We’re not sure yet who the Cleveland Cavaliers will play in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, but whomever it is, Cleveland’s value as an NBA pick just went down as Kevin Love is injured and suffering a dislocated shoulder.
Jason’s record as of Apr. 27: 74-74-5 ATS, 11-16 Totals, plus-0.15 units ML
As it turned out, the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t have any trouble overcoming the chalk monsters in their first-round series against the Boston Celtics. Cleveland swept the series at 3-1 ATS, winning by an average margin of 9.2 points to put away one of the NBA’s most profitable teams during the regular season. Nicely done.
But let’s see you escape from this one, Meester Bond. The Cavaliers are expected to miss Kevin Love for at least the next two weeks after he suffered a dislocated left shoulder in Sunday’s 101-93 win over the Celtics. Depending on how long it takes the series between the Chicago Bulls and the Milwaukee Bucks to complete, that could put Love on the sidelines for the entire second round. As we go to press, SBR´s NBA odds currently have the Cavaliers priced at –150 to win the Eastern Conference and +300 to take down the NBA title. Should we touch these basketball odds with a 10-foot pole?
Chalkeaters are already taking a risk when backing the Cavs as their NBA pick, with or without Love. But things get even riskier from here; not only is Love (18.8 PER, plus-1.9 BPM) one of Cleveland’s best players, he’s also been overlooked this year because of his diminished stats compared to when he was the top banana with the Minnesota Timberwolves. In the seven regular-season games Love sat out, the Cavaliers (53-29 SU, 39-43 ATS) went 3-4 SU and ATS.
As underwhelming as Love’s stats may have been during the regular season, he was nothing short of excellent during the first round. He shot 9-of-19 (47.4 percent) from long range in the first three games combined. Losing that production is going to be a big problem for Cleveland. Tristan Thompson (15.6 PER) may be a quality rebounding big man, but he doesn’t shoot threes like Love, and he only dishes out 0.6 assists per 36 minutes, compared to 2.4 for Love.
Worse, once Thompson gets elevated to the starting lineup, his overall plus-minus dips from plus-9.6 to minus-6.4. So Cleveland head coach David Blatt opted to go small instead when Love missed a pair of games in April; James Jones (11.1 PER) and Shawn Marion (11.0 PER) each got a crack at the starting lineup, with Marion having some success in a 117-78 defeat at the hands of Boston (–10 at home) on Apr. 12. That was in a throwaway game where Blatt rested most of his starters anyway.
The Back of My Hand
The problem with those missing threes gets compounded when you factor in the likely absence of J.R. Smith (14.5 PER). He’s almost certain to be suspended for at least two games after striking Boston’s Jae Crowder in the face during Game 4. Smith was 39 percent from long range in Cleveland this year, firing up 8.3 trey attempts per 36 minutes. That will likely force Blatt to give major minutes to both Jones and Marion in the second round.
Here’s the kicker: It’s very likely that the Cavaliers will be facing Chicago in the Eastern semis. The Bulls (50-32 SU, 39-43 ATS) are up 3-1 in their first-round series against Milwaukee, going 3-1 ATS with an average point margin of plus-6.5. We’ll know more about Love’s status after his scheduled MRI on Monday, and the league will no doubt deliver swift justice when it comes to Smith. In the meantime, Chicago looks like a tremendous NBA pick at +500 to win the East Conference now that Love might miss the entire second round – if not longer. Going all the way to win the title at +1100 isn’t beyond reach, either.