The OVER finally beat the NBA odds in the Eastern Conference Finals – and it didn't need that extra overtime frame in Game 3. Will things go back to normal in Game 4?
Jason’s record as of May 24: 78-82-5 ATS, 19-20 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)
It was good while it lasted. Our record against the total here at the home office has fallen back below .500, after the Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks went and had themselves a whale of a basketball game Sunday night. A beached whale, that is. Despite the ejection of Al Horford and the bizarre display of bricklaying from LeBron James, the OVER got paid when Cleveland won 114-111 in overtime.
Don't blame the extra five minutes, ether. The posted total of 190 points was already toast with more than four minutes left to go in the fourth quarter. The Hawks and Cavs made it all the way to 208 points going into overtime. Accordingly, they've bumped up the total to 193.5 points on the NBA betting odds board for Tuesday's Game 4 (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT), which will be the last game of the Eastern Conference Finals if Cleveland can win again at home. Our early consensus reports show 100 percent support for the OVER.
Good Ol' J.R.
We're not buying it. Game 3 was a strange game indeed, but even in the chaos, we saw some typical results – typical for these playoffs, at least. After spreading the ball around a bit more in Game 2, James (24.3 playoff PER) was back to his high-volume ways, needing 37 shot attempts to score his 37 points. James was a minus-3 on the night; the only starter in positive territory was Timofey Mozgov (plus-7).
Once again, the bench came up big for Cleveland – and once again, the bench consisted almost entirely of two players: J.R. Smith (16.6 playoff PER) and James Jones (11.2 playoff PER). Smith had the big numbers again with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks (!), while Jones chipped in nine points and five assists while shooting 2-of-4 from downtown. Without Smith and Jones soaking up all those minutes for the injured Kyrie Irving (19.4 playoff PER), the Cavs wouldn't even have made it to overtime in Game 3.
Ride the Snake
Did somebody say “Kyrie Irving”? You remember him, right? Three-time NBA All-Star point guard? Uncle Drew? The guy on the cover of NBA Live 14? Irving has missed the last two games with tendinitis in his left knee, but he's expected to be a game-time decision for Tuesday night. Maybe Irving and the Cavs already know whether he'll play, but for the rest of us, it's pure speculation. Why risk further injury up 3-0 in this series? Then again, why take your foot off the snake's throat?
The sooner the Cavaliers end this series, the more rest they can get before the NBA Finals start on June 4. And they're going to need every day off they can get. Irving is obviously a mess. So is James, who missed his first 10 shots in Game 3 and was on his hands and knees at the end. Cramping turned out to be part of the problem – funny, haven't heard any Gatorade jokes yet this time. Although I tend to avoid those snarky places on the Web these days. Pull yourself up out of the mire already.
Ultimately, we're going to stick with the UNDER as our NBA pick whether or not Irving plays. Both these teams are laboring at this point; Game 3 had a Pace Factor of just 90.8, and that was the fastest pace they've operated at all series. We're not expecting a track meet in Game 4. We also don't expect guys like Shelvin Mack (15.7 playoff PER in limited minutes) to shoot 3-for-7 from downtown again. It could happen, of course, but we'll take our chances.
Free NBA Pick: Take UNDER