In a potential playoff preview, the Cleveland Cavaliers will host the Miami Heat on Thursday. The NBA odds are leaning heavily toward the Cavaliers as 12-point favorites. Is that too many points?
Jason’s record as of Mar. 31: 64-61-5 ATS, 7-11 Totals, plus-1.15 units ML
No point in sugar-coating it: The Cleveland Cavaliers are the cream of the Eastern Conference. They might have to settle for the second seed in the East behind the Atlanta Hawks, but it’s already been two months since the Hawks went on their epic 19-game winning streak. Since then, Atlanta is 16-11, while the Cavaliers are 19-7. And the Cavs are still beating the basketball odds at 15-11 ATS during this playoff drive.
Things might be slowing down from a betting perspective, though. Cleveland is just 3-4 ATS in its past seven games, including 1-2 ATS as a double-digit chalk. We might have to jump off this bandwagon Thursday (5:00 p.m. ET, TNT) when the Miami Heat come to town. The Heat are getting 12 points on the NBA odds board as we go to press. And they’ll be bringing reinforcements with them to the Q.
It’ll be fun if these two teams lock horns in the playoffs. LeBron James (26.0 PER, plus-7.2 BPM) is on Cleveland’s side this time, and the Heat don’t have Chris Bosh (19.8 PER, minus-0.1 BPM) at their disposal, so it’d be tough for Miami to advance. But the Heat (34-40 SU, 33-37-4 ATS) haven’t given up the ghost. They’re in seventh place in the East at press time, and they’ve got their top two bigs back in action.
Hassan Whiteside (26.4 PER, minus-0.9 BPM) has been a godsend for Miami. He was slow to develop coming out of the Marshall Thundering Herd program in 2010, where he played just one season before getting drafted by the Sacramento Kings in the second round. Big men usually take longer to develop anyway, and after Whiteside spent the past two years playing in the D-League and overseas, Miami took a chance on him. It’s paid off in spades.
Unfortunately, Whiteside suffered a lacerated right hand last week, but he returned to action after missing three games, playing 23 minutes in Tuesday’s 95-81 loss to the sizzling San Antonio Spurs (–8 away). Also making his return: Chris Andersen (15.9 PER, plus-1.2 BPM), who was out for three games with a calf contusion. They’ll be playing though pain on Thursday, but they’ll be playing.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (48-27 SU, 37-38 ATS) have run into some injury concerns of their own. Kevin Love (19.0 PER, plus-1.9 BPM) hurt his lower back on Sunday against the Philadelphia 76ers and didn’t return; the Sixers nearly won that game as 17-point home dogs before falling 87-86. Love is officially a game-time decision for Thursday, but indications at press time are that the injury isn’t serious and Love will play.
The word on Iman Shumpert (11.2 PER, plus-1.1 BPM) isn’t quite as definitive. He jammed his left ankle in Sunday’s game and joined Love on the sidelines. Again, the Cavs don’t seem too concerned about the severity of the injury, but we haven’t been updated on Shumpert’s status. He’s listed as questionable for now.
Covering that 12-point spread will be even more difficult if Love and Shumpert are absent, or even if their minutes are limited Thursday. While Love may not be jelling with his new team as much as people would like, he’s still good for 17.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists per 36 minutes. And Shumpert (plus-1.6 DBPM) is Cleveland’s best defender this year.
If both players were healthy, we might consider adding the Cavs to our NBA picks. They’re 11-9 ATS this year as double-digit favorites, while the Heat are 1-2 ATS as double-digit dogs. But when you combine the gimpening of Love and Shumpert with the flattening of Cleveland’s betting market, that’s enough for us to take our wallets to South Beach.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Heat +12 at BetOnline