LeBron James may be the best player on the planet, but his Cavaliers being without four key players could allow the upstart Magic to cover this rather lofty point spread Monday.
A pesky young team playing very good defense this year could stay inside the fairly big spread vs. a marquee but wounded team Monday night when the youthful Orlando Magic (6-7, 8-5 ATS) pay a visit to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-3, 5-8 ATS) at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, OH at 7:05 ET in a game available on FOX Sports - Florida.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Orlando as a big underdog for this contest with the current line at +9½ with odds of -104.
Still Perfect at Home Straight Up
The Cavaliers come off of a 109-97 thumping of the Hawks here at home on Saturday as Atlanta failed in its quest for revenge after getting swept by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals back in May. Not only does that win bring the Cavaliers to 10-3 overall but they are also now a perfect 7-0 here at “The Q” this season as well as 27-1 straight up in the last 28 regular season home games going back to last season.
The Magic meanwhile no longer appear to be the doormats that they were over the last few seasons, as while they may still be one game under .500 as NBA picks at 6-7, they have fought hard every game and are a good 8-5 ATS. Yes, Orlando begin the season 8-2 ATS and has now failed to cover in three straight, but they have still lost just one game this year by double-digits, meaning that they would be 12-1 ATS vs. tonight’s point spread.
LeBron, Love and Who Else?
The Cavaliers began this season as the favorites on the NBA Futures to win the championship, although they have now fallen to second choice behind the currently undefeated reigning NBA Champion Golden State Warriors at most spots. Still, Cleveland is unquestionably the favorite to repeat as East Champion, but before it can go on that quest, it has to get its full allotment of players back.
Yes, the Cavaliers have not missed a beat thus far thanks to LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love playing up to his capabilities, which was not always the case last year. However, those two superstars are the only two regular Cleveland starters able to play right now! Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert have yet to play this season, but now more recently, center Timofey Mozgov strained his shoulder and Irving’s fill-in Mo Williams injured his ankle.
Granted the Cavaliers have decent depth as besides James and Love, the starting lineup is now filled out by J.R Smith, Matthew Dellavedova and Tristan Thompson, but those three players are now playing longer minutes than they are accustomed too and the good Cleveland depth in now non-existent with the players comprising that depth now starting. Also, the 6-foot-9 Thompson is being forced to play center vs. much taller opponents.
Do not cry for the Cavaliers though as they are still 10-3 after all despite the myriad of injuries, however they are just 5-8 ATS, which is an indication that Cleveland has remained overvalued even while playing makeshift lineups most nights. And here the Cavs are favored by nearly double-digits again tonight.
Improved Defense Gives Magic Hope
The Magic have become good NBA best ATS this season because the Orlando defense has been the best that it has been in quite some time, probably going back to when Dwight Howard was manning the middle. Last season, Orlando finished 23rd in the NBA in points against at 101.4 per game and 28th out of 30 teams in field goal percentage allowed. This year, Orlando is up to third in field goal percentage allowed at just 42.0 percent!
Granted the points against is only marginally better at 100.8 per game to rank 16th, but the Magic are also playing a faster pace this season, so they are actually a much better ninth in defensive efficiency. Furthermore, Orlando has now held seven of its last eight opponents below 100 points during regulation time, much to the delight of Coach Scott Skiles.
And it is not as if the Magic are inept offensively as they have a four scorers in their starting lineup in Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Victor Oladipo with one of the better young point guards in the league running the show in Elfrid Payton. The problem on offense has been consistency with everyone being on the same page, but that should come eventually and as long as the defense continues playing like it has, Orlando has a bright future.
From One of Worst Road Teams to Road Warriors?
Finally, you may recall that the Magic were probably the worst road team in the NBA two seasons ago when they won just one game away from home straight up after New Year’s Day! Well, they showed improvement on the road last year and that has continued this season to the point where Orlando is now a spiffy 20-6 ATS in its last 26 road games vs. teams with a winning home records.
With the large point spread in this game and with Cavaliers’ players seemingly dropping like flies, we will look for that nice Orlando road pattern to continue and will take these big points visiting Cleveland on Monday.
NBA Pick: Magic +9½ (-104)