Game 3 – Warriors at Cavaliers

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NBA Finals Game 3 - Warriors lead 2-0
Golden State at Cleveland (ABC, 9:05 p.m. ET)

The 2018 NBA Finals move to Cleveland for Wednesday’s Game 3 at Quicken Loans Arena. Golden State takes a 2-0 series lead on the road after getting fortunate in Game 1 and making a statement in Game 2.

Late Sunday night after Steve Kerr’s team put the finishing touches on a 19-point home triumph, the Westgate SuperBook opened the Warriors as 5.5-point favorites for Wednesday’s Game 3 at Cleveland. The total was 217.5 points on the send-out, while the Cavaliers were +200 on the money line (risk $100 to win $200).

As of Tuesday morning, most spots had Golden State (72-29 straight up, 44-56-1 against the spread) installed as a 4.5-point road ‘chalk’ with a total of 217. The Cavs were +170 to win outright. For first-half wagers, many books were going with pick ‘em and a total of 110.5 points. As for the first quarter, the Cavs were one-half point ‘chalk’ (or -130 on the money line) with an ‘over/under’ of 56 points.

[...] is offering a couple of adjusted lines. For bettors extremely bullish on Golden State dealing out woodshed treatment in Game 3, a +240 payout can be had for laying 12.5 points on the Warriors. On the flip side, gamblers can lay 3.5 points with the Cavs for a +210 payout (paid $210 on $100 bets).

Golden State’s team total at most shops is 111 points (-110 either way), while Cleveland’s is 106.5 points (-110 either way). In the first half, the Warriors have an ‘over/under’ of 56 points (-115 either way) and the Cavs are at 55.5 points (-115 both ways).

The updated series price at [...] has the Warriors as -2500 ‘chalk,’ leaving the Cavs with 12/1 odds on the comeback (risk $100 to win $12,000). For gamblers bullish on Golden State to deal out broom treatment in four games, a +120 return can be had at the global book. The odds for the Warriors to win in five games are +130, six games +750 and seven games +1500 (or 15/1, risk $100 to win $1,500).

Cleveland (62-40 SU, 41-60-1 ATS) nearly took Game 1 at Oracle Arena this past Thursday night. LeBron James exploded for 51 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, draining 19-of-32 field-goal attempts, 3-of-7 treys and 10-of-11 free-throw attempts. His 51 points were a career-best in the postseason. Kevin Love added 21 points and 13 boards.

With the Cavs ahead by two after James converted a three-point play, Kevin Durant drove to the hole with 36.4 seconds remaining. He crashed into James, who took what was called a charge initially. The refs checked the replay to ensure that James wasn’t in the restricted area. He wasn’t. However, the refs can also reverse the call if they feel that replay shows the defender wasn’t in a legal guarding position when taking the charge. The officials opted to reverse the call in controversial fashion.

Nevertheless, after Durant tied the game by making a pair of FTs, James countered with a bucket and Cleveland was up by two. However, Steph Curry responded with a three-point play the hard way to put the Warriors up 107-106 with 23 ticks left. Cleveland’s George Hill was then fouled at the other end cutting to the basket with 4.7 seconds remaining.

Hill went to the FT line for two shots and made the first to knot the score. He missed the next FT but J.R. Smith grabbed the rebound. Then like a moron with absolutely zero idea of the clock-and-score situation, Smith dribbled the ball out toward halfcourt as if he thought his team was up by a point. The result was him eventually realizing his unfathomable mental gaffe and then passing to Hill on the wing, who had no time to get off a shot with any chance of going in.

In the extra session, Cleveland missed its first five shots and the Warriors went on a 9-0 run. They would win 124-114 but the Cavs covered the number as 12.5-point underdogs. The total was set to slip ‘under’ the 217.5-point total in regulation when there were 214 combined points, but the 24 extra points in OT allowed ‘over’ backers to cash tickets.

Curry scored a team-best 29 points in Game 1, hitting 11-of-23 FGAs and 5-of-11 launches from 3-point range. He also grabbed six rebounds and handed out nine helpers compared to merely two turnovers. Durant had 26 points, nine boards, three blocks, one steal and six assists with only one turnover. Klay Thompson had 24 points thanks to 5-of-10 shooting from long distance, while Draymond Green finished with 13 points, 11 boards, five steals, two blocked shots and nine assists compared to just two turnovers. Shaun Livingston had back-to-back buckets early in OT, making all four of his FGAs and both of his FTs. He had two boards, one steal and three assists without a turnover in only 18-plus minutes of action.

In Sunday’s Game 2, Golden State used big runs in the second and fourth quarters to pull away for a 122-103 victory as an 11.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The 225 combined points elevated ‘over’ the 216.5-point total. After trailing by 13 at intermission, Cleveland trimmed the deficit to 82-77 with 2:50 left in the third but the Warriors finished the stanza on an 8-3 run to lead by 10 going into the final stanza. The Cavs got no closer than seven the rest of the way, and that was in the first minute and change of the final stanza. Golden State went ahead of the number to stay with just under six minutes remaining.

Curry was the catalyst with 33 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, draining 9-of-17 attempts from downtown. Durant had 26 points, nine boards, seven assists and a pair of blocks, while Thompson finished with 20 points. Green had five points, eight boards and seven assists without a turnover. JaVale McGee went 6-of-6 from the field in a 12-point effort, and Livingston once again was perfect by making 5-of-5 FGAs in a 10-point, five-rebound performance.

James had 29 points, 13 assists, nine rebounds and two steals, while Love tallied 22 points and 10 boards. Hill added 15 points and Tristan Thompson finished with 11 points and five boards.

The Cavs have got to get some offense out of Smith and Kyle Korver, one of the best 3-point shooters in NBA history. Smith was 2-of-9 from the field and 1-of-4 from long distance in a 5-point Game 2 effort. Korver missed all three FGAs and his only launch from behind the line. In Game 1, Korver made just 1-of-3 treys and missed his only FTA.

In 20 postseason games this year, Korver is averaging 9.0 points per game while burying 45-of-102 launches from 3-point territory (44.1%) and 17-of-19 FTAs (89.5%). It’s mandatory for the Cavs to get him some clean looks back at home.

Tyronn Lue’s club is 37-13 SU but just 17-32-1 ATS at home this season. Cleveland is 2-2 both SU and ATS in four games as a home underdog. One of those instances came on Jan. 15 when the Warriors came to town and emerged with a 118-108 victory as 5.5-point road favorites. The 226 combined points dropped ‘under’ the 233.5-point tally.

Durant led the way with 32 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals, while Curry finished with 23 points and eight assists on 4-of-8 shooting from downtown. Thompson had 17 points and Green produced 11 points, 16 rebounds, nine assists and a pair of blocked shots. In the losing effort, James contributed 32 points, eight boards, six assists, four blocks and three steals. The Warriors trailed by seven at halftime but won the third quarter 36-27 and finished the final stanza on a 25-17 run.

Golden State is 33-16 SU and 22-27 ATS in its road assignments this year. The Warriors have covered the point-spread in each of their last 20 road playoff wins, which tells you that the odds haven't mattered and a lean on Cleveland on money-line might be the smarter play instead of taking the points.

You could make a strong case that James is playing the best basketball of his career in these playoffs. In 20 games so far, LBJ is averaging 34.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, 8.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocked shots per game. James has knocked down 54.4 percent of his FGAs, 35.5 percent of his 3-balls and 73.8 percent of his FTs. He played Game 2 with an eye injury after being poked in the series opener. The redness was apparent throughout Game 2, but he was still plenty effective.

Golden State is optimistic that veteran guard/forward Andre Iguodala, who is the team’s best defender and would be tasked with tailing James on most possessions, might be able to return for Game 3. He was listed as ‘questionable’ as of Tuesday. Iguodala, who garnered 2015 NBA Finals MVP honors, has missed six straight game since sustaining a knee contusion on a collision with Houston’s James Harden in Game 3 of the West finals on May 20. NBA handicapper Kevin Rogers points out that home teams have fared well this postseason when trailing in series. Rogers said, “The Warriors look to jump out to a 3-0 series advantage over the Cavaliers for the second straight season. However, home teams trailing in a playoff series have done well this postseason by compiling a 5-2 SU/ATS record. The Cavaliers are a part of that group by routing the Celtics in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Warriors are 1-1 in the postseason when leading a series 2-0 by beating the Spurs in Game 3 of the opening round, but they were blown out by the Pelicans in Game 3 of the conference semifinals.”

Chris David of weighed in on the total for Game 3.

“I’m surprised the number has dropped and I would expect the public to press the ‘over’ again come Wednesday night. The ‘over’ has gone 2-0 in this series and even though extra time was needed for most bettors in the opener, the high side was the right lean. Going back to last year’s finals matchups, the ‘over’ has cashed in six straight postseason meetings between the pair. The Warriors have certainly helped that cause, averaging 123.5 points per game over this span and while four of those games came at Oracle Arena they did score 116 and 118 in the finals at Quicken Loans Arena last summer,” David explained.

He added, “The team total for Golden State is set at 111 for Game 3 and it’s hard to imagine them being held below this number, especially against Cleveland’s defense. However, we have seen better defensive efforts from the Cavaliers at home in this year’s playoffs. Since losing Game 1 in the first round to the Pacers at home, Cleveland has ripped off eight straight wins and the defense has only allowed 97 PPG.”

As David mentioned, the ‘over’ has hit in the first two games of the Finals after the ‘under’ cashed in both regular-season encounters. Going back to Game 2 of last season’s Finals, the ‘over’ is on a 6-2 run in this rivalry. In those eight games, the lowest combined scores have been 225 and 191.

The ‘under’ is 54-46-1 overall for the Warriors, 28-21 in their road assignments. They’ve seen the ‘under’ go 6-1 in their past seven road outings.

The ‘under’ is 52-48-2 overall for Cleveland, 26-22-2 in its home games.

Tip-off on Wednesday is scheduled for 9:05 p.m. Eastern on ABC.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- In previous playoff pieces, David talked about a popular playoff betting trend that focuses on the first-half and it's in play again on Wednesday. David said, "According to numbers from different sources and industry folks, teams down 0-2 in a playoff series while playing Game 3 at home have gone 31-4 ATS (88%) in first-half wagers over the last four postseasons. In this year's playoffs, the angle has gone 5-2 with Cavaliers, Wizards, Timberwolves, Bucks and Pelicans earning Game 3 winning tickets in the 'first-half' at home after being down 2-0. The two losses came by the Spurs in the first round and the 76ers in the second round. Cleveland's win within this system came in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals as they led Boston 61-41 after two quarters."

-- Golden State is 9-1 SU and 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games against Cleveland.

-- [...] has released the odds to win the 2019 NBA Finals. The Warriors are the +115 ‘chalk,’ followed by the Rockets (+450), 76ers (+450), Celtics (+800), Cavs (25/1), Lakers (25/1), Spurs (30/1), Heat (40/1), Raptors (60/1). Next, we have four clubs (Minnesota, Milwaukee, OKC and Utah) with 75/1 odds. The Hawks, Magic and Grizzlies are the biggest longshots with 100,000/1 odds.

-- Sportsbook’s updated odds to win Finals MVP honors in the current Cavs-Warriors IV showdown now has Curry as the enormous -400 ‘chalk.’ Next, Durant’s odds are at +250, followed by James (9/1), Thompson (50/1) and Draymond Green (75/1). The next-shortest (longest actually) are Love (50,000/1), Livingston (100,000/1), Hill (150,000/1) and Smith (250,000/1).

-- Former New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams has joined Brett Brown’s staff in Philadelphia as the 76ers’ top assistant coach. Williams has been in the San Antonio front office the last two years. He was an assistant for Billy Donovan in OKC during Billy D’s first season, but Williams understandably left the team after his wife was tragically killed in a car accident.

Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards.