Eastern Conference Finals NBA Pick: Back Hawks at +180 Over Cavaliers While the Price is Right

Jason Lake

Monday, May 18, 2015 6:53 PM GMT

Monday, May. 18, 2015 6:53 PM GMT

The top two seeds have advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the NBA odds have the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers favored to beat the No. 1 Atlanta Hawks.

Jason’s record as of May 18: 76-78-5 ATS, 14-19 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML, 6-2 Series (plus-4.0 units)

 

Chalk doesn't always come out on top in the NBA. Every once in a while, you get an unexpected champion, like the Detroit Pistons in 2004, or the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. But even those teams were No. 3 seeds who finished the regular season well north of 50 wins. This year, there are no surprises left: The top two seeds from each conference have made it all the way to the Final Four.

Actually, there may be a surprise or two in the bag. GT Bets has the No. 2 Cleveland Cavaliers priced as –210 favorites to beat the No. 1 Atlanta Hawks (+180) and advance to the NBA Finals. There's something you don't see every day. It's true that the Cavaliers have been the stronger team over the past few months, including the playoffs – at least, that's what the stats say. But are the NBA odds undervaluing the Hawks in this situation?

 

Chalk Dust
It's easy enough to portray the Cavs (61-31 SU, 44-48 ATS) as chalk-ridden public favorites. They've got LeBron James (25.9 PER), the NBA's top marquee attraction, who for the most part is on the public's good side now that he's back in Cleveland where it all began. For many casual bettors, LeBron James is the NBA. He draws attention away from the other players on his team and the other teams in the league.

As we get deeper and deeper into the playoffs, we expect more casual bettors to jump into the marketplace and bet somewhat blindly on James and the Cavs. The pattern's holding thus far; Cleveland swept aside the Boston Celtics at 3-1 ATS, but the Chicago Bulls put up a good fight in the second round, beating the NBA odds in four of their six games. Losing the services of Kevin Love (18.8 PER) didn't help Cleveland's cause, but again, how many people even noticed he wasn't there?

Now we've got even more reason to be worried about the Cavs. Kyrie Irving (21.5 PER) has a bad case of tendinitis in his left knee, and he ended up missing the second half of Cleveland's Game 6 win over the Bulls. It looks like Irving will play in Wednesday's opener (8:30 p.m. ET, TNT) against Atlanta, but he's not likely to have much spring in his step. Even James himself is dealing with what's being called a minor back injury. If you're putting the Cavs in your NBA picks this series, you're dealing with damaged goods.

 

Healthy Choices
The Hawks (68-26 SU, 55-37-2 ATS) aren't at their healthiest, either. They're 10-7 SU and 7-9-1 ATS since losing Thabo Sefolosha (13.8 PER, plus-2.5 DBPM) to a broken leg, possibly at the hands and batons of the NYPD. Other players are working through injuries, including DeMarre Carroll (15.9 PER), who suffered a hip pointer in Game 4 against the Washington Wizards. Even so, the Hawks are by far the healthier team in this series.

That imbalance makes our NBA pick a farily simple one. During the regular season, Atlanta took three out of four games from the Cavaliers SU and ATS. Only one of those games was after Cleveland's midseason upgrades; on March 6, the Hawks beat the Cavs 106-97 as 1.5-point home dogs. Atlanta didn't have Sefolosha, while Cleveland was at 100 percent capacity with Love in the lineup.

If we were picking this series straight-up here at the home office, we'd probably be inclined to go with the Cavaliers. But that's not our job. With the Hawks priced at +180, we're not about to let a bargain like that slip away.

Free NBA Pick: Take the Hawks +180 at GT Bets

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