NBA Finals – Cavaliers can stay close in Game 1

Shane Lambert previews Game 1 of the NBA Finals and likes the 8.5 points line on Cleveland Cavaliers against the home team Golden State Warriors.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors will play Game 1 of their NBA Finals series on Thursday when the Cavs travel to play the Warriors in Oakland (9pm ET on ABC). The series match-up is certainly a fantastic one for NBA basketball fans as it sees the top seeds from each conference square off. The series will also feature Steph Curry and Lebron James, the two best players in the NBA, leading some strong supporting casts.

Golden State enter the series with home-court advantage and that is an edge that could prove huge. However the Cavs are 12-2 in the playoffs and they enter the NBA Finals a well-rested team. There's all kinds of trends you can look at to play up one side over the other and, in some ways, that makes the series a tough one to assess.

Priced at 4/9 with 888Sport, the Warriors don't look too exciting, but then the Cavs, in my view, aren't all that interesting either at 19/10 with William Hill. I know someone has to win, but when it comes to betting odds I like value that's clear and I don't think it's there with the current lines. With the series too close to call from a betting point of view, I actually want to wait until game handicaps come out to see what the firms are offering for the Cavaliers at +1.5. However, if you were to twist my arm right now, I'd make an odds-based call on Cleveland at 19/10 as 4/9 on GS requires too hefty of a potentially bankroll-draining bet.

TV pundits aren't exactly offering any great insight. Shaquille O'Neal, speaking on TNT on Monday night, was basically a fence sitter when it came to offering a series winner. Kenny Smith picked the Warriors while Charles Barkley went with the Cavs, perhaps showing that the series is one that is tough for the crew on TNT to read.

However, what I like about the series from a betting point of view is that it's almost carbon copy from last year's NBA Finals. Everyone is another year older, Cleveland have a different coach, and there's some changes here and there with the players (ie. Anderson Varejao has flipped teams). But the major change, of course, is that the 2016 NBA Finals will start with Kevin Love's services available to the Cavs whereas last year they were not.

And last year both games that were played to open the series in Oakland went to overtime. That included Game 2, which Cleveland won without Kyrie Irving.

Right now you can get the Cavs with 8.5 helpers at -166 (about 5/8) with 888Sport. I think that's a good line given that a worse Cleveland team would have covered with that handicap in both Games 1 and 2 from last season. With Kevin Love, you have to think that the Cavs are a more competitive team and that an extra 8.5 points is a pretty big lead, even with Golden State's home dominance.

Recommendation:

2 points win on Cleveland's Game 1 handicap of +8.5 points at 4/7 with 888Sport

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