Expect Cavaliers & Thunder To Stay 'Under' The Total For Our NBA Picks

Jay Pryce

Sunday, February 21, 2016 2:13 PM GMT

Sunday, Feb. 21, 2016 2:13 PM GMT

The East-leading Cavaliers look to make it three in a row over the Thunder on Sunday afternoon. Get your betting analysis and free NBA pick here.

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Free NBA Pick: Under 214
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle

 

Cleveland Cavaliers (39-14 SU, 24-26-3 ATS)
Getting 4 points from oddsmakers in the NBA odds boards, the Cavs are in a rare spot, tipping off as underdogs just the seventh time all year. In this scenario, playing the over-under has been kind to sports investors. The UNDER is 11-4-1 in the last two seasons when Cleveland goes off a road dog with LeBron James in the lineup. But will the trend continue? Tough to tell.

Cleveland is playing at a noticeably quicker pace under newly hired head coach Tyronn Lue. The teams 96.9 possessions per 48 minutes in its last five games ranks in the top 10 in the league. In 12 games with Lue in charge, the total score has jumped up 12 points more on average, from 197.1 to 209.1.

PG Kyrie Irving is thriving under Lue's leadership. The former Duke star is posting 26.4 points and 6.3 assists per game in his last seven. When he scores 20 or more on the night, the Cavs are averaging 110.6 points per game, going 12-1 SU and 7-5-1 ATS.

But will Cleveland slow down and play stifling defense in its first real road test under Lue? All season, Cleveland has clamped down on the road. Its 100.9 points per 100 possessions is second fewest in the league behind the shut-down Spurs. In three road games against the Pistons, Pacers, and Hornets under Lue, the D has allowed 106 points in each, though the former went to overtime.

One area Cleveland excels at is preventing teams from beating them in transition, allowing a paltry 10.4 fastbreak points per contest. Since Lue took over, they've allowed seven foes to equal this number or go over, and have gone 1-6 ATS with a 105 points allowed average under 44.9 percent shooting. They are 4-1 ATS with 95.2 points given up when holding teams under their fastbreak average. The Thunder get 17.3 a night in transition, fourth most in the NBA. How well the Cavs get back on defense may be a difference-maker for bettors.

 

Oklahoma Thunder (40-15 SU, 22-31 ATS)
The Thunder blew a seven-point lead in less than two-and-a-half minutes against the Pacers last time out, losing 101-98 as 8-point favorites. Hosting Cleveland may not be the best bounce-back spot either. OKC is 4-8 ATS (7-5 SU) in their last 12 as a home favorite of less than 7 points.

The Thunder are the second most efficient offense behind the Warriors, scoring 113.1 points per 100 possessions. The team appears to lean on Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant more this year than in season's past, particularly the latter. It will need the 2014 MVP to be at his scoring-best against strong opposition like Cleveland. When Durant shoots less than 50 percent from the floor, the Thunder are 5-13-1 ATS and are 4-6 straight up when laying less than 7 points this season.

Durant has his most efficient nights against some of the weaker teams in the league. In games against foes with a winning record, the Thunder are 5-6 SU and 3-7-1 ATS when he shoots below 55 percent, scoring just 101.8 per night. They are 5-1 SU and 4-1-1 ATS when he hits at a higher rate, the team posting 110.5 points per game. In three games against the second coming of the LeBron James-led Cavs in his career, Durant has shot 52, 43, and 41 percent from the floor, respectively.

 

Final Analysis
When the Thunder square off against good teams with solid defenses, the games tend to be low-scoring affairs. In 21 games against opponents with a winning record and allowing 45 percent or less from the field, the UNDER is 16-4-1, going below the total by an average of almost eight points. I like this trend in this matchup, too, but will play it smaller than usual. Oddsmakers are still adjusting to the new-look Cavs, but the over-under 215 still seems a bit high. UNDER 215 is the NBA pick.

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