The 2018 NBA Finals tip off Thursday from Oakland between the Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors and Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors are whopping 12.5-point favorites for Game 1 at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. And that’s tied for the biggest spread in an NBA Finals game since 1991.
There are four major storylines going in. The first is that this is the fourth straight Finals meeting between the teams. That has never happened previously in the four major American pro sports leagues.
Second is that LeBron James could be crowned the greatest player of all-time, even better than Michael Jordan, by many were he to lead this cast of Cavaliers characters past the powerful Warriors. This is the eighth straight season James is in the NBA Finals, and it’s almost surely the worst group of talent around him. Only Kevin Love is an All-Star player, and he might not be ready for the first few games. More on that shortly.
This Cavaliers team is a lot like the last club to be a 12-point betting underdog at online gambling sites in an NBA Finals game. That was the 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers. They had future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson and a bunch of mediocre talent around him. Iverson led the Sixers to a huge Game 1 Finals upset of the Lakers in Los Angeles, but the Lakers won the next four games.
Storyline No. 3 is whether this is the last series with LeBron in a Cavaliers uniform. He’s expected to opt out of his contract again this summer. He could simply re-sign with Cleveland or might believe his chances to win a championship are better elsewhere. Should the Cavs upset the Warriors in the series, he surely won’t leave. Should they get swept, the chances increase that he might.
Finally, the Warriors can stamp themselves an all-time great team with a second straight championship and third in four years. The only NBA Finals they lost was in 2016, the season they won an NBA-record 73 regular-season games. If Draymond Green isn’t suspended for Game 5 of the 2016 Finals, many believe the Warriors win the series in five instead of losing in seven to LeBron. Golden State could thus be going for a fourth straight title.
Two injuries to monitor entering the NBA Finals. Cleveland’s Love missed most of Game 6 of the East Finals and all of Game 7 with concussion-like symptoms. He has been in concussion protocol so is considered questionable for the opener. Golden State’s Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP, missed the last four games of the West Finals with a knee injury. It’s unclear when he’ll be ready to play in the series.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team would have eliminated Houston in five games instead of seven had Iguodala been healthy.
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Source: Heavy Sports