The saga of the Cleveland Cavaliers continues to raise questions, not just as to the future of LeBron James following this season but as to how far this season’s team can go in the Playoffs.
Last Saturday’s 120-88 home loss to Houston was actually not the Cavs’ most one-sided loss of the season. That loss occurred just three weeks earlier when Cleveland lost by 34 points at Toronto on Jan. 11, 133-99.
Since their Christmas Day loss at Golden State, Cleveland is just 6-12 SU and 3-15 ATS. Their last five losses have all been by double digits, dating back to Jan. 15, and the average of those five losses has been by 17.8 points per game.
Cleveland started this week 30-21 and sitting third in the Eastern Conference, 5.5 games behind second seeded Toronto and two games further in back of top seeded Boston.
What is especially troubling about Cleveland is, of the 21 losses, 13 have been by double digits with six of them at home. And since the start of 2018 eight of their nine losses have been by double digits.
Whereas in past seasons it appeared the Cavs could simply turn on the switch once the Playoffs began, it becomes increasingly harder to envision a similar scenario this season. There are reports of tension in the locker room, questions about the immediate future of coach Tyronn Lue (who just received that dreaded “vote of confidence” from ownership) and it can only be wondered as to whether the playing of all those extra Playoff teams in recent seasons is finally taking a collective toll on their aging roster.
Either linemakers have been slow to adjust for what appears to be a sudden and rapid decline in the play of the Cavaliers or they are content to allow the public to remain fans of the three-time defending Eastern Conference Champions.
For the season the Cavs are 14-36-1 ATS for a net loss of 25.6 units on a flat unit basis. Dating back to Dec. 6, when the season was just seven weeks old, Cleveland is just 6-24 ATS.
It will be interesting to see what the Cavs can or will do as the trade deadline is nearly here. The Cavs are just two games ahead of seventh seeded Miami. It becomes increasingly possible for Cleveland to drop out of a top four seed and thus not enjoy home court advantage for the first round of the Playoffs.
Similar to the widening gap between the top two teams in the East and the third seed Cavs, the Western Conference has also developed into a two-team race for that Conference’s top seed.
Golden State started this week with a two game lead over Houston and the Rockets were six games ahead of third seeded San Antonio. The Spurs were just a half game ahead of fourth seeded Minnesota.
At 41-12 the Warriors have the best record in the NBA and Houston, at 38-13, has the second best record. Boston leads the East at 39-15 and Toronto is next at 36-16.
Nearly two thirds of the NBA’s 82 game regular season has been played and the best team at the betting windows thus far has been Boston.
At 34-19-1 ATS (using closing lines at the Westgate) the Celtics have won 64.2 percent of their pointspread decisions, the only team collecting at 60 percent or better.
The second most profitable has been a team that is just 19-35 SU. The Brooklyn Nets have been competitive in many losses, which has resulted in their 31-22-1 ATS record (58.5 percent).
Right alongside the Nets is another team nearly as bad, Chicago. Despite their 18-34 SU record, the Bulls are 29-21-2 ATS (58.0 percent).
It is often uncomfortable for many bettors to pull the trigger and back teams that have such poor straight up records. But those are exactly the kind of teams the professionals usually look to first to back. And while the pros are not right all the time, they are right more often than not.
In addition to Cleveland being by far the biggest money burner at the betting windows this season, covering just 28.0 percent of their pointspread decisions, just one other team is covering at 40 percent or less and this is another team that has been a frequent Playoff participant in recent seasons.
Oklahoma City, 30-24 and currently seeded fifth in the West, is just 21-32-1 ATS, covering at just a 39.6 percent rate.
Here are thoughts on three games to be played this weekend.
Indiana at Boston (Friday): The scheduling spot sets up nicely for the visitors as they catch Boston off a Thursday night game in Washington, playing their third game in four nights. The Pacers last played on Wednesday and do not play again until Sunday. INDIANA
LA Clippers at Philadelphia (Saturday): Both teams are making pushes to make the Playoffs but the current state of affairs suggests the 76ers are better situated to take advantage of their opportunities. PHILADELPHIA
Toronto at Charlotte (Sunday): The Raptors have won both prior meetings this season, by 13 at home in late November and by 18 on this court three weeks later. This is Charlotte’s first game back home after a four-game road trip that ended in Utah on Friday. This has generally been a poor spot to back the returning hosts. TORONTO