Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:04 AM
Finals Game 2 Essentials
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NBA Finals - Game 1 - Warriors lead 1-0
Cleveland at Golden State (-12, 215.5), ABC, 8:05 ET
The NBA Finals matchup that many people had little desire to see for a fourth consecutive time changed a lot of minds given the memorable Game 1.
LeBron James scored 51 points, J.R. Smith provided an all-time blunder to remember for the rest of time and the Cavs nearly stole a contest in which they closed as a 12.5-point underdog, falling in controversial fashion.
Following a block/charge call that was overturned at the monitor after triggering a replay due to the restricted area, the Warriors ended up with two late free throws that tied the game instead of giving the ball back to the Cavs to run the clock down inside 10 seconds.
From a betting standpoint, the Game 1 money line and total were impacted most since Cleveland still covered in its eventual 124-114 OT loss. The extra session guaranteed the demise of all under bettors and also denied those who took a shot at a Cavs money line, which was available at around +650, from potentially cashing in big.
It was a wildly entertaining contest that closed with Golden State dominating the extra session, shooting 5-for-6 from the field and knocking down all three of its 3-pointers and all four free-throws to post a 17-7 edge. After James missed a long 3-pointer with just over a minute to go, Stephen Curry easily got past Tristan Thompson and looked like he had a free layup that would’ve made it a 13-point game, potentially making for a brutal beat for Cleveland bettors.
Instead, James swatted Curry’s shot at the basket, triggering the beginning of an argument that started a late skirmish that put the status of Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love in doubt due to possible suspensions. Both escaped the NBA’s wrath and will participate.
Andre Iguodala is unlikely to play due to the same knee issue that kept him from appearing in the series opener, so the one x-factor to be aware of on game day is the participation of Klay Thompson, who left in the first quarter with a nasty-looking injury suffered when Smith slipped and wound up taking him out on a slide.
Although a knee injury was initially feared, Thompson is actually dealing with a high ankle sprain and expressed his frustration with the mishap in Saturday’s media availability session.
“When I watched the replay, it pissed me off. That’s a tough play on the ball, and just to tumble into somebody’s legs like that.” Thompson said. “You’ve got to move past it, but it’s life. It’s just a minor setback. I don’t think it was intentional.”
There’s certainly bad blood, including Tristan Thompson shoving the ball in Draymond Green’s face with just over two seconds remaining, drawing an ejection. Green mused on Saturday that he can “meet (Thompson) in the streets any day,” which is just a way to get under the Cavs’ center’s skin. Still, Green’s four playoff technical could be a factor deeper in the series since drawing seven commands an automatic suspension, so expect that to be a subplot here. The refs will likely be out to nip any nonsense in the bud early.
The NBA fined Thompson but didn’t suspend him, so he’ll be available to head coach Tyronn Lue, who must decide whether to open with the same starting lineup or opt for a change. Either Larry Nance, who badly outplayed Thompson in providing a spark off the bench, or Jeff Green, who would help Cleveland match up better with Golden State’s smaller lineup, could factor in.
Going small right out of the gate could certainly affect the game’s pace. The ‘over’ (217 ½) connected in Game 1 thanks to the extra session and the total for Game 2 is hovering between 215 and 216. Chris David of VegasInsider.com offered his thoughts on the opener plus his approach for Sunday’s number.
“Those that vested in the total for Game 1 certainly put in some sweat equity and while bettors on the ‘under’ for the game got squeezed with overtime, I felt the high side was the right lean in the opener. Accept my apologies if you lost, but if you’re not new to this then you’ve seen that movie before,” said David. “Plus, the first-half ‘under’ was a much tougher beat as Curry drilled the 3-pointer at the buzzer. Also, savvy bettors playing a middle on the opening total (214 ½ to 218) could’ve connected with a Hill free throw and Golden State miss at the end of regulation.”
The opening chapter of the 2018 NBA Finals was filled with bad beats, bad blood and controversy, so we’ll see if the second act can be as exciting. Golden State has an 18-1 record at home over the last two postseasons and was installed as a 12.5-point Game 2 favorite immediately after being incredibly fortunate to survive James’ brilliance, so anything can happen here.
“Since this rivalry started between the pair in the 2015 playoffs, Cleveland has won just three of 15 games at Oracle and the Warriors were held under 100 in each of those. If you’re leaning to the Cavaliers with the points, I would tie in the ‘under’ as well," VI's David said. "Bettors expecting a Golden State-Over combination to connect should be aware that the ‘chalky’ outcome has only hit twice in this year’s playoffs, Game 2 and 3 in the first round versus the Spurs.
“Including the Game 1 loss, Cleveland is 5-11 SU and 7-9 ATS on the road versus the Western Conference this season and only won win (Oklahoma City) came against a playoff team. The Cavaliers are averaging 107.6 points per game, which has produced a 9-7 ‘over’ mark.”
The Cavs shot over 60 percent as LeBron went 8-for-9 17 minutes into the game to build a 44-35 lead, but they slowed down significantly after that, sputtering to close the first half and open the second.
“The Cavaliers fell into the 3-point shooting trap of trying to play keep-up with the Warriors and they actually hoisted more attempts from distance in Game 1," David added. "Neither team shot particularly well from distance and of the 238 combined points, only 35 came from the free throw line. If Cleveland wants to win a game in this series, it needs to have a decisive advantage in free throws and muck this game up and I’m not sure it can do that due to its defensive inefficiencies.”
Kevin Love had 21 points and 13 rebounds, returning from concussion protocol looking fresher if nothing else. He was an efficient 8-for-12 from inside the arc but shot the ball poorly from the perimeter, making his ability to warm up from there a crucial x-factor for both their ability to hang around and for this game to be as high-scoring as the first.
Love, J.R. Smith, Jordan Clarkson and Kyle Korver shot a combined 4-for-20 from beyond the arc, which included their All-Star power forward missing seven of his eight looks and Smith finishing 2-for-6 only after knocking down the final “meaningless” 3-point shot he took on Cleveland’s final possession.
The teams combined to shoot 23-for-73 from 3-point range, pushing on the number of makes expected if you took that prop. Kevin Durant went just 1-for-7 from 3-point range and felt he took risky shots, so he’s looking to play better than he has thus far. Curry is 17-for-40 over the past three games from beyond the arc and looks sharp after being less than 100 percent earlier this postseason.
The Warriors shot 51 percent to survive despite being out-rebounded 53-38. Offensive boards offered a tremendous advantage in Game 1 for the Cavs, 21-10.
Fast-break points helped Golden State make up for it thanks to a 28-18 edge, so that battle will be immense on Sunday night.
The other huge x-factor will be Cleveland’s ability to survive the Warriors’ vicious bite coming out of the break. Golden State has outscored opponents by 136 in the third quarter this postseason after playing just breaking even in the first, so keep that in mind for props purposes. The Cavs are -7 in the third in these playoffs.
JaVale McGee made an impact to open the third quarter on both sides of the ball and was to key to a 10-3 run over the first 2:58 of the second half. LeBron took a poke to the eye at 53-all with 1:04 left after a significant lull but said he feels better after finishing Game 1 with blurry vision.
Can he be even better as a result? Cleveland is counting on it. Game 3 will be back in Northeast Ohio on Wednesday.
Follow Tony Mejia on Twitter at @TonyMejiaNBA or e-mail him at [email protected]