Chicago leads the series 2-1 over the Cavs after a dramatic win in game 3. Can the Cavs answer back on Sunday night and level the series? Find out as we preview game 4 and serve up our NBA picks.
Cleveland Cavaliers At the Advantage
Despite trailing 1-2 in the second round series of the NBA Playoffs with the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers enter the NBA betting market for game 4 as the firm favourites to win straight up. Matched at -125 NBA odds and as the 1.5-point road chalk, it would appear that the Cavs are expected to answer back. Do the bookies have it right?
Cleveland succumbed to a heartbreaking 99-96 defeat on Friday night when Derrick Rose's last-gasp three-pointer lifted the Bulls to the victory and the series lead. Seconds before that J.R. Smith tied it for the Cavs and overtime looked like it might be on the cards. Alas, luck went the way of the Bulls.
It's easy to understand why the bookies would give the nod to Cleveland Cavaliers. On one hand, they entered the NBA playoffs as one of the favourites to win it all in futures betting markets. On the other hand, since a rather lacklustre game 1, they've been playing up to their lofty standards and LeBron James is a huge factor.
More importantly, though, game 3's loss was so narrow, it could really have gone either way. James finished with 27 points on the night, a career-postseason-high 14 assists and eight rebounds. However, he also had seven turnovers.
It was back-and-forth action on Friday night; little separated the Cavs and Bulls as far as intensity and drive went. Both teams made big plays, big shots and traded leads throughout. That said the Bulls dominated on the rebound advantage 54-39 and inside the paint scoring 44 decisive points from within.
Chicago Bulls At the Disadvantage
The Bulls find themselves in the advantage in the series, up 2-1 and with the potential to go one better after Sunday's game 4 in Chicago. However, bookies aren't buying what they are selling, sending them into game 4 as the home underdogs, at +125 to win straight up and as the +2.5 home dogs against the spread at The Greek.
Derrick Rose was the hero on Friday night, hurling a last-gasp 3-pointer into the air as the entire stadium held its breath. It hit the glass for dramatic effect before slipping neatly into the basket right at the buzzer. And the stadium erupted into rapturous applause and cheers. It doesn't get luckier than that, really.
This is shaping up to be a tight series, with the momentum trading back and forth. Three games in and the wins have been traded. The Bulls know game 4 isn't going to be straightforward. That the NBA odds are stacked against them. It remains to be seen whether they can defy the odds and turn this series on its head before heading to Cleveland for game 5.
NBA Betting Verdict
The way the market is cast for this game, it downplays the fact that the Cavs are in a spot of trouble. It might also come across as a slight against the Bulls, discrediting their account in this series so far. But it's not, really.
Bookies are in the business of making money and not losing money. It's everything to do with the idea of Cavs' perceived bounce-back-ability superseding Bulls' home advantage. Fact is, the probability the Cavs will answer game 3's loss is greater than the probability the Bulls will win and towards that end the market is adjusted.
This doesn't mean that the Cavs are a lock NBA pick to win or that the Bulls don't have it in them to defy the NBA odds. NBA bettors have to decide whether they agree with the distribution of probability. There's obviously no love lost between these divisional rivals and the way they've played so far, it's really anybody's series for the taking.
For our money, we're expecting the Cavs to answer after all. LeBron James is familiar with such situations. He's a big game player and this is a big game for the Cavs. Take the Bulls as the faves across the board at -125 SU and -1.5.
NBA Picks: Cavs at -125 and -1.5