The Golden State Warriors are historic favorites over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals. Not only did they open with 10/1 odds to win the title, but the Game 1 betting line is larger than any point spread in recent Finals history.
Golden State is a 12.5-point favorite in the series opener Thursday night, according to OddsShark, and the over/under is 214. Cleveland is the biggest Finals underdog since the Philadelphia 76ers received 12 points against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals.
Philadelphia stunned Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with an overtime victory in that contest, though they went on to lose the next four games. It could take a heroic effort by LeBron James for the Cavs to even be competitive at Oracle Arena.
In each of their three Game 1 Finals matchups, Golden State has beaten Cleveland. With Kevin Durant on the team for the first time, the Warriors had a particularly easy time beating the Cavs in last year’s Game 1, winning 113-91. It happened despite 25 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists from James.
In their fourth Game 1 in Oakland, California, Cleveland will be without Kyrie Irving for the first time. Kevin Love’s status is still unknown because of a concussion, and he’s largely been bad this postseason.
James led his team to an Eastern Conference championship for an eighth straight season with one of the best playoff runs in history. His only real hiccups have come in series openers. Cleveland was blown out in Game 1 of both the first round and the conference finals. The Cavs needed overtime to defeat the Toronto Raptors in the first game of the second round when James took 30 shots and scored 26 points.
Tired legs shouldn’t affect James the way they might have at other times in the playoffs. The Cavs haven’t played since Sunday night when James went all 48 minutes in the Game 7 clincher over the Boston Celtics. Golden State last played Monday night when they defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.
Golden State outscored Houston 58-38 in the second half of their last game. The Rockets had no answers for Durant or Stephen Curry, and they missed a record-setting 27 three-pointers in a row.
Cleveland won’t brick nearly 30 straight shots from behind the arc, but most of the team has struggled to hit shots on the road. The Cavs can’t beat the Warriors without hitting a bunch of three-pointers. Their only win over Golden State in the 2017 NBA Finals came when they made 24 threes.
Stopping Curry and Durant will prove to be a chore for the entire series. Durant won last year’s Finals MVP, and he’s the favorite to win the award this year. James has too much responsibility on the offensive end to be able to expend energy guarding Durant. Cleveland has to hope he misses shots, which doesn’t happen often.
Since Durant signed with Golden State, the Warriors are 17-1 at home. Maybe the Cavs will be able to steal a game in Cleveland, but it might take a miracle for them to win on the road in this series.