It's still the Cleveland Cavaliers' world, and everyone else in the Eastern Conference is just living in it. Can anyone on the NBA odds list stop LeBron and Friends?
Jason’s record as of May 7: 75-77-5 ATS, 13-18 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
This just in: The Cleveland Cavaliers are still very good. Despite the absence of both Kevin Love and J.R. Smith, the Cavaliers stomped a mudhole in the Chicago Bulls (+5.5 away) Wednesday night, opening up a 20-point lead in the first quarter and cruising to a 106-91 victory. That levels their Eastern Conference semifinal at one game apiece – and puts the Cavaliers right back in the title mix. With no games on Thursday's slate, let's take a moment to look at the NBA odds at Bovada for each of the four remaining teams in the East.
Cleveland Cavaliers (11-10 East, 7-2 title)
The Cavs (58-30 SU, 43-45 ATS) had little trouble disposing of the Boston Celtics in the opening round, covering three of the four games, but things went askew when Love (18.8 PER) suffered a dislocated shoulder in the finale. Cleveland went on to drop Game 1 against the Bulls, but in Game 2, LeBron James (25.9 PER) found another gear and scored 33 points – albeit on 13-of-29 shooting.
Smith (14.5 PER) will return from his suspension in Friday's Game 3 (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN), but Iman Shumpert (11.1 PER, plus-1.3 DBPM) is somewhat iffy after straining his left groin on Wednesday. If James Jones (11.1 PER, 36.8 3P%) keeps lighting it up from downtown, like that 5-for-9 performance in Game 2, any concerns about Cleveland's depth are moot. But we're skeptical enough to prefer avoiding the Cavs at these chalky NBA odds.
Chicago Bulls (11-5 East, 13-2 title)
The most immediate beneficiaries of the Love injury, the Bulls (55-35 SU, 44-46 ATS) still have their warts. Derrick Rose (15.9 PER, minus-1.3 BPM) is usually a detriment to the team when he goes into high-volume mode, like that 6-for-20 he posted in Game 2. And Nikola Mirotic (17.9 PER) can't be too healthy if he isn't even getting 10 minutes a game anymore.
We still think the Bulls have value here. They earned a split in Cleveland, thus taking home-court advantage in this series. They were 4-2 ATS in the opening round against the pesky Milwaukee Bucks. And these two days off will give Mirotic and the rest of the gang some time to heal. Cleveland may prove to be the better team even without Love, but Chicago is the better basketball pick at twice the payout.
Atlanta Hawks (4-1 East, 12-1 title)
Speaking of injuries, the Hawks (65-25 SU, 53-35-2 ATS) were not themselves in the first round against the Brooklyn Nets, going 2-4 ATS without the services of key defender Thabo Sefolosha (13.8 PER, plus-2.5 DBPM). Then they dropped Game 1 of their Eastern semi against the Washington Wizards (+5.5 away). Forks were stuck in them.
Not so fast with the cutlery. Atlanta got back on the good foot Tuesday night in Game 2, thumping the short-handed Wizards 106-90 as 9-point home faves. As much as we like Sefolosha here at the ranch, he's a small part of what makes the Hawks tick. They've still got arguably the best starting five in the NBA, their bench still has some talent, and they've got a wounded opponent on their hands.
Washington Wizards (15-2 East, 25-1 title)
Oh dear. The Wizards (51-37 SU, 38-47-3 ATS) were fantastic in their 4-0 ATS sweep of the Toronto Raptors, then kept the ball rolling in Game 1 against the Hawks – until both John Wall (19.9 PER) and Bradley Beal (14.0 PER) got hurt. We got burned with our overnight NBA picks when Wall didn't suit up for Game 2.
We don't want to get burned again. Wall is questionable for Game 3 with a sprained left wrist, and he didn't practice on Thursday. It looks pretty bad. If Wall can make a heroic return, Washington is dripping with value; otherwise, not so much. Proceed with caution, and may the sphere be with you.