The Los Angeles Clippers may have the better record, but the Cleveland Cavaliers have won 11 straight games, and the NBA odds say the Cavs will make it 12 when they host the Clippers Thursday night.
Jason’s record as of Feb. 3: 30-27-3 ATS, 2-4 Totals
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but the Los Angeles Clippers haven’t been a very good NBA pick this year. Nobody’s surprised to see them win games anymore. In fact, expectations have gotten too high for the Clippers. They’re the least profitable team in the Western Conference at 33-16 SU and 20-29 ATS. They’ve also dropped the cash in seven of their past 10 games.
This Thursday night (8:00 p.m. ET, TNT), this motley bunch travels east to face the Cleveland Cavaliers, who seem to have cured whatever ailed them during the first half of the 2014-15 campaign. They’ve won 11 straight games to improve to 30-20 SU, although they still have some debt to take care of at 22-28 ATS. Will they cash in at the expense of the Clippers? Our NBA odds board shows Cleveland laying 4.5 points at The Q.
Future Sound of Cleveland
We recently had the chance to take a quick look at the Cavaliers and their rise up the NBA futures market. Bovada still has them in second on the odds list at 15/4, behind the mighty Golden State Warriors at 7/2. These two teams have been trading places back and forth of late; a strong showing against the Clippers during the front end of Thursday’s TNT doubleheader might be enough to put Cleveland on top again.
Everyone here at the home office is nodding in agreement. Even though home-court advantage in the NBA has slipped the past couple of years from about 3.5 points to under 2.5 points, we think the Cavs are a relative bargain here at –4.5. Just last month, we saw them beat the Clippers 126-121 at Staples, cashing in as 8.5-point road dogs. The basketball odds may have changed now that Cleveland has won 11 straight, but then again, so have the Cavaliers.
I Gotta Have Faith
We’re talking about Iman Shumpert (plus-0.2 BPM) in this case. Shumpert had yet to make his debut for the Cavs when they were in L.A. He’s played seven games for Cleveland now, all of them off the bench rather than at the starting 2-guard like we expected. But it’s all good. Shumpert gives the Cavaliers some much-needed perimeter defense as well as depth, and he’s also 8-of-19 (42.1 percent) from downtown.
We don’t want to overstate Shumpert’s importance to the Cavs. He’s not LeBron James (plus-6.5 BPM), after all. He might not even be J.R. Smith (plus-0.3 BPM), who’s drawn the starting assignment at shooting guard. But we are talking about a team that still ranks No. 22 in the league in defensive efficiency on the season, giving up 105.0 points per 100 possessions. That ranking should only improve now that Shumpert and Timofey Mozgov (0.0 DBPM) are on the case.
Last year, the Clippers were seventh in the NBA in defensive efficiency (102.1). This year: No. 15 overall (103.4). They’re still the most efficient team in the league on offense (110.6), although we’re not sure how long that will last now that Austin Rivers (minus-4.1 BPM) is L.A.’s back-up pivot. Again, we don’t want to put too much weight on the contributions of a reserve guard, but it is what it is.
We might be seeing even more of Rivers on Thursday. It’s been a painful season for J.J. Redick (plus-0.1 BPM), who’s on the injured list once again with back spasms and isn’t expected to play against the Cavaliers. Earlier reports from this week had Redick out indefinitely. We’ll have to see how this plays out, but without Redick’s 43.2-percent shooting from long range, the Clippers will have even less “3” to go with their diminished “D” Thursday night.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Cavaliers