Basketball

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION (NBA) – It's LeBron vs Curry as Cleveland meet Golden State to decide title

BY MARK ARCHER
Contributor

Friday, June 01, 2018

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The contenders for the 2018 NBA Championship Series have been decided and the $1.08 JustBet favourite Golden State Warriors will face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the fourth-straight year to decide which city will celebrate in June. Both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals went to seven games (the first time since 1979) and, with the season on the line, the last two games in each series were exciting encounters.

With all the uncertainty and inconsistency surrounding the Cleveland Cavaliers this season, when they've needed a big game in a big moment, LeBron James was there. With their backs against the wall, facing elimination at the hands of the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals last Friday, James's contribution was invaluable. The Cavaliers weathered an early onslaught by the visiting Celtics, but early in the second quarter, James took over the game and scored 46 points — a career high in an elimination game — to go with 11 rebounds, nine assists, three steals and a block to lead the Cavaliers to a 109-99 win. It was James's seventh 40-point game of the 2018 postseason, tying Michael Jordan for the most such games in a single postseason.

Entering Game 7 on Sunday night, the Boston Celtics had not lost at home in the 2018 postseason and LeBron James had not missed the NBA Finals since 2010 — something had to give.

The Cavaliers fell to an 11-4 Boston run to start the game and by the mid-point of the second quarter, the Celtics had built up a 12-point lead, and were looking like their unbeaten home run in the playoffs would continue. Cleveland (and LeBron) had other ideas and rallied on a 16-5 run before half-time to enter the locker room down just four points. Cleveland continued their dominance as soon as the second half started and allowed just 13 points in the third quarter en route to an 87-79 victory. James led the way with 35 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. Jeff Green shot 50 percent from the field, adding 19 points for the Cavaliers. JR Smith and Tristan Thompson also finished with double figures, scoring 11 and 10 points, respectively.

The Golden State Warriors, with their season on the line, started Game 6 on Saturday night on the wrong foot. Houston Rockets' guard Eric Gordon — who started in place of the injured Chris Paul — came out firing and led his team to a 17-point lead at the end of the first quarter. The defending champions started their rally in the second quarter and continued into the second half where it was all Golden State. Klay Thompson was extraordinary, scoring 21 of his game-high 35 points in the second half, including seven of his nine three-pointers. Stephen Curry added 29 points including five three-points as well, while Kevin Durant scored 23 and Draymond Green contributed four points, 10 rebounds, nine assists, four steals and five blocks. The Warriors tied the Western Conference Finals at three games with a 115-86 victory to force a winner-take-all Game 7 in Houston.

The nine three pointers by Klay Thompson tied the second-highest total in NBA postseason history. Thompson holds the NBA play-off record of 11 three-pointers against Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals, another game in which Golden State were facing elimination, but went on to prevail. Draymond Green ended the contest with four points, ten rebounds, nine assists, four steals and five blocks. He is the first-ever player in an NBA Playoff game to finished with at least nine assists, five blocks and four steals.

Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals was an almost mirror image of Game 6. Golden State trailed by as many as 15 in the first half of this game after falling behind 17 in Game 6. Golden State scored 33 points in the third quarter for the second-straight game, while Houston managed just 15 points on Monday night after they scored 16 in the third quarter of Game 6. But it was not all offense for the Warriors as they held the Rocket to 25 total points in the second half (lowest points in a half for this postseason) and, for the series, held Houston to under 100 points for five straight games. James Harden had 32 points as the top-seeded Rockets' bid to return to the finals for the first time since 1995 fell short. The Rockets offense collapsed in the second half again after doing so in Game 6. The Warriors outscored Houston 122-63 in the second-half of the final two games.

Stephen Curry, who finished with 27 points, scored 14 of Golden State's 33 points in the third quarter as Houston's shooting all but disappeared. The Rockets missed all 14 three-point attempts in that quarter as part of 27 consecutive misses from long range, a record for the NBA playoffs. Kevin Durant amassed 34 points in the 101-92 victory to book the fourth installment of the Warriors vs Cavaliers series.

The NBA Finals looks like the Warriors' series to lose. The Warriors approach the Finals looking for their third title in four seasons, while the Cavaliers are hoping to even the score in these matchups at 2-2 after falling in five games last season.

LeBron is the best athlete on a basketball court, and you need to look no further than the past six weeks to confirm that fact. In this postseason he's averaging 34 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.8 assists, while shooting over 54 per cent from the field. He's the most dominant player in the league and, even against the lethal Warriors, he will still be the best player on the floor. Andre Iguodala, who has been the main defender on LeBron James in previous finals, has missed the last four games. Iguodala averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game during the playoffs until his knee injury during Game 3 of the Western Conference finals. If he's not able to recover and get back on the court for the Warriors, it could be a break for Cleveland, which has had trouble dealing with Iguodala in recent Finals series - most notably in 2015 when he took home Finals MVP.

All things considered, it's hard to find reasons to pick against Golden State or even predict a close series – Warriors in five or six games.

The listing of remaining games for the Conference Finals are provided and full details of all the betting options and odds are available at the nearest JustBet location or online at www.justbetja.com.

NBA FINALS 2018
DATE TIME HOME TEAM AWAY TEAM
MAY 31 21:00 Golden State Warriors Cleveland Cavaliers GAME 1
JUNE 3 20:00 Golden State Warriors Cleveland Cavaliers GAME 2
JUNE 6 21:00 Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors GAME 3
JUNE 8 21:00 Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors GAME 4
JUNE 11 21:00 Golden State Warriors Cleveland Cavaliers GAME 5*
JUNE 14 21:00 Cleveland Cavaliers Golden State Warriors GAME 6*
JUNE 17 20:00 Golden State Warriors Cleveland Cavaliers GAME 7*
*if necessary
JustBet offers the best odds and bet options for the NBA and European basketball
so place your bets early at one of the over 100 locations on the prediction of
your choice for maximum winnings. Additionally, to enhance the betting options,
JustBet offers odds on selected player-points spread.
The JustBet odds for the NBA Finals are below. Please note that the odds are
subject to change.
NBA CHAMPION 2017-2018
TEAM ODDS
GS WARRIORS 1.08
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 6.50

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