The 2016 NBA Finals has left little to the imagination has the series shift to the East. The Golden State Warriors took the first two games of the series without much of a fight from the Cleveland Cavaliers, and as they head to Game 3 on Wednesday, the possibility of a sweep is looking like a realistic possibility.
The series was expected to be a close one, pitting the league’s top two stars against one another. Golden State was the regular-season’s best team, but Cleveland looked unstoppable through the first three rounds of the playoffs, going 12-2 with two sweeps of their own.
But the Warriors have looked utterly dominant through two games, and the Cavs have provided little reason to believe they’ll win even one game.
Oddsmakers have listed a Golden State sweep as the second-most likely outcome. Sportsbook.ag gives a four-game series win for the Warriors +260 odds. Golden State in five games is the favorite at +140. Prior to the start of the series, Bovada.lv listed the odds of a sweep by the Warriors at +700.
Golden State seems to have figured out how to stop LeBron James and beat the Cavs, winning seven straight against Cleveland since Game 4 of last year’s finals, picking up five double-digit victories. James has been uncharacteristically inefficient, and his supporting cast hasn’t looked much better than the Cleveland teammates he carried to the finals nearly a decade ago.
History, however, indicates that the Cavs will find a way to win at least one game.
Sweeps in the NBA Finals are rare. There have only been eight sweeps since the league’s inception 70 years ago, and the most recent one came in 2007 when the San Antonio Spurs swept James and the Cavs in their first finals appearance. There have only been two sweeps in the last 20 years, and neither team that lost in those finals won more than 52 regular-season games.
The 1995 Orlando Magic were swept in the finals after winning 57 regular-season games, just like the Cavs did this year. Orlando, however, dropped the first two games of the series at home.
The 2009 Los Angeles Lakers were the last team to win the first two games of the NBA Finals, but the Magic won Game 3 when they returned home, with L.A. eventually closing out the series two games later. The Boston Celtics won the first two games of the finals in the previous year, and they needed six games to win the title.
The Cavaliers are favored to win Game 3 at home, where they’ve proven to be a much better team. Cleveland won nine more regular-season games at Quicken Loans Arena than they did on the road, and they are unbeaten at home in the playoffs. Eleven of Golden State’s 14 losses this season have come on the road.
Despite making history in the regular season, the Warriors have been far from perfect this postseason. They were on the brink of elimination in the Western Conference finals, and they dropped a game in both the first and second rounds as Stephen Curry battled injuries. The MVP announced on Wednesday that he won’t compete in the 2016 Rio Olympics to recover from those injuries, and even if the ailments aren’t affecting Curry’s game, he’s had a few poor shooting performances this postseason that have played a role in Golden State losses.
Cleveland has a much better chance of succumbing to a sweep than they do of coming back to win the series. Only the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers and the 2006 Miami Heat have rebounded from a 2-0 series deficit to go on and win the finals. Miami defied especially long odds, overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit in Game 3.
Cleveland has +2500 odds to beat Golden State four straight times, and they are +850 underdogs to win the series in a deciding seventh game.