NBA Finals: Five Things That Will Decide Warriors Vs Cavs

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers face each other in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year, and this latest installment could be the most one-sided affair of them all.

The Warriors are overwhelming favorite to defend their title, but can LeBron James raise the bar yet again in what could be his last ever series with the Cavs?

Newsweek has picked five things to look forward to when the action begins on Thursday night.

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LeBron James (L) against Stephen Curry during the second half in Game 5 of the 2017 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 12, 2017 in Oakland, California. The Warriors won their second title in three years by beating the Cavs 4-1. Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Cavs must beat the Warriors and the bookies

LeBron has never been as much of an underdog going into the Finals as he is now. In fact, the Warriors are the biggest favorites in an NBA Finals for the last 16 years, according to data compiled by Sportsoddhistory.com.

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has the Warriors as 1/10 favorite to win the series, while the Cavs are 13/2 to claim a second title. By comparison, Cleveland was 5/2 last year, while the first two installments of the Finals against the Warriors had the Cavs at 19/10 and 9/5 underdogs in 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Meanwhile, the Warriors are 12-point favorites in Game 1, the joint-largest point spread in a Finals game since 1991.

Warriors' fitness could give Cleveland hope

The defending champions have been blighted injuries throughout the season, with four of their All-Stars suffering significant injuries. One of these injuries even forced Stephen Curry to miss the first-round series against San Antonio.

Andre Igoudala has sought a second opinion on his knee injury and it remains unclear when he will return.  The 2015 Finals MVP is Golden State's best defender and would be the best option to limit LeBron, but without him Steve Kerr might be forced to rotate Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney, Shaun Livingston and Nick Young, as he did in the Western Conference Finals.

The Warriors' coach claimed that had Igoudala been fit, his team would've beaten Houston in five games instead of needing a Game 7. Golden State should still have too much for Cleveland even without Igoudala, but his absence could make life marginally easier for the Cavs' offense.

Cleveland has to be a threat from beyond the arc

In the seven games against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs made more than 10 three-pointers just once. While Cleveland has to stop Golden State's offense if they are to have a chance of winning the series, they also need to do a lot more at the other end of the court.

Only Houston has attempted more shots from beyond the arc than the Cavs this postseason and that over-reliance on three-pointers proved to be its downfall in Game 7, as the Rockets missed an astonishing 37 out of 44 efforts from long range.

A large part of Cleveland's hopes of putting the Warriors on the back foot rests on punishing Golden State from beyond the arc.

How far can LeBron go?

After Game 7 against the Celtics, LeBron admitted being incredibly tired. It was not the first time in this postseason the three-time NBA champion spoke of being spent and it should hardly have come as a surprise, as he has been a man on a mission all season.

LeBron has played all 82 regular season games and has seen 600 more minutes than any Warriors player ahead of the Finals. In other words, LeBron has played 12.5 games more than any of the players he will face from Thursday night.

It will take a Herculean effort to beat the Warriors. Does LeBron have one more of those in him?

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LeBron James celebrates against the Boston Celtics during Game Seven of the 2018 NBA Eastern Conference Finals at TD Garden on May 27, 2018 in Boston, Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Warriors' supporting cast will be the difference

Cleveland lost the Finals 4-1 last year, despite LeBron and Kyrie Irving averaging 33.6 and 29.4 points per game in the series respectively. Irving has now gone, and while LeBron is scoring even more than last season–his 34 points per game average in this postseason is the second best of his career–Kevin Love is the only other Cleveland player averaging double figures.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant is averaging 29 points per game, while Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on 24.8 and 20.5 points per game respectively. LeBron has not enough support, while the Warriors have too much depth. That, in all likelihood, will decide the series.