through both the regular season and playoffs, sportsbooks have only listed them as the underdog once.
And leading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals, well, that hasn't changed.
If anything, it's surprising that the Warriors are just seven-point favorites over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Most statistical probability models, after all, don't give the latter much of a chance to win—30 percent or less. That would seem to suggest that the Warriors would not just win, but own Game 1, in addition to the rest of the series.
Still, this matchup should be compared to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. The San Antonio Spurs were only modest underdogs, because sportsbooks were trying to account for the possibility of the Warriors being stale.
That same methodology should come into play here. They haven't played since May 22. The Cavaliers have had almost as much time off, but LeBron James is a bit more used to protracted periods of relaxation than most other players. The lag between outings shouldn't affect him, and by extension the Cavaliers, all that much.
Another reason to feel good: The Cavaliers' offensive potency. They're pumping in more than 120 points per 100 possessions since the postseason tipped off—nearly five points more than the next closest team, which is the Warriors. During this time, not surprisingly, the Cavaliers lead the NBA in true shooting percentage—the combined measurement of two-point, three-point and free-throw efficiency. Their ability to make shots and get to the foul line is a big deal, because it helps out their defense.
In a vacuum, the Cavaliers don't match up well defensively against the Warriors. But they're really sunk if they cannot hit shots. A ton of misses will allow the Warriors to grab long rebounds and get out in transition, where they are unstoppable against even the stingiest defenses.
If the Cavaliers continue hitting their field goals and stopping the clock at a high rate, though, they'll force the Warriors to inbound the ball more, which will in turn mean they are spending more time in the half-court and less in transition.
To be absolutely clear, this doesn't mean you should bet on the Cavaliers to win. Their offense and James' two-way performance isn't enough to offset the Warriors' overwhelming balance. They have a ton of star power, the ability to switch almost everything on defense, and the depth to dictate whatever kind of play style they want at the Cavaliers' expense.
Nevertheless, Game 1 is always a feeling-out process. This plays to the Cavaliers' chances at covering the spread, if only because they shouldn't need to adjust their own rotation just yet. That, and the fact that Andre Iguodala, a primary James defender, is nursing some knee issues should have you salivating over Cleveland at +7.
The Pick: Cleveland Cavaliers (+7)
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