Each day LT Profits Sports seeks an overlay side that has a better chance of cashing than its spread, offering long term value. Here is their Side Value Play for Tuesday.
The second seeds could complete a four-game sweep of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday night, but we have more interest in the first half when the top seeded Atlanta Hawks (68-29, 28-20 away) again pay a visit to those Cleveland Cavaliers (64-31, 36-11 home) for Game 4 from Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH at 8:35 ET in a game televised nationally on TNT, with the Cavaliers looking to wrap things up leading the series 3-0.
The First Half point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Cleveland as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -4½ with odds of -105.
Hawks Deserve Credit
We were probably not alone in expecting a Cleveland blowout in Game 3 Sunday as the Hawks had lost the first two games at home and they were losing players seemingly every game. And that is not to mention that only three NBA Playoff teams in history have come back to win a series after losing the first two games at home, and none of the three that did it were as big an underdog as Atlanta was to win this series before it began.
And yet to their credit, the Hawks may have put forth their best effort in months, opening up a nine-point lead early and then continuously coming back in the second half when the Cavaliers seemed primed to put the game away, ultimately forcing overtime thanks to solid contributions from normal reserves such as Kent Bazemore, Shelvin Mack and Mike Scott. But unfortunately for Atlanta, it was still ultimately the losing NBA pick after overtime 114-111.
Do Not Expect Another Sluggish Start for Cleveland…
Perhaps the Cavaliers were a bit overconfident to begin the game not expecting the Hawks to show as much fight as they did, but Cleveland was certainly sluggish at the start and no one more so than LeBron James, who went 0-for-9 in a scoreless first quarter and then extended that to 0-for-10 when he missed his first shot of the second quarter, marking his worst shooting start to a game in his professional career.
And yet despite that awful start, LeBron had a monstrous stat line by game’s end with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists, making him the first player in NBA history to reach those plateaus in one playoff game!
It has become easy to forget that the Cavaliers lost Kevin Love for the season early on in these playoffs and were without Kyrie Irving the last two games and almost certainly tonight also.
That is because besides James becoming a walking triple-double, the backcourt of Matthew Dellavedova and Iman Shumpert have nicely compensated for Irving’s absence, Tristan Thompson has picked up the slack for the missing Love by being a rebounding machine and J.R. Smith has been very solid off the bench, scoring 28 points while hitting eight three-pointers in Game 1 and then recording a double-double Sunday with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
The difference we see tonight compared to Game 3 though is that we expect Cleveland to be the more aggressive team from the start with a chance to end this series quickly and get lots of rest before the NBA Finals begin next Thursday, June 4th, especially with the Golden State Warriors still playing after losing last night.
…But Atlanta May be the Sluggish Team at the Start
In fact, we expect a complete flip in the script compared to Game 3 with the Hawks now being the sluggish team at the outset. The fact that Atlanta earned the top seed as the only Eastern Conference team to win 60 games this year means nothing at this point, and while they already knew that their chances to come back in this series were slim before Sunday, they now know those chance are close to non-existent.
And besides that potential emotional scar, the Hawks must be drained physically after leaving everything on the floor two nights ago in an incredible effort, especially after losing yet another starter when Al Hortford was ejected for a Flagrant-2 foul near halftime, meaning that the backups used up a lot of energy while taking the Cavaliers to the brink.
Thus, look for the more determined Cavaliers to take advantage of some Atlanta lethargy early on tonight.
Beware the Backdoor
Now, not only did the Hawks rally from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to force overtime in Game 3, but they also outscored the Cavaliers down the stretch in the first two games in Atlanta with Cleveland coasting home with big leads, although those finishes did not affect the point spreads with the Hawks being tiny favorites both games. However, a similar finish tonight could potentially lead to an Atlanta backdoor cover with the Cavaliers being decided favorites.
Thus we are recommending a play on Cleveland in the first half, as regardless of the final outcome we see the Cavaliers getting off to a much faster start as they attempt to put Atlanta away and complete the sweep in Game 4 on Tuesday.
*Note: The following NBA odds are for the first-half period:
NBA Pick: Cavaliers -4½ (-105) (First Half)