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NBA Finals Game 5 Preview

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Editor's Note: Tony Mejia won his in-game parlay (side/total) for Game 4 and has correctly hit on six of his last nine guaranteed plays and seven of his last 10 totals. He is the NBA totals leader (+2522). Don't miss out on more winners from him this basketball season on Click to win!

NBA Finals - Game 5 - Warriors lead 3-1
Cleveland at Golden State (-5.5/205), 9:00 p.m. ET - ABC

Golden State is 50-3 at home this season, including 11-1 during these playoffs. All the Warriors need to claim their second consecutive NBA championship is one more win and will, as a worst-case scenario, get two cracks at it.

Coming off a great defensive effort in Cleveland during the fourth quarter of Game 4, Golden State will look to close out the Cavs and cap a season where they’ve already notched more wins than anyone in league history. If they’re going to be celebrating at Oracle Arena on Monday night, the Warriors must overcome the absence of Draymond Green, who was suspended for accumulation of flagrant foul points this postseason. The NBA assessed him with a flagrant 1 for a “retaliatory swipe of his hand to the groin” of LeBron James after the two were tangled up in the final few minutes late on Saturday.


Upon his suspension, the Warriors dropped from a 6.5-point favorite to -5.5 at most books.

James picked up a technical for stepping over him, while Green was penalized for being a habitual line-stepper. Golden State obviously took up for its teammate, blaming James for creating a situation for Green to retaliate against.

Klay Thompson insinuated that James has thin skin and didn’t care for the trash talk he heard down the stretch of a painful 108-97 loss on Friday night.

“I guess his feelings just got hurt,” said Thompson. “I mean, we’ve all been called plenty of bad words on the basketball court before. Some guys just react to it differently.”

LeBron laughed and said he’d take the high road. Again.

“I’ve been doing it for 13 years,” James said. “It’s so hard to continue to do it, and I’m going to do it again.”

So, this 3-1 series has a lot of spice. It’s had some substance too, thanks to Cleveland showing in Game 3 that it can physically impose its will when playing its best. The Cavs won 120-90 and then followed up by giving themselves a chance to even the series before a scoreless drought of 6:36 in the fourth quarter did them in.

Stephen Curry delivered 38 points after averaging just 16 over the first three games, while Thompson added 25 in a performance that quieted criticism of the struggling Splash Brothers. Meanwhile, Kevin Love’s value continued to plummet since the Cavs fell to 0-3 with him on the floor, being outscored by four points in his 25 minutes off the bench. After a strong showing in Game 3, the Cleveland bench was underwhelming again, scoring 15 total points and single assist off the bench. Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston were game-changers, combining for 18 points, nine boards and seven assists. Going back home, the second unit should be strong again and potentially serve as an x-factor like they did in the first two games, but the Warriors depth advantage is mitigated some by Green’s absence.

Iguodala will obviously get even more minutes and becomes a strong option to repeat as Finals MVP. He may remain in his sixth man role if Steve Kerr turns to Brandon Rush, who hasn’t scored all series and was inactive for Game 4 but has started 25 times this season. Either way, Iguodala will play a huge role with his defense on James and will become even more of a conduit offensively with the ball in his hands. He’s averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists thus far and can net you +650 at [...].

Curry, on the heels of his recent breakout, is the MVP favorite (-350), while Green (+450) and Thompson (+500) are also in the mix. Because Iguodala’s defense has already been such a difference maker and he’ll have to take his game up a notch even further without Green, there’s immense value there if Golden State is able to close out the Finals.

“Since allowing 108 points to Oklahoma City in the series opener of the Western Conference Finals, the Warriors have allowed less than 100 points in four of the past five playoff games at Oracle Arena,” NBA expert Kevin Rogers said. “The loss of Green will obviously be a hit since he has missed only one game the entire regular season and postseason. However, Golden State has covered in six of the last seven contests overall, while winning seven of the previous eight close-out games in the playoffs.”

The total for Game 5 opened at 206 ½ and dropped to as low as 205 as of Sunday night. The ‘under’ has gone 3-1 through the first four games of this series and NBA totals expert Chris David was leaning to the ‘under’ again Monday but the Green suspension is making him a tad hesitant to pull the trigger.

“The books have cleaned up in this series with bettors chasing ‘over’ tickets and if wasn’t for a huge second-half in Game 3, the ‘under’ should be 4-0 in this series,” David explained. “Based on the range of numbers we’ve seen posted (207-211) thus far, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that you need at least 52 points a quarter to go ‘over’ and these teams haven’t proven that they could do that yet. In the first 16 quarters played, the Cavaliers and Warriors have combined for 50-plus points just seven times with a high of 64 coming in the third quarter of Game 3’s blowout.

“It’s easy to assume that Golden State wouldn’t have success versus Cleveland in an ugly scrum but it’s proving the pundits wrong. The Warriors are averaging 80 field goal attempts per game in this series, which is down from 87 attempts during the regular season. Meanwhile, the Cavs are attempting 85 shots per game and their best effort came in Game 3’s win when they tossed up 91 attempts. The Warriors-Over parlay combination has benefited bettors plenty of times during the regular season but that exacta has only connected four times during the postseason. The right investment has been GS-Under, which has come in 10 times in 21 playoff games.”

After the Green suspension was announced, a couple major outfits (CRIS, Wynn) received some action on the ‘under’ and dropped the total to 204 ½.

“Handicapping the Warriors without Green is very tricky because he’s only missed seven games in his four-year career, which is absolutely ridiculous,” David added. “For what it’s worth, Green sat out one game this regular season for rest and Golden State lost a 112-110 decision at Denver in mid-January and they were beat handily on the glass (59-45). His absence should lead to extra possessions for the Cavaliers but outside of Game 3, Cleveland hasn’t proven that they can make shots on a consistent basis against this defensive scheme. With that being said, I’d lean to the Cavaliers team total ‘under’ (99 ½) in Game 5.”

Cleveland won’t have to deal with Green, which means they’ll be able to attack the Warriors halfcourt defense in a way they haven’t been able to all series, so the emphasis is on James and Kyrie Irving being able to take advantage of the absence of Golden State’s defensive quarterback. The Cavs’ top scorers took 33 of their team’s 38 shots in Friday night’s second half, leaving room for just two teammates to make field goals, a Richard Jefferson layup and a short Love jumper that knotted the score at 79 to start the fourth. The Cavs scored nine more points over the next 10:21, sputtering as a unit.

Heading on the road to an arena where the Warriors have been so dominant leaves the Cavs little hope other than the aspiration that Green’s absence will be too much to overcome. Cleveland’s offense averaged just 83 points in the first two contests and will need to be much sharper.

“The Cavaliers have struggled on the highway of late, posting a 2-4 SU and 1-5 ATS record in the last six games away from Quicken Loans Arena,” said Rogers. “James will have to put Cleveland on his shoulders in order to save their season and move the series back to the “Q” on Thursday, but the Cavs are 1-4 SU/ATS in the last five Finals contests at Oracle Arena with three losses by double-digits.”

Golden State’s media availability session on Sunday came just after the Green suspension came down, so guys wore their raw emotions freely and spoke more candidly than they may have if they had more time to simmer down. Instead, they poked LeBron, continuing to instigate a back-and-forth against a team they’re getting ready to take down for the second consecutive year. That swagger is certainly a good sign if you’re the Warriors, if only because it puts more pressure on guys to back it up without their emotional leader. So long as they play their game, a partisan crowd that has already been apart for 50 wins should readily supply the fire.

Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA

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