Warriors vs. Cavaliers: Golden State to Keep It Close

The Golden State Warriors play the second game of a back-to-back Friday night when they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors may play a smaller lineup in this matchup, which could pay big dividends as a moderate underdog. Check out Joe Dellera's best bet for Warriors vs. Cavaliers below.

Warriors vs. Cavaliers Odds

Warriors Odds +7.5
Cavaliers Odds -7.5
Over/Under 225.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

The Warriors head to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers for a Friday night NBA showdown. This should be an exciting game between two of the league’s best teams.

Let’s break down which team has the edge tonight.

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Golden State Warriors

This game will represent the Warriors’ second game in as many days. They took on the Celtics last night in Boston, lost in overtime and had to travel shortly after.

It’s likely the Warriors will rest some players. Klay Thompson is the most likely Golden State player to sit with injury management. Additionally, head coach Steve Kerr indicated he wants to keep a smaller starting lineup, so we’ll see if Kevon Looney enters the fray without Thompson or if he decides to start Donte DiVincenzo.

It’s notable Jordan Poole started yesterday’s game against the Celtics, and Kerr played only three players off the bench.

On the season, the Warriors have struggled a bit. They’re one game under .500 and sit in a four-way tie for the 7-seed in the West.

Despite the struggles, the West is so closely contested. They’re just one loss behind the 5-seed Mavericks and just two losses ahead of the 13-seed Lakers. We’re at the point in the season where the Warriors need to turn it up a bit to ensure they’re not in the Play-In.

We know they have that gear, though, specifically with lineups that include Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Andrew Wiggins and Poole. Those lineups, have a +6 point differential and score 119.3 points per 100 possessions, which is in the 89th percentile of all lineups, per Cleaning the Glass.

The Warriors have been excellent whenever Kerr goes to these smaller and more explosive lineups. If you remove the dead weight from Kerr tinkering with lineups and rotations and excise the minutes played by James Wiseman, Jonathan Kuminga and Moses Moody, those lineups leap into the 96th percentile of point differential (+10.9) and score a whopping 120.7 points per 100 possessions.

The Warriors’ extra gear simply means taking minutes away from their younger and less experienced players.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers may again be without star guard Donovan Mitchell (groin), who is listed as questionable for today’s matchup. If Mitchell is unable to go, expect Darius Garland to pick up the slack and see an uptick in his offensive responsibilities.

The Cavaliers have been excellent this season and sit in fifth place in the East, just two games behind the Bucks in the loss column for the 2-seed. They have the third-best adjusted net rating, which is in large part due to the second-best adjusted defensive rating. The team’s offense is solid, but defense is what carries this team to success.

One of the Cavaliers’ defensive strong suits is defending the paint — this is something they displayed against a Grizzlies team that makes a living in the paint.

However, the Warriors have an almost entirely different game plan. The Dubs will get into the paint, but it’s generally due to defensive breakdowns. They’re also typically assisted buckets, not drives.

Instead, the Warriors rely on their excellent perimeter shooting; they take the highest frequency of 3-point shots in the league and shoot 38% from beyond the arc. This is tough for a Cavaliers team that has allowed their opponents to shoot 37.3% from 3-point range, the 25th-worst mark in the league.

Warriors-Cavaliers Pick

While it’s possible that Mitchell plays tonight since his status has been upgraded from doubtful prior to Wednesday to questionable prior to today, I don’t see a reason to push him into today’s contest ahead of a critical game tomorrow against the Bucks.

The game tomorrow is extremely important because the Bucks currently lead the season series, 2-1. If the Cavaliers lose that game, they will lose the head-to-head tiebreaker in what is a closely contested Eastern Conference. However, if they win, they will split the head-to-head matchup and could be just one game behind the Bucks in the loss column.

Without Mitchell, the Cavaliers can still contend; however, it severely impacts their firepower against a Warriors team that seems to be finding a bit of their offensive stride as they limit their rotations.

Additionally, while the Cavs’ big men in Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley should play well tonight against a relatively undersized Warriors’ frontcourt, they will struggle to defend the perimeter.

I project Mitchell will sit due to the importance of tomorrow’s game and this spread likely drops to +6.

I’ll grab the points now, but even if Mitchell does play, I like the Warriors’ chances to not only keep this within a few possessions but to possibly win outright.

Pick: Warriors +7.5