Cavs vs Warriors Betting Game 2: Rihanna curses JR. Smith – Will He be Okay?

jr-smith-rihanna-nba-finalsThe first game is now in the books between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, with the latter winning 108-100 (OT) on their home floor. The Cavs had two chances to win the game in regulation, with LeBron James missing a jump shot and Iman Shumpert missing a last-second put-back. It’s not hard to pinpoint the X-factor here: JR Smith only hit 3-of-13 from the field at a time when Cleveland needed his clutch shooting. Additionally, Kyrie Irving left with another knee injury, making some wonder if this will even be a series anymore. We’ll discuss that, along with Rihanna’s possible effect on Smith, but first, here’s the Cavs vs Warriors Game 2 betting line:

Game Time: Sunday (June 7th) at 8:00 ET Line:
Golden State -8 (-110)       Over 200.5 (-110)
Cleveland (-110)               Under 200.5 (-110)

Judging by the line, this shouldn’t be much of a contest – especially with the Warriors at Oracle Arena again. Of course, the theme here, including mine personally, is that you can’t count LeBron out. But is it finally time to do so, given that King James is against a seemingly unbeatable army? Let’s look at five important factors that will determine Game 2 between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

1. Golden State Small Ball can break Any Team

Draymond Green, LeBron JamesOvertime finally saw Steve Kerr pull out the small ball lineup that has crushed so many other teams this year – Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Igoudala, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green playing center. These five, who are interchangeable with a couple bench players, give the Warriors five players who can shoot, dribble and spread the floor. The fear is that the Cavs can kill Golden State on the boards and inside with this small ball lineup. However, that was far from the case in the first game.

2. Kyrie Irving is done for the Finals – The Cavs are Possibly done Too

Irving already came into this series knowing that he wouldn’t be 100%. However, he looked like he was near 100% while shooting 10-for-22 and pouring in 23 points. That was before he went down near the end of Game 1 and limped back to the locker room; now the diagnosis is in – Irving has a fractured knee cap and needs surgery plus 3-4 months of recovery. Cleveland got by with Matthew Dellavedova at point in the Eastern Conference playoffs, but it’s highly unlikely they can repeat that feat against the Warriors.

3. JR Smith shot Terribly – But He has to be on Fire

jr-smith-clevelandTwitter was ablaze with rumors that Rihanna cursed JR Smith in the first game, as he shot only 3-for-13 with 9 points in 34 minutes. Smith was a hero in the Bulls and Hawks series for Cleveland, hitting timely shots and playing good defense. But some suggest that he wasn’t himself with Rihanna in the crowd because they supposedly have beef with each other. Whatever the case may be, Smith did not look good in the first game and he’ll have to get on fire for Cleveland when considering how limited their offensive options are.

4. Andre Igoudala did not stop LeBron – He took Advantage of Opportunity

Many headlines claim that Igoudala stopped LeBron down the stretch, or at the very least slowed him down. Well, the game footage shows that James did play somewhat worse offensively with Igoudala guarding him. And Iggy is definitely one of the league’s better wing defenders. But this isn’t just great defense at play – it’s great defense combined with Warriors depth. At any time, James could be facing Green, Igoudala or Harrison Barnes, meaning he’s never going to get a break this series.

5. Golden State’s Bench will win this One Easily

Given Irving’s status, Cleveland doesn’t seem to have any chance on the road, against the league’s toughest team. They might win 1-2 games in the series if they’re lucky, but Golden State just has way too much depth for the Cavs to contend with. And here’s a parting stat just to hammer this point home:

GS Bench = 14-for-27 shooting, 34 points
Cleveland Bench = 4-for-14, 9 points

Game 2 Score Prediction: Golden State 105, Cleveland 93

Cavs vs Warriors NBA Finals Betting: 5 Things to expect

cleveland-vs-golden-state-betting-1The 2015 NBA Finals betting line is now set, with the Golden State Warriors taking on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors dusted off a pesky Rockets team in five games, while Cleveland obliterated the Atlanta Hawks with a four-game sweep. So which of these dominant teams has the advantage? We’ll discuss this, but first, here’s a look at the Cavs vs Warriors Game 1 betting line: Betting Line:
Golden State -5.5 (-110)       Over 202.5 (-110)
Cleveland (-110)                   Under 202.5 (-110)
Game Time:
 June 4th at 9:00pm ET

This series is often looked at as LeBron and Co. versus the Warriors deep and talented team, led by Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Thanks to Golden State’s balance, they finished the regular season at 67-15 – one of the NBA’s best records ever – then blitzed through the brutal Western Conference playoffs with a 12-3 record.

Cleveland was pretty impressive after some mid-season trades, and they went 12-2 on the weaker Eastern Conference side of the bracket. Plus, they have key injuries with Kevin Love out for the postseason and Kyrie Irving playing at less than 100%. So does this mean that they’ll get blown out of the water by the Warriors?

1. LeBron is the Real MVP

Curry has had an amazing season, and he’s somehow played even better in the playoffs. If you give this guy an inch of daylight, he’s going to burn you with the three again and again. However, not even Curry has the all-around game that James still has at age 30. Some didn’t have LeBron making it past the Bulls, and many believed the Hawks would take Cleveland to six or seven games. But even with a hobbled Irving, no Love and a cast of role players, James has carried his teammates to victory.

2. Golden State can beat Cleveland in a Variety of Ways

cleveland-vs-golden-state-bettingWhile Curry might be the undeniable leader of this team, followed by his ‘Splash Brother’ Thompson, this is more than just two great shooters. There’s Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barns and Draymond Green in the front court, along with Andre Iguodala, Leandro Barbosa, David Lee and Shaun Livingston coming off the bench. Cleveland just can’t match what the Warriors have all over the court.

3. The Cavs Defense has been Incredible

Before making mid-season trades that brought in J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov, Cleveland was in the bottom half of the league in defense. However, their D has improved tremendously thanks to Shumpert’s perimeter defense and Mozgov’s rim protection. So if there’s a team that can slow down the Warriors, it is definitely the Cavs. But Golden State’s defense is worth noting too because they have wings like Green and Iguodala that can at least force LeBron to take bad shots sometimes.

4. Tristan Thompson should continue feasting on the Boards

tristan-thompsonA huge reason for Cleveland’s playoff success – in Love’s absence – has been the rebounding of Thompson. Although he’s always been a strong rebounder, the undersized PF/C is playing like Wilt Chamberlain on the offensive glass. Golden State is going to be much tougher to grab offensive rebounds against than Atlanta. However, Thompson still had lots of success against the Bulls’ giant line, so don’t expect the Warriors to stop him either.

5. Iguodala could be Warriors’ X-Factor

If there’s one player that could make or break this for Golden State, it will be Iguodala. A former star in Philly, he now comes off the bench for the Warriors and provides energy, hustle and outstanding defense. More than this, he’ll likely be left open when out on the court with Thompson and Curry. So if he can hit the three (31.9% in this postseason), it could be Golden State’s special ingredient.

Final Analysis of Cleveland vs Golden State

Almost everybody expects the Warriors to win because, well, they’ve been the best all season. More than this, LeBron’s cast isn’t quite as talented as Golden State’s team. However, the one thing that Cleveland does have is amazing chemistry, which is surprising when you consider that this team was put together on the run this season. So expect LeBron, great defense and veteran leadership to power Cleveland to its first major sports title ever.

Series Prediction: Cleveland wins 4 games to 2

Cavs vs. Bulls Game 6 Betting: Can Cleveland close it out?

lebron-game-5-bullsFollowing two buzzer-beater games, the Cleveland Cavaliers pulled out a 106-101 win over the Chicago Bulls in Game 5 of this playoff series. The Cavs now lead the series 3-2 heading into tonight’s Game 6 contest. So who’s got the upper hand as we visit the United Center in Chicago? Check out our analysis below, but first, here’s a look at the Game 6 betting line.

Game Time: Thursday (May 14th) at 8:00pm ET on ESPN Betting Line:
Chicago -2.5 (-110)    Over 192.5 (-110)
Cleveland (-110)        Under 192.5 (-110)

As you can see from our line, this is expected to be yet another close contest. And why not, since the last three have been decided by a total of 10 points. The only question is, who will come out on top of what’s expected to be another nail-biter. That said, let’s discuss some of the big factors to consider before betting on Game 6 between Cleveland and Chicago.

Paul Gasol will play Tonight

The Bulls took control of the series early on with a Game 3 victory, giving them a 2-1 series lead. However, that was with Gasol….or at least with the All-Star center playing over half the game before exiting with a hamstring injury. He’s since missed the last two contests, and Chicago has lost both of them. Gasol vows to play tonight, but the main concern is what level he’ll be playing at. ”I’ll be out there,” said Gasol. ”[What percentage?] I don’t know, but whatever percentage I will be, that’s what I’ll give.” Will a semi-healthy Gasol be enough to put the Bulls over the hump on their home floor?

LeBron could be LeBron Again

The story of last game was definitely the dominance of LeBron James, who scored 38 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out six assists and blocked three shots – all while committing no turnovers. Some of this came with Jimmy Butler on the bench in foul trouble, however, LeBron also scored at will when the “KingSlayer” was on the court too. Can James be this efficient again tonight? Assuming the answer is yes, then it’s very possible that Cleveland can close out the series.

pau-gasol-bulls-playoffsBulls Offense is struggling

As mentioned before, Gasol hasn’t played the past two games, and Chicago’s offense has sorely missed him. But even with Gasol, the Bulls offense devolves into everybody standing around and waiting for a perimeter player to make something happen. Cleveland forced three shot-clock violations, but these turnovers were just as much a product of Chicago’s sometimes-anemic offense. Can coach Tom Thibodeau get the X’s and O’s just right and break his team out of this funk?

Kyrie Irving may not be as Beat Up as thought

Irving was looking worse for the wear after Game 4, with a sore foot and knee tendinitis. These injuries seemed like they would force LeBron to carry even more of the load in Game 5. However, Irving actually played really well and shot 9-for-16 with 25 points in the contest. Assuming Irving can play healthy over the next 1-2 games, and return to the form that he had against the Boston Celtics, then this team has nothing to worry about.

An “On” Night for Butler and Rose could win it

Watching Chicago during these playoffs, it seems that the key to their success is Butler and Derrick Rose syncing up their good-shooting nights. Last time out was not one of these nights, with Rose making only 7-of-24 attempts, and Butler shooting a respectable 9-of-18. If these two can get on fire at the same time, then we could certainly be heading back to Cleveland for a seventh game.

Final Score Prediction: Chicago 97 – Cleveland 93

Cavs vs. Bulls Game 3 Betting: Here’s what you need to know

cavs-vs-bulls-game-3After being handled at home, the Cleveland Cavaliers came roaring back behind LeBron James’ 33 points, winning Game 2 by a score of 106-91. This evens the series and will make Game 3 a lot more interesting as action heads back to Chicago. So who’s got the advantage heading into the next contest of the Bulls vs Cavs series? We’ll discuss that, but first, take a look at the Game 3 betting line:

Game Time: May 8th (Friday) at 8:00pm ET; shown on ESPN Betting LIne:
Chicago -2 (-110)       196 (-110)
Cleveland (-110)        196 (-110)

It’s interesting to see that Chicago is now favored on the Game 3 betting line, given that they got down by 20 points in the first quarter of Game 2 and never recovered. But then again, it was the Bulls jumping out to a 31-15 first-quarter lead against the Cavs, before closing the game out in the final quarter. Plus, with action shifting back to the United Center, the Bulls will definitely get a boost. As for how much of a boost, this remains to be seen.

Assuming you’re interested in betting on Game 3 of the Cavs vs Bulls series, make sure to keep the following points in mind.

LeBron James is playing with Renewed Fire

After a pretty bad Game 1, where he played terrible down the stretch, King James came back with renewed focus in the second contest. He said that he needed to be more aggressive, and this is exactly what happened as James continued taking the ball to the basket again and again. We haven’t seen LeBron hit many outside shots lately, and he made just 13-of-29 shots in his 33-point effort last time out. But James’ aggression kept the Bulls on their heels, which allowed him to dish out a very LeBron-like 8 assists, compared to only 2 turnovers.

mirotic-game-3Chicago still can’t sort out their Frontcourt Rotation

Understanding Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau’s frontcourt rotation has become nearly impossible. Obviously Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah deserve their minutes, but where is Nikola Mirotic!? He’s become a dangerous scoring weapon who can stretch the floor when Chicago needs offense – something Gibson and especially Noah can’t do. Yet Mirotic continues to only play the last couple minutes of the first half, and garbage time when allotted. Maybe it’s just Thibodeau’s old-school, rookies-don’t-play style of coaching…?

Thibodeau Firing Rumors persist

It’s kind of hard to come out with fire against LeBron and his equally talented sidekick Kyrie Irving when rumors are swirling about your head coach being fired/mutually parting ways. Thibodeau and the front office have clashed over many things, especially his insistence on playing the starters for extended minutes. This has obviously worn on Noah while it puts Derrick Rose’s knees at risk more. But it doesn’t seem like Thibodeau is going to change his philosophy any time soon.

mike-miller-cavsCleveland’s Bench is Largely Horrendous

There’s little leeway for the starters to mess up, given what the Cavs have coming off their bench. Guys like James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova can play, but they shouldn’t be your sixth and seventh men. The aging enforcer Kendrick Perkins is the only big man off the bench, while Mike Miller doesn’t look like he could play in a wheelchair league right now, posting four rebounds, 0 points and giving up more buckets in 13 minutes.

As Rose and Butler go, the Bulls go

Everybody makes a big deal about Chicago’s front-court depth, but it is Rose and Jimmy Butler’s shooting which decides how this team fares. Both were a combined 11-34 in Game 2, which can’t happen against the Cavs. Rose and Butler also went 10-for-41 against the Bucks in Game 6 of their first-round series, resulting in another loss. Both players need to at least shoot above 40% for the Bulls to have any chance of winning.

Game 3 Prediction: Cleveland 99 – Chicago 97

Timofey Mozgov: The Unlikely Hero of the Cleveland Cavaliers

timofey-mozgov-cleveland-heroWhen Timofey Mozgov came over to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Denver Nuggets, he was merely looked at as a good role player. In fact, the deal was heavily scrutinized because Cleveland gave up two first-round picks to obtain the 7’1″ big man. Nevertheless, a desperate Cavs team that was hovering around .500 in January made the deal in hopes of getting another piece to their championship contender.

Well, up to this point, Mozgov has been more than worth the deal by serving as the reliable, rim-protecting big man that Cleveland needed from the beginning. Paint protection is the key here because nobody on the Cavs roster fits the mold of a shot-blocking big man who can force tough shots inside. And before Mozgov came over from Denver, Cleveland was giving up 105.4 points per 100 possessions, which ranked eighth-worst in the league.

Mozgov may not be leading the league in blocks, but he is averaging 1.2 BPG and altering plenty of other shots. His inside defensive contributions certainly haven’t gone unnoticed either, especially by head coach David Blatt.

“Bringing Timo in was something we were looking at as early as this summer,” said Blatt, who first met Mozgov as coach of the Russian national team. “Because of my knowledge and experience with him, I knew he’d be a good fit for us — his pick-and-cut capability, size and ability to protect the rim.”

timofey-mozgov-cleveland-hero-1One look at the stats will show how much Cleveland has changed on the defensive end of the floor. This team is allowing 101 points per 100 possessions, which is over four points better than before the Russian big man. Furthermore, opposing teams are shooting just 48% in the paint against Mozgov.

Timofey has a simple explanation for his success in this department: “It’s real simple – as the big guy, you’re supposed to protect the rim.”

Cavaliers associate head coach Tyronn Lue had a little more analysis on the subject, citing how their defensive scheme is much better. “We’ve changed our defense since Timo got here,” said Tyronn Lue. “We now scheme around always having a big man near the basket. His weakside awareness has really surprised me. He’s so good at tagging cutters as they come through and reading pindowns and screen. He’s got an incredible basketball IQ.”

Lue added that the team was always looking to keep their center in the paint, rather than getting out on pick-and-rolls. And Mozgov made this transition much easier.

But the 7-footer isn’t just good at disrupting shots inside because Mozgov has also improved this team on offense, despite not being a great outside shooter and averaging a modest 10.6 PPG. “They call me a good roller, but I don’t know, I just do what I do,” he explained. “I don’t do anything special. You set a good screen, you’ll be open.”

Whatever Mozgov is doing, it’s helped his team out a lot. The Cavs are averaging 105.5 points per 100 possessions without Mozgov on the court, and 111.5 points when he is in the game. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s shooting 58.7% as a member of the Cavaliers.

Now, with Cleveland having wrapped up the Eastern Conference’s second seed, the challenge for Mozgov will be entering his second-career playoff run. The first one with Denver didn’t last long, but the Cavaliers are expected to go much deeper, thanks to a trio of stars in LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

And while Mozgov certainly won’t be mentioned in the same breath as these three, he, along with J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert, is definitely a very important addition who’ll help the Cavs immensely in the 2015 postseason.

Cleveland Cavaliers Betting: LeBron James promises to come off Bench if needed

lebron-james-benchEven going back to his days as a teenage rookie, LeBron James has never come off the bench during his 11-year NBA career. However, King James volunteered to do so if that’s what his team needs to win. And he cited teammate Tristan Thompson’s willingness to do so as reason why he would also make the same sacrifice. Here’s a look at what he told reporters following today’s practice about the matter:

“Whatever benefits the team, I’m for. Tristan [Thompson] is the same. And the rest of the guys are starting to understand that. I think we’re getting it. I think we understand that, at the end of the day, not one individual has ever won a championship. It’s all about a team. For me, being the leader of the team, it doesn’t matter, whatever this team needs in order for us to win.

“I’ll come off the bench. I’m serious. I’ll come off the bench and, if it helps our team, that’s what it’s about. It’s about a team and how we all fit together, how the five guys on the court fit together, how the eight guys or 10 guys on the bench all help the guys that’s on the floor, and so on and so on. So, sacrifice is the biggest word in team sports, but it’s not about saying it. It’s about doing it. It’s about living it.”

lebron-james-bench-1Cleveland is on an 11-game winning streak right now, and James is averaging 26.2 points, 7.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds so far. So there’s not much chance that he’ll really be coming off the bench any time soon. However, his point is that he’s willing to do anything to ensure that the Cavs keep winning.

As alluded to before, center/power forward Thompson has needed to make a big sacrifice, vacating his starting spot in favor of 7-footer Timofey Mozgov. And so far, Thompson is still playing well in a reduced role. Veterans James Jones, Shawn Marion and Mike Miller have also seen their playing time fluctuate as head coach David Blatt tinkers the lineup to find the perfect combination.

Perfection is definitely a hard thing to come by in the NBA. However, it appears that the Cavs are getting closer after making new additions like Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert. This new influx of defensive and scoring (Smith) talent puts Cleveland in a much better position to contend for a title now, which has been the goal ever since LeBron decided to come home.