The Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cleveland Cavaliers are playing their best basketball of the season at the right time. They're peaking on both sides of the floor and they've swept through the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs with an 8-0 record. But has that translated into pointspread success?
The answer is "yes but". The Cavs are 5-3 ATS in their games against the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks, but one of those covers was very tight. The oddsmakers have shown a reasonably good read on Cleveland to this point and handicappers will have to work to find the edges necessary to cash in on the conference finals and likely the NBA Finals.
Cleveland opened their first-round series against Detroit with an ATS loss, winning 106-101 as an (-11) favorite. They closed the series with another non-cover win, this one 100-98 as a (-6 ½) point favorite. Their closing win over Atlanta on Sunday was another ATS loser, a 100-99 escape as a (-5 ½) point fave. They started the series with a 104-93 win that covered the (-8) spread.
It's worth noting though that had the spread stayed the same as the Detroit series, that Game 1 win over Atlanta would have been a push. Now the Hawks were a better team during the regular season than the Pistons, so the different spread is not surprising, but the oddsmakers have begun adjusting for the Cavs' obvious improved play.
The fact that both series have run on a similar rhythm - soft showings by the Cavs at the beginning and the end sandwiched between strong outings in the middle games, takes on more of a pattern when you dig deeper into the games they exceeded oddsmaker expectations.
In particular, Cleveland dominated Game 3 in both series. Against Detroit, they had a 46-32 rebounding advantage. Against Atlanta the edge on the boards was a resounding 55-28. Rebounding is something that is heavily correlated to intensity and the mindset of the Cavs was clearly not to let an opponent that was down get up off the mat.
Contrast that with the Cavs' defensive play in the non-cover games. The opponents in those games shot between 48-50 percent from the floor. Defense is another area, particularly for the more talented team, where success and failure is often directly traceable to intensity.
It's reasonable to conclude the Cavs may have taken both the Pistons and Hawks a little lightly at the start and in both games they had to fight to escape with the outright win, while their Vegas backers absorbed an ATS defeat. And after going up 3-0 in each series there was a natural letdown on the road in Game 4 before at least playing well enough to close the sweep.
Defense and rebounding aren't the only key indicators. The classic explanation of hot shooting has certainly played a role. Cleveland, especially J.R. Smith, have been lights-out from three-point range in the games they have covered.
Whether the three-point shooting is something that's tied to rebounding is being reviewed on tape right now by my staff - I want to know if offensive rebounds are creating open looks on kickbacks or strong defensive rebounding is keying an open three in transition. But in either case, the pattern of Cleveland showing intensity in identifiable spots is important to know going into the Eastern Conference Finals.
That's because the basic dynamic is not going to change - the Cavs are going to be a heavy favorite, whether they play the Miami Heat or the Toronto Raptors. Right now Cleveland is (-800) to win that series and reach the NBA Finals. Will there be another Game 1 where they're a little sluggish out of the gate, followed by dominating middle games and then a tight close-out affair?
In handicapping it's important to understand two things - just because something happened yesterday doesn't mean it will happen today or tomorrow. And also, when a trend starts, there's usually a reason. Finding the balance between these two contradictory notions is the key to making money and it's the key to handicapping the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Today’s Hot Plays
Belmont Pick 3 Of Week Is Hurley Score
$20.00Purchase this nowLast Week Jim Cashed Another Triple Digit Pick 3 Of Week. TODAY HE KNOWS HOW MUCH MONEY YOU ARE ABOUT TO WIN WITH TODAY’S PICK 3 OF THE WEEK!
Network NLCS Game 5 - Dodgers at Cubs
Won last night in the ALCS with Astros/Yankees UNDER. Tonight we score in the NLCS
Network Thursday Night AFC West Rivalry Play
$19.00Purchase this nowChiefs have covered six of their last eight head-to-head matchups against Oakland. Will they get the job done again tonight, or is the home dog the way to go? I’ll have the right answer like I have on 4 of the 5 Thursday NFL games this season
Network NBA TV Game of the Week Romps Thursday
It’s the first week of the season, and tonight we’re going with our first of many winning TV Games of the Week. Last season we won 61% of these plays, and we’ll tip off the new season with this TNT game you can Watch & Win
Jim Hurley Friday NBA Triple Payday Parlay
$15.00Purchase this nowFriday night the NBA is loaded with easy pickings, and that leads us to another Friday NBA Triple Payday.
Hurley 2 Track 4 Race Super Sweep
$20.00Purchase this nowOn Friday Jim Hurley Mixes It Up At Keeneland Plus Adds His Home Filed Best Belmont Duo. Cash 4 Races.
Win ALCS Game Six With Jim Hurley
The Astros come home absolutely needing a win to stay alive after going 0-3 in Yankee Stadium, Will Verlander and home cookin’ keep the Astros from elimination, or are the Baby Bombers unstoppable now? I have the right way to go Friday night in game 6