Warriors Heavily Favored To Win Title
As expected, the two conference favorites have reached the NBA finals. But Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors are carrying a ton of chalk into their matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. At press time, the Warriors are 5/12 favorites to win their first title in 40 years. The Cavaliers are 19/10 to win their first-ever championship.
The optimism surrounding the Dubs extends to the NBA props market, where Curry is priced at 10/19 to be named the finals MVP. James is a distant second at 7/4, and then it’s the sidekicks: Golden State’s Klay Thompson at 11/1, followed by Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving at 12/1. Neither of those supporting players is fully healthy going into the finals – although they’ll have a week to heal up before Game 1 on Thursday June 4 (9:00 PM ET, ABC).
These two teams have followed divergent paths to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. They were tied at 11/5 going into the playoffs, but Cleveland’s odds took a hit after Kevin Love (18.8 PER) suffered a dislocated left shoulder in the first round against the Boston Celtics. Then Irving (21.5 PER) aggravated a case of tendinitis in his left knee and missed two games in the Eastern final against the Atlanta Hawks.
Irving returned in Game 4 versus Atlanta and played well, scoring 16 points in 22 minutes as the Cavaliers (–7.5 at home) beat the Hawks 118-88 to sweep the series. But it’s still up to James (26.0 PER) to do most of the heavy lifting for the Cavs. James has seen his efficiency dip to 24.8 PER during the postseason, and he’s about to play in his fifth consecutive NBA finals. His body is breaking down from all that usage.
Mind Your Head
The Warriors aren’t at their healthiest point of the season, either. Curry (28.0 PER) landed awkwardly on his head and shoulders in Game 4 of the Western final against the Houston Rockets, but came back into the game after reportedly testing out concussion-free. Curry was a bit off in Game 5, shooting just 7-of-21 in Golden State’s 104-90 victory over the Rockets (+9.5 away).
After the win, Thompson (20.8 PER) developed concussion-like symptoms of his own – he took an inadvertent knee to the head from Trevor Ariza and left the game to get stitches, but just like Curry in Game 4, Thompson also returned to action. Both players should be close to 100% after the long layoff before the finals. Thompson will benefit from a couple days off from activities in the meantime, and the Warriors will no doubt be questioned about their handling of these head injuries.
Concussions notwithstanding, the difference in health between the two teams is dramatic enough to make the Warriors 5.5-point favorites for Thursday’s opener, with a total of 203. The over is a slight –115 favorite on that total.