All good things must come to an end. The Indiana Pacers aren’t beating the NBA odds anymore, and this Friday, they’ve got a very tough road game against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Jason’s record as of Mar. 19: 54-48-4 ATS, 5-8 Totals, minus-1.00 units ML
It was fun while it lasted. The Indiana Pacers were cranking out money faster than Zimbabwe, riding a 13-2 SU and 11-4 ATS hot streak into last Saturday’s matchup with the Boston Celtics. Then the Pacers lost – and kept losing. Now they’ve dropped the cash in four straight games, and this Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET), they have to face the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers are 4-1 SU and ATS in their past five games, not to mention 25-6 SU and 22-9 ATS since mid-January. That’s a spicy meatball. Cleveland has opened as a 10-point home chalk on Friday’s NBA odds board.
The Pacers (30-37 SU, 35-29-3 ATS) had to come back down to earth at some point. As much as we like the work that George Hill (20.5 PER) has done for Indiana since returning to active duty, his numbers are way above his career average of 14.9 PER, which is about as average as you can get. Hill dumped 30 points and eight assists on Boston, but he’s also had a couple of sketchier games during this 0-4 ATS slump. Oh well.
Hill’s decline might not stop there. On Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls, Hill hurt his lower back and had to leave the game briefly; he returned to finish with 10 points and two assists. Ian Mahinmi (11.7 PER) also left the game after taking an elbow to the noggin. Both are expected to play on Friday. The Pacers have suffered worse injuries, and it’s not like these are the end times, but Indiana isn’t carrying a lot of market value into this matchup.
Secure the Perimeter
It looked for a moment like the Cavaliers (44-26 SU, 35-35 ATS) might be at the end of their ascendancy, too. LeBron James (26.0 PER) took his talents back to South Beach and ended up losing 106-92 to the Miami Heat (+5.5) on Monday. Two days later, the Cavs came out flat against the Brooklyn Nets (+12 away). But they eventually got back on track and whipped Brooklyn 117-92.
Remember that Kevin Love guy (19.2 PER)? He sat out the Miami game, and the game before that against the Orlando Magic, unofficially to give his sore back some rest. Love returned on Wednesday and put up 10 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against the Nets; Cleveland had 32 assists in total, moving the ball crisply and allowing their perimeter shooters to hit 15 of their 29 trey attempts. Welcome to the new NBA.
This Is Love Town
While Love’s raw numbers against Brooklyn might not look all that impressive, those 10 points came on 4-of-9 shooting in just 27 minutes. Casual fans have been beating up on Love all season because he’s turned into the third banana behind James and Kyrie Irving (21.8 PER). We don’t want to belabor the point, but this is exactly what happened to Chris Bosh in Miami. Things worked out all right there.
Fixating on Love’s per-game numbers will also blind you to how deep the Cavaliers are at this point. Shawn Marion (11.1 PER, plus-0.7 DBPM) is back after missing 13 games with a hip injury. Kendrick Perkins (4.4 PER, minus-1.2 DBPM) is getting some minutes and figuring out his role on Cleveland’s bench. James Jones (11.6 PER, plus-1.7 OBPM) has popped back onto the radar screen this month. There’s simply no need to burn out Love or any of Cleveland’s regulars with the playoffs on the horizon.
The Cavaliers don’t quite fit the standard template for an undervalued team – they’re 21-10 title favorites on Bovada’s NBA odds list as we go to press. But with all this depth, and with everything clicking on offense, we’ll keep putting the Cavs in our NBA Picks for now.
Free NBA Pick: Take the Cavaliers -11 at 5Dimes