Cleveland lost at the red-hot Clippers on Sunday, hosted overall title favorite Miami on Tuesday night and now host Western Conference favorite Oklahoma City on Thursday (and play a very good Houston team next). The Thunder opened as the only road favorites on the NBA schedule at -9.5 on NBA odds with a total of 200 for sports bettors.
Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert all but demanded a return to the playoffs this season as the Cavaliers haven't come close since LeBron James left town. The thinking was that a good season also might help lure LeBron back as free agent this summer. It hasn't worked out. Despite having one of the best young point guards in the NBA in All-Star Kyrie Irving and acquiring former Bulls All-Star forward Luol Deng, the Cavs are 26-42 and all but finished in the East.
Irving, the All-Star Game MVP, might not play again this season. He suffered a biceps injury in Sunday's blowout loss at the Clippers. The good news is it wasn't a tear that would have been season ending, but the Cavaliers won't even re-evaluate him for two weeks. By then the team could be officially eliminated from the postseason and thus it would make little sense to play Irving. In fact, it would behoove Cleveland to get a high a lottery pick as possible, although other than landing Irving the team hasn't been very good with those lottery picks of late. That was under GM Chris Grant, who was fired earlier this season.
The Cavs (31-37 ATS, 30-37-1 O/U at sportsbooks) did put up a fight Tuesday in losing 100-96 to the Heat, making LeBron 12-1 against the Cavs since he left. Jarrett Jack ran the team with Irving out and had 22 points. Dion Waiters technically got the start for Irving (Jack has been starting) and had 17 points and 11 assists, but he hurt his hip in the game to go with a sore back and knee and thus may not play in this one. Deng also sat out Tuesday and is a game-time call against Oklahoma City.
That Durant Guy Is
The Thunder (37-29-1 ATS, 34-33 O/U at sportsbooks) suffered their worst loss of the season Sunday at home against Dallas when Russell Westbrook was a surprising scratch -- simply to rest his surgically repaired knee -- but Westbrook was back in there Monday and Oklahoma City won impressively in Chicago 97-85. He had 17 points and was one rebound and one assist shy of a triple-double. Expect the Thunder to rest Westbrook in back-to-back situations going forward to keep him as healthy as possible for the playoffs. Coach Scott Brooks already has said he will either miss this game or Friday in Toronto.
Kevin Durant likely has all but locked down his first NBA MVP Award. He had 35 points against the Bulls, his 32nd straight game with at least 25 points. That the second-longest streak in the past 50 years behind Michael Jordan's 40 straight in 1986-87. MJ averaged a career-best 37.1 points per game that year. Durant is at a career-high 31.8. The last time Durant didn't score at least 25 was Jan. 5 at home in a blowout of Boston in which Durant played only 27 minutes.
Let our NBA Picks of the Day help you make the most out of tonight's action.
The Thunder hit their low point of the season with a 114-104 home defeat to Cleveland on Feb. 26 as a 15-point favorite. That was OKC's third straight loss out of the All-Star Break (all at home), which coincided with Westbrook's return from injury. The first two you could understand, coming against the Heat and Clippers. That's the only time all season OKC has lost more than two straight. Durant had 28 points against Cleveland and missed a triple-double by an assist. Irving had 31 points, 14 in the fourth quarter when Cleveland scored 42 points on 14-for-21 shooting. Thus the Cavs have won two straight in this series as they beat the Thunder 115-110 in their only visit to Cleveland last season.
NBA free picks: Cavaliers +9.5 and the under. OKC might choose to rest Westbrook in this one, especially with no Irving, and have him for a tougher matchup in Toronto. Plus the Thunder are 0-4 ATS in their past four road games against teams with a losing home record. The under is 13-5 in Cleveland's past 18 at home.