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The Cleveland Cavaliers have one more chance to prove that they can challenge the Golden State Warriors in the 2017 NBA Finals. They find themselves in a virtual “must win” situation, returning home for Game 3 Wednesday night in a 2-0 series hole.
For many, Golden State’s final two wins are a given at this point. It would be very tough to find any predictions of the Cavs coming back to win the series, and the Game 3 betting odds have significantly shifted in the last few days. Cleveland was a two-point favorite in their first home game before the series began, but they are now three-point underdogs, via OddsShark.
If the Cavs play at all like they did in the series’ first two games, they’ll suffer the same fate as the Warriors’ first three playoff opponents. Cleveland needs to be close to perfect when Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are locked in, and the Cavs have not been up to the challenge thus far.
There isn’t much more that LeBron James can do. His postseason brilliance has continued in the finals, averaging 28.5 points, 13.0 rebounds and 11.0 assists per game on 55.3 percent shooting. But Durant and Curry have combined to average 65.5 points on 43.5 shots per game, and James hasn’t gotten nearly enough support from his No.2 star.
Other than James’ masterful performance in the 2016 NBA Finals, it was Kyrie Irving outdueling Curry that allowed the Cavs to pull off the greatest comeback in league history. Cleveland‘s point guard hasn’t come close to reaching that level in two games, averaging more shot attempts (22.5) than points scored (21.5).
If the Golden State Warriors were favourites before the NBA Finals started, they are now unbackable with the Cleveland Cavaliers facing an uphill battle to get back into the series. Join The Roar for live scores and coverage of Game 2 from 10am (AEST).
The Cavaliers were absolutely woeful in Game 1. They ended up going down to the tune of 113-91, but the stat sheet told the real story of the 22-point loss.
20 turnovers, including eight for LeBron James is the stat that jumps off the page. Combine that with a mountain of second chance points for the Warriors, and it’s easy to see why the Cavaliers were never in the game.
Why the Warriors can cover the spread
Golden State has covered five in a row in the playoffs, with those games decided by an average of 18.6 points. Each of them has been decided by double digits as well, justifying the Warriors as road favorites in this spot.
They have not been listed as underdogs since March 29 against the San Antonio Spurs and won that game 110-98 on the road.
Led by Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, the Cavaliers have had no answer for them defensively, and they are hoping home court will make an impact.
Why the Cavaliers can cover the spread
Cleveland has played competitively with Golden State at times during the first two games of the series before some big runs proved to be the difference.
LeBron James has averaged a triple-double so far but has also committed 12 turnovers, and he should be able to make it to the free-throw line more at home.
As a team, the Cavs have made it to the charity stripe four more times overall than the Warriors, so that cannot be used as an excuse. Instead, they must play better defensively to hold Golden State in check.
The Warriors failed to hit 100 points in their last two losses during the regular season.
Prediction: Cleveland over Golden State, 120-117