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NBA Play Off Picks 2018- Conference Finals (May 13-22)

The NBA Conference Finals have rolled around after an underwhelming Semi Final Round which saw the four teams progress without losing mor...

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

NBA Finals 2017- Golden State Warriors vs Cleveland Cavaliers (June 1-18)

NBA Finals 2017
Before the season began, most would have been anticipating a third NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors and that is exactly where we have ended up after a long season.

Both teams have been dominant through the Play Offs with just one Play Off defeat combined, but that hasn't stopped the overriding perception being that the Warriors are a big favourite to win their second Championship in three seasons.

I have to say that I have been leaning the same way, although ruling out LeBron James is never an easy decision. There are some mental scars for the Warriors to try and overcome too after the collapse in the Finals in 2016, but Kevin Durant has fitted in seamlessly and there should be too much shooting in the Golden State rotation at the start of this series.

Thursday 1st June
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Game 1 Pick: The expected NBA Finals of 2017 is going to take place beginning with Game 1 on Thursday 1st June. Most NBA fans might have been disillusioned with the way the Play Offs have gone in general with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors blowing past their opponents for the loss of one game, but that doesn't mean we are all not expecting another fascinating duel between these teams.

It is the third season in a row the Warriors and Cavaliers will be competing for the NBA Championship and it is the series that both teams would have wanted. Anything else and they may have felt their successes could be tarnished, but the two best teams in the NBA are back in the Finals where they belong.

Have no doubt that there are some mental scars for the Warriors from 2016 when they blew a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals with two of those defeats coming at home. They were reminded of their disastrous collapse everywhere they looked and you can imagine the likes of Draymond Green are desperate to right a perceived wrong.

Bringing in Kevin Durant has been a huge boost for the Warriors and I think he has shown why most experts have him down as a stronger player than Stephen Curry and perhaps the closest player to the talents of LeBron James. That is going to be a fascinating duel between Durant and James who get on off the court, but regularly have feisty affairs against one another on the court.

There are some very similar numbers produced by the teams overall over the course of the season and I think the rebounding battle will be important with both showing energy around the boards. The difference may be the more efficient shooting of the Golden State Warriors who also look to have the stronger Defensive rotations.

I expect that to show up in Game 1 despite the fact both teams are off a long break having completed Conference Finals wins very easily. That might break the rhythm Defensively, but I don't think there will be struggles Offensively and I would give the Warriors the edge in this one and do expect them to cover the number.

The favourite has actually gone 11-1 against the spread in Game 1 of the last twelve NBA Finals. The Warriors have covered in the last two opening NBA Finals games against the Cleveland Cavaliers and while playing on a rest has not been good for Golden State, I expect them to ride the emotion of the Oracle Arena to win this game and cover the spread to open the NBA Finals.

Sunday 4th June
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Game 2 Pick: The NBA Finals got underway a few days ago and the two competing teams will both believe there is work to do from Game 1. That might be a surprise when you consider the blow out win for the Golden State Warriors and the expectation they would want to pick up from where they left off, but this is a team who have high standards of themselves.

Despite all of the positives of their performance, particularly on the Defensive side of the court, the Warriors were not happy with their shooting. They missed a lot of open shots considering they scored 113 points and the feeling was that the Warriors could have made it a much easier day in the office if they had been shooting better.

The lay off between the Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals might have contributed to that, but Kevin Durant and Steph Curry were not affected and both had huge games. Durant in particular showed why the Golden State Warriors signed him last summer with a 38 point effort that came alongside zero turnovers.

While the Golden State Warriors are talking about areas to improve, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a lot more 'obvious' corrections to make from Game 1. The team really struggled dealing with the Defensive moves the Warriors made which contributed to a really poor percentage from the field, and they didn't get a lot of help for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Another big issue were the number of Offensive rebounds they allowed in Game 1 and Golden State were able to take advantage of the second chance opportunities that broke down the Cleveland Defense. Another problem from the Defensive side of the court was the anticipation to close out shooters which allowed the Warriors to get some really easy baskets in the paint.

Picking a winner on the spread is difficult because Game 2 underdogs have tended to show their teeth, going 7-2 against the spread in the last nine Game 2's in the NBA Finals. With the expected improvement from the Cavaliers, I imagine they will have plenty of backers, but the Warriors are very good at home and I am actually leaning towards them despite having an extra couple of points to cover from Game 1.

I do think Cleveland will be more competitive, but I also think the Warriors will show more efficiency shooting the ball. It was Golden State who covered in Game 2 last season in another rout and the feeling is that the Warriors will show too much at both ends of the court to pull away from the Cavaliers again.

You don't feel good opposing LeBron James, but it's easier to feel comfortable with the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry being backed. I will look for the home team to secure a double digit win for 2-0 in the series.

Wednesday 7th June
Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers Game 3 Pick: What can the Cleveland Cavaliers do to turn around what is beginning to look like a really one-sided series? There will be those who will point out that Cleveland were 0-2 down to the Golden State Warriors last season too, as well as the famous recovery from 1-3 down in the NBA Finals, but this feels much different from twelve months ago.

There are plenty of fans who suggested Steph Curry was the best player in the world when the Warriors were leading 3-1 last year and looking to be on the road to back to back NBA Championships. However most real NBA fans would have recognised that LeBron James has held that title and he underlined his status by dragging the Cavaliers back for the win.

Most would have also had Kevin Durant very high on any top five list of the best current active players at that time, but Durant's influence on the first two games had Paul Pierce suggesting he is the best player in the world now. Durant is certainly right there behind James for me and his arrival at the Golden State Warriors makes it much harder to see this current rotation of players blowing this lead.

The Cavaliers got a triple double from LeBron James and continue to get points out of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving while also earned a huge number of turnovers in Game 2. However the bottom line is they still lost 19 points and closing that gap looks much more difficult with the addition of Durant to a strong Warriors team.

You can see how irritated the Cavaliers have been with James not happy with questions he has been posed and the frustration that the veterans of the bench have not been able to contribute as Cleveland would have liked. The Cavaliers are trying their best to find the right Defensive formulas to try and limit what the Warriors are doing, but there look to be too many options when it comes to shooting as well as the speed that the older Cleveland players are struggling to stay with.

Being back at home for Game 3 is important for the Cavaliers who responded as a narrow underdog twelve months ago to take this game. The Cavaliers blew out Golden State by 30 points as complacency set in for the road team, but I don't think a team who has won all fourteen Play Off games will do the same having remembered the pain of blowing the NBA Finals in the manner they did in 2016.

Opposing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as a home underdog is tough. Have no doubt the players are likely to be inspired to prove they are still very much alive in the NBA Finals and they will know that most people are ruling them out and suggesting the broomsticks will be needed later this week.

I expect that is going to see the Cavaliers produce an even bigger effort, but I am not sure they have the talent or energy to really stick with Golden State. Ultimately it feels like the Cavaliers need the Warriors to have a bad game to get into this series and Golden State have been playing at a level where they don't look like they are in a mood to drop their standards at all.

The Warriors have covered in all six road games they have played in the NBA Play Offs this season and it is too hard to oppose what is looking like clearly the best team in the whole League. Backing against the Cleveland Cavaliers as an underdog is actually 12-5 against the spread this season and I am looking for the Warriors to move into a 3-0 lead and look to become the first team to potentially win all 16 Play Off games in a single post-season soon afterwards.

Friday 9th June
Golden State Warriors @ Cleveland Cavaliers Game 4 Pick: The last two seasons have seen the Cleveland Cavaliers respond with a win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3, but they fell down in the final minutes in 2017 to drop into a 0-3 hole. Now LeBron James is on the brink of being swept in the NBA Finals for the second time in his career and the Golden State Warriors are on the brink of history as they look to sweep the entire Play Offs.

To blame James or to put the sweep on his shoulders is not really apt for this case as Cleveland would be nowhere without his presence. It was another big game from James who was backed up by Kyrie Irving impressively in Game 3, but his minutes have begun to wear down James and that came to fruition at the end of the last game.

Steve Kerr was imploring to his Warriors that the Cavaliers would get tired and his words came true in heartbreaking fashion for the home team. Now they have to try and dig out of a 0-3 hole against a team who will be desperate to sweep away the memories of the collapse in the NBA Finals and the oddsmakers have begun to believe that is going to be the case.

The spread has actually moved up 3 points from Game 3 to Game 4 as there is perhaps a belief that the Cavaliers have suffered an emotional blow that they simply can't pick themselves up from. The tiredness won't be helped by the fact that we have so little time between Game 3 and Game 4 and I actually think the adjustments have now been made by the teams and there won't be much changes in that limited time.

It is actually the lack of time between games that is helping me in deciding how to play Game 4.

As much as it is a danger to go against two of the best shooting teams in the NBA, I think the fatigue in the Cleveland side may mean this is a game that does not surpass the total like the last two have. The referees seemed to be fairly loose with the foul calls they made in Game 3 and that could be a problem if it happens again in Game 4, but I do think Cleveland need to make this a grind it out game if they are going to force a Game 5 at the Oracle Arena.

I do think the Cavaliers will struggle with their shooting under the fatigue they will be feeling despite the fact they will be desperate to avoid the sweep at home. The loss in Game 3 was a real blow to them and the energy levels in the whole Arena may be far below where Cleveland would want them to be and I can see the Golden State Warriors looking to show off their superior Defensive play.

The Warriors three point shooting is a danger to any total when they get going in the way they can, but I am going to back the under in Game 4 and look for a slower game from the Cavaliers to contribute to that.

Monday 12th June
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Golden State Warriors Game 5 Pick: There will be some painful memories brought up for the Golden State Warriors at the end of Game 4 and they will have had two days to try and put those to the back of the mind. Many NBA fans would have been revisiting the memes that came out of the NBA Finals in 2016 after the Golden State Warriors blew a 3-1 lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers and they are back in the same position in 2017.

The players are less concerned with the scoreline than the fans may be as they have pointed out that this year the Warriors had a 3-0 lead rather than winning Game 4 like they did in 2016.

However it does make Game 5 a really important one for the Warriors as I really do think the mental stresses on the players will increase tenfold if they have to go back to Cleveland for a Game 6 showdown.

There were some things that happened in Game 4 that Golden State will believe were 'one off' occasions rather than something that is a deeper concern for them. The Cavaliers are a very good shooting team, but the Warriors will believe they won't allow them to get as hot from the three point range as they were in Game 4 and that can be a key reason which helps the home team overcome them in this one.

The Warriors have to be happy with the way they have continued to shoot the ball and they will feel they can bounce back with a much better Defensive effort than they showed in Game 4. Being back at home is a huge for Golden State even if two of their four losses in the NBA Finals in 2016 came at the Oracle Arena, but there is a different feel about this team.

The public looks to be behind the Cleveland Cavaliers for Game 5, especially when you look at the spread. I am not so sure that this Warriors team is going to fall away in the same manner as they did in 2016 and I am looking for Golden State to have more energy on the Defensive side of the court which will continue to see them open up the shooting lanes on the Offensive side.

It did take a really special three point shooting day from the Cavaliers to see them come through in Game 4, but I am not anticipating them to be able to shoot that efficiently again. The Golden State Warriors have a much better Defensive organisation than they showed in Game 4 and I will look for them to record another big home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers as they secure a second title in three years.

MY NBA FINALS PICKS: 01/06 Golden State Warriors - 7 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)
04/06 Golden State Warriors - 9 Points @ 2.00 Betway (1 Unit)
07/06 Golden State Warriors - 3 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
09/06 Cleveland Cavaliers-Golden State Warriors Under 228.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet365 (1 Unit)
12/06 Golden State Warriors - 8.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)

NBA Finals Update: 4-1, + 2.77 Units

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