Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 at 12:00 PM
All the margin for error is gone. Cleveland absolutely must win Game Three of the 2017 NBA Finals Wednesday night or their season is as good as over. Honestly, it already feels that way NOW! But, we all remember that it felt that way last year at this time too…and the Cavs mounted a historic comeback that will never be forgotten.
The first two games this series? They can mostly be forgotten! Look at how poorly Cleveland played Sunday night in what was supposed to be a classic zig-zag bounce-back spot.
GOLDEN STATE 132, CLEVELAND 113
2-point shooting: Cleveland 52%, Golden State 61%
3-point shooting: Cleveland 8/29, Golden State 18/43
Free Throws: Cleveland 15/19, Golden State 22/24
Rebounds: Cleveland 41, Golden State 53
Turnovers: Cleveland 9, Golden State 20
It wasn’t all a disaster thanks to the turnover category. The Cavs were hustling enough on defense to at least force a lot of miscues, even if all that chasing led to way too many open looks and easy makes for the Warriors. Otherwise, hide your eyes if you’re a Cleveland fan. The Warriors scored at will when they weren’t throwing the ball way. The Warriors owned the boards. The Warriors got to the free throw line much more often. That category shouldn’t be so one-sided when LeBron James is on the floor.
It’s one thing to hope Cleveland shoots better. Can they get better in so many different aspects of play? What if there just isn’t a gear to go to in a peak motivational spot? What if Golden State’s motivation to sweep the whole playoffs at 16-0 is strong enough to trump whatever cards Cleveland brings to the table? Defense wins championships…and Golden State has more defenders (even if that gets hidden in up-tempo action).
The biggest key will involve pace. You can’t expect to win by running with Golden State. Nobody does that better than the Warriors. The first game was pretty fast (pace factor of 100). Somehow, the Cavs took from that they needed to push harder! The pace factor for Game Two was a ridiculous 106. That’s just playing right into Golden State’s hands.
If Cleveland can slow things down, that forces
*The Warriors to pick a weapon out of sets and hope that weapons makes shots
*The Warriors’ defense to keep LeBron away from the rim
*The Warriors’ defense to keep Cavs shooters from getting good looks off LeBron double teams
It also allows the shot clock to become a “sixth defender,” and Cleveland needs all the help it can get in that regard.
Of course, slowing down pace may not work either. This is a historically great Golden State team that basically has no weaknesses when it’s fresh and healthy. Maybe complacency will become a weakness. You saw that with all the turnovers Sunday night. A halfcourt game has a better chance of boring the Warriors into complacency too. When LeBron James has success in the playoffs, it’s at slow speeds that maximize his strengths while keeping him on the floor relatively fresh for as long as possible. Running with the Warriors meant LeBron and Cleveland had nothing left down the stretch.
JIM HURLEY will be working with his full team of experts to make sure clients get the right side Wednesday night. Is Cleveland as a home dog a great bet because of situational trends? Is Golden State at a cheap price a virtual lock because they Warriors are so good they can name the score? Our SCOUTS and SOURCES will report from on-site. Our STATHEADS and TREND HISTORIANS will have crunched all the numbers from every “Game Three, home team down 2-0” playoff occurrence from the past 10 years. Our COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS have been running simulations at slow, medium, fast, and very fast paces to outline the parameters of possibilities. And, our WISE GUY CONNECTIONS have let us know what the smart money plans to do, and when it plans to strike.
That’s all going to add up to a BIG, JUICY WINNER for NETWORK clients (and maybe a bonus play on the total!)
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Are things about to get interesting in the 2017 NBA Finals? Or, is the series already over with the next two games being mere formalities? Don’t make a move until you hear from us! When championships are on the line, YOU NEED WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!