It was perceived that with Kyrie Irving, healthy or even close to it, in the lineup, the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to be a handful for the Golden State Warriors. And indeed it looked very much like that in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Cleveland held a 14-point lead at one juncture, as Golden State it just six out of its 21 field goal attempts in the first quarter, and Irving played one of the more courageous games you’ll ever see out of a backcourt man, scoring 23 points, pulling down seven rebounds and handing out six assists, in addition to doing his job on the defensive end, including a big block of an attempted layup by Steph Curry that prevented Golden State from taking the lead in the final 24 seconds of regulation time.
But now, as BetAnySports customers are well aware, Irving, who has been struggling for weeks with tendinitis in his knee, went down again with two minutes left in overtime, and left the arena on crutches. He has been determined to have a fractured kneecap, which takes him out of action entirely. And there are some people who are not happy about the way that was handled.
Golden State, by virtue of a 108-100 victory in which Cleveland scored just two points in the extra session, are up a game with the opportunity to take a 2-0 lead when the series heads to the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Game 2 will tip off at 8 PM ET at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, where the Warriors have a 47-3 straight-up record.
Cleveland is a club that has seen its depth wither away. Kevin Love went down with a shoulder injury in the opening series against Boston, and now, with a Irving out, that is two-thirds of the “Big Three” that made the Cavaliers a pre-season favorite to go all the way. But there are plenty of NBA bettors who do believe Lebron James, as the “Big One,” might be enough. That’s how much respect they have for him. James scored 44 points in the opener, led his team with eight rebounds and dished out six assists.
In the NBA betting lines posted on this game by the folks at BetAnySports, the Warriors are the favorites:
Golden State Warriors -8
Cleveland Cavaliers +8
Over 200.5 points -110
Under 200.5 points -110
Irving, who as we mentioned, has been dealing with these knee issues for a while, felt very concerned with this particular incident, because, in his words, “This time I kind of knew it was a little bit different than the other times.” He had gone to see Dr. James Andrews a couple of weeks before, to get an independent opinion on his knee, since it was determined by his agent and father that such an evaluation was necessary. There appears to be some tension going on between those who have the personal interests of Irving in mind and those who have to balance that with team interests. It had been inferred by certain Cavs’ personnel, including coach David Blatt, that Irving might want to toughen up, in effect, and brave the pain in order to play. Of course, the agent and the family have long-term considerations in mind. Yet here Irving was playing 44 minutes of the game, after having not been in action for about two weeks. You really have to wonder whether he should have been playing again that soon. That kind of makes the effort even more remarkable.
BetAnySports customers will have to contemplate what kind of effect the absence of Irving will have on the way Cleveland plays defense. The Cavaliers held up pretty well, even while their point guard was gone, and allowed just 41% shooting throughout the post-season. Golden State hit 44% of its shots in Thursday’s Game 1, but one could see very easily that their depth has the ability to wear down that of the Cavaliers. Golden State went ten-deep in the opener, and that included using Marreese Speights, who had been out since May 9 but scored eight points in eight minutes. Can JR Smith or Matthew Dellavedova hold up their end when it comes to stopping the likes of Stephen Curry? Oh boy, that’s a BIG proposition to ponder.
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