NBA Finals Game 7 – Angles, Odds and Predictions

NBA Finals Game 7 – Angles, Odds and Predictions

We are going to an NBA Finals Game 7. That much is certain. What’s uncertain is who’s going to win. How you arrive at your final decision depends on your perspective.

THE ANGLE FROM THE CAVALIERS

Last season, LeBron James was in the midst of putting together the greatest NBA Finals performance of all time. He averaged 35.8 points per game, along with 13.3 boards and 8.8 assists. It’s a run that we’ve very rarely seen at this stage.

In this version of the NBA Finals, LeBron is putting up equal numbers of 30.2ppg, 11.3 rebounds and 8.5 boards. In other words, he’s playing out of his goddamn mind and a ton of pressure is taken off of him offensively because Kyrie is playing at a level that we’ve never seen from him. Beast Mode LeBron is unequivocal.

The totality of the series still has to matter. In the first two games, they were completely out-classed. In the last four games, they’ve looked like wrecking balls with an average scoring differential of +12.0 point per game. That includes the 97-108 loss in Game 4.

What I like most about how Cleveland is playing is the congestion they’re creating underneath. Golden State obviously sets up for perimeter threes because they have so many guys that can hit from range. But they also love the “drive and dump”, which Cleveland has figured out by sticking three bodies under the basket effectively. It’s a tactic they frankly learned from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Cleveland is also taking serious advantage of Andrew Bogut’s knee injury, which will sideline him for the remainder of the series. The Australian center is a definitive difference maker in opening quarters in terms of setting the tone early on the defensive side of the floor. The Cavaliers took clear advantage of his absence by blasting the Warriors down low. That’s a trend that could certainly continue.

One of the most crucial players to Cleveland’s offence is Tristan Thompson, who erupted in game 6 with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Previously, Bogut had done an exceptional job at silencing the Canadian, but without him clogging the paint, Thompson went off. A vital cog in the Cleveland machine just found his rhythm, and that’s a dangerous element, especially when you consider how important paint points are in an NBA Finals Game 7 matchup.

Despite what some handicappers or experts might suggest, momentum matters and the Cavaliers have mountains of it in their corner. You can’t survive a road game under NBA Finals Game 7 circumstances without a bit of momentum, and the Cavaliers are fortunate to have it. It’s something they can’t waste.

At the end of the day, LeBron James is playing at an inhuman level that we’ve never seen from him. Let’s make no mistake that LeBron is still the best basketball player in the known universe, even if he wasn’t the MVP of this past season. When he gives a shit, there’s no stopping him. We’ve seen it in three games during the NBA Finals. If we see it in Game 7, there’s very little reason to believe that Cleveland doesn’t have a shot at being crowned.

THE ANGLE OF THE WARRIORS

There’s no denying some obvious truths. Golden State thought they were going to walk all over Cleveland after the first two games were outright blowouts. Even I thought the same.

Golden State is absolutely on the ropes. Harrison Barnes walked out of Game 6 with zero points. Draymond Green had eight. Igoudala only had 5 points.

All of this is explainable. Barnes isn’t a franchise player despite being awfully close to it (he’s a second banana at best), and Green was caught doing too much. Iggy was battling back spasms the entire game.

The good news is that Curry and Thompson (who played like garbage for the entire first half of Game 6) tallied 55 points in that game. The Splash Brothers are alive and well. You can’t argue against them when they put up such a pile of points in a loss.

The main reason you’re betting on Golden State in the NBA Finals Game 7 is because they have home court advantage. But the ancillary reason is that there’s two days of rest. That’s a huge deal. It gives Golden State plenty of time to regroup.

What will they notice about Game 6? They dumped of too many times when Cleveland clogged the paint. They also forced too much in the first period of the game, where they tried to push shots off the dribble instead of debilitating Cleveland with ball movement.

Steve Kerr will see the game tape and he’ll recognize what to do. Golden State got away from their game plan in Games 5 and 6. In a word, they panicked. Foul trouble didn’t help (which I’ll address down below). They’re still a great team, that had some game threatening momentum runs killed by bad foul calls.

The loss of Bogut is a bigger x-factor than most people will address. What he was great at was creating frustration for the opposition in the first quarter. If you can’t get things going in the early stages of a championship game, the wheels simply fall off the bus. It’s human nature. And Bogut was as big of a disruptor as we’ve seen in the NBA Finals.

What Golden State didn’t do a good job of in the first quarter of Game 6 was weathering the storm. They’ll find ways to do so. There were easy buckets they left on the table in that game. Very few teams protect a lead as well as Cleveland does, especially a monstrous 20-point deficit.

Game 7 will be different. There will be an entirely familiar flow to the game. Just you wait. Steve Kerr said at halftime of Game 6 that “We got this.” He maybe meant the series.

THE CONSIPIRACY THEORY ANGLE

Cleveland fans will want to skip this section because its merits, while well warranted, speak to a deeper evil than anyone in their position will want to admit.

I’ve wanted to give the Adam Silver era a free pass as he builds his legacy (which has been and continues to be outstanding) but there is no doubt in my mind that the fix for extending this series was in.

Draymond’s suspension is the first piece of evidence. How they called Steph Curry’s fouls in Game 6 is the second leather glove. But there are also a myriad of calls that the league didn’t have to make (nor the refs) that have impacted this series.

If you subscribe to NBA playoff conspiracy theories, then this one is straightforward. The revenue from ad space in 2015 during the NBA Finals was $540,000 per 30-second spot. Do you think that the league, despite swimming in money, would want to leave any of that cash on the table? Absolutely not.

So now we have a weird situation in regards to this angle. Do the refs carry on the same way they have been through three games (with terrible calls towards the Warriors), or do they finally pocket their whistles and let them play?

It’s the strangest of all betting considerations. On the one hand, if Cleveland is sandbagged by the refs, it will upset the tempo of their game while allowing Golden State to run roughshod as they usually do. On the other, if the refs continue with the trends set by the last four games, then Golden State is in for an uphill climb.

Which brings us back to home court advantage. If you subscribe to NBA conspiracies, then you know that the refs have ultimate control of the game. But there’s no way they can get away with letting the two-time MVP get in to foul trouble. It’d be too obvious while simultaneously causing a justified riot in Oakland.

What I do believe that the refs will do is let both teams “play it out”. This is what we saw in the Western Conference Finals. In the NBA Finals they’ve set the tone early with whistles. In Game 7 I’d expect them to set the tone with non-calls. “This is it, guys. Play.”

If that’s the case there are two mindsets: either Golden State breaks it loose without having their key players in foul trouble, or LeBron goes absolutely batshit crazy. If the latter is the case, then we need to talk.

You can make a lot of arguments that LeBron is “the reason the Cavs (or any team he plays on) is in the position they’re in” but that belies the collection of empirical evidence that states that he doesn’t want to have sole responsibility of the victory.

LeBron has never been the reason that his won a title. You can point to their Game 7 demolition of San Antonio in the final quarter, but a lot of that had to with the game prior. LeBron was allowed to miss a critical three-pointer because Bosh collected the rebound and dished it out to Ray Allen, who made one of the most improbable shots in NBA Finals history.

Without conspiracy theories, I’m genuinely worried that Kyrie’s foot is an actual problem. I think it will hurt (no pun intended) his performance. There’s a reason he sat out the final minutes of that game despite his team being up by twenty.

We’ll know in the first five minutes if Irving is healthy or not. But even without him, are we going to bet against Golden State at home in a Game 7? I don’t think so. The refs have done their job and delivered an NBA Finals Game 7. Now they have to let the players play. If they do, then Golden State wins by an avalanche. Just like they did in Game 7 against Oklahoma City.

NBA Finals Game 7 Pick – Golden State to win and cover

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June 18, 2016: posted in News And Reviews No Comments

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