LeBron James has been magnificent in the 2015 NBA Finals, but absent Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith's benevolent shooting stroke, he and the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to need a Golden State meltdown or some of their early-series magic if they are to get past a Game 6 on Tuesday at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.
The Warriors took a 3-2 series lead Sunday night at home, besting the Cavs 104-91 in a game that was far more competitive than the final scoreline suggests. Cleveland, propped up by 40 points, 14 boards and 11 assists from James, were within three points of Golden State as late as 4:14 left in the contest.
However, a trademark Steph Curry ballistic missile from beyond the arc with 1:23 remaining put Golden State up 100-89 and shut down any chances of a late Cleveland comeback.
Curry finished with 37 points on the night, and now the Warriors have a chance to win the franchise's first NBA title since 1975.
Here's a look at the odds and prop bets for Game 6.
Game Odds, Prop Odds
|Golden State||10-19||-4.5 (10-11)|
|Finals MVP||Curry 8-13, James 11-10|
|Total Points||Over 194.5 (7-8), Under 194.5 (22-23)|
|Team to Score First Basket||Warriors 4-5, Cavaliers 10-11|
|First Scoring Play||2pt FG (2-11), 3pt FG (6-1), Free Throw (15-2)|
|Halftime Lead||Warriors 8-13, Cavaliers 4-3|
|Game 6 Stat Projections, Select Players|
|LeBron James||36 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists|
|Timofey Mozgov||18 points, eight rebounds, one block|
|Steph Curry||29 points (5-of-12 from 3pt range), six rebounds, four assists|
|Draymond Green||10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, three steals|
|projections by author|
If there's one statline almost guaranteed to look gaudy after Game 6, it's that of King James. Although he's dangerously close to owning a 2-4 record in NBA Finals series, James can't possibly be at fault for this one. Down his two best deputies in Irving and Love, the Akron, Ohio, native has been nigh on unstoppable against the Warriors, averaging 36.6 points, 12.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists per game.
Golden State, having found a way to win without double-teaming James mercilessly, likely won't switch up its strategy in Game 6, leaving it up to James to carry his tired team to victory in front of what should be a frenzied home crowd.
After Sunday's loss, James told reporters (h/t ProBasketballTalk's Kurt Helin), "I feel confident because I’m the best player in the world. It’s that simple."
He wants this one for the long-suffering Cleveland and should put in another performance worthy of a Finals MVP trophy, whether or not the Cavs emerge victorious in this series.
Curry has completely put to rest the notion that surprise Finals contributor Matthew Dellavedova might actually have the answer to disrupting his considerable offensive game. He's 18-of-33 from three in the past three games, and his 37-point performance on Sunday was by far his best output of the series.
USA Today's Sam Amick reported after the game that Curry wasn't feeling his best:
It doesn't appear that this dehydration is of any major concern. Curry will be fit for Tuesday's game, but he will likely have a lower output with the Cavs desperate to contain him with their own backs against the wall.
Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov's Game 6 line figures to be difficult to forecast. In a successful attempt to regain control of the series, the Warriors have shifted to an extreme small-ball lineup. Mozgov was a giant among men in Game 4, but the Cavs curiously cut down his minutes in Game 5, and his impact was negligible, as ESPN Stats & Info illustrates:
Cavaliers head coach David Blatt confirmed the lack of playing time was a strategic decision, but he did suggest Mozgov might be utilized a bit more on Tuesday, per ESPN.com's news services:"It's no disrespect to anyone, certainly not to Timo, who has done a great job for us. That's just the way that we played it tonight, and Timo will be back and he will not lose his way or lose his head just because he didn't play a lot tonight."
Mozgov's game is clearly at the mercy of his coach, but with the team missing several outside shots down the stretch in Game 5, it may want to have a big man locked into the contest late for some low-post scoring opportunities.
Hardwood Paroxysm also notes Mozgov's presence has a profound impact on Golden State's Draymond Green:
Green's stats weren't noticeably different from Game 4 to Game 5, and he even posted a lower shooting percentage and more turnovers despite Mozgov spending so much time on the pine.
|Draymond Green Stats, Games 4 & 5|
The former Michigan State Spartan has been a key player for the Warriors all season long, with his versatile defensive abilities impacting games beyond what is usually captured in a box score.
If Mozgov does play more (a likely proposition), Green will struggle to get scoring chances inside and not put up many points. He will, however, flesh out a nice night of basketball by contributing on the defensive end—although he could really use more help guarding James on the perimeter—and finish with numbers in line with his NBA Finals performances thus far.
As for the game itself, the Cavs will get their Herculean night from James, but they don't seem to have the depth to compete with Golden State. Dellavedova is back to being a mere mortal, while Smith and Iman Shumpert have struggled to consistently hit shots for most of the series.
The Warriors, meanwhile, can play 10 men if necessary and have seen excellent output from the likes of Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson and Shaun Livingston at various points in this series. Look for them to take Game 6 in a close, dramatic contest.
Final score: Warriors 101, Cavs 96