What to Do With Friday's Cavaliers-Clippers Matchup?

Jason Lake

Thursday, March 8, 2018 8:09 PM UTC

Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018 8:09 PM UTC

The long term looks promising for the Los Angeles Clippers, but in the short term the Cleveland Cavaliers might be the right NBA pick for Friday’s matchup in L.A.

Cleveland (38-26, 21-42-1 ATS) at LA Clippers (34-29, 35-27-1 ATS)Free NBA Pick: CavaliersBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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This would have been an easy NBA pick just a few days ago. The Los Angeles Clippers, as prophesied, are 9-5 SU and 8-6 ATS since trading Blake Griffin to Detroit – but they’ve dropped the cash in back-to-back games. The Cleveland Cavaliers, meanwhile, are 4-4 SU and 3-5 ATS since the All-Star break – but they’ve won back-to-back games ATS. They’ll meet Friday (10:30 p.m. ET, NBA-TV) at Staples Center; this game opened as a pick ‘em on the NBA odds board. What’s a bettor to do?

First, don’t panic. While recent results are important to us, so is sample size and four games (the last two for each team) isn’t much of a sample size. Second, let’s compare apples to apples: the Cavaliers are 7-4 SU and 6-5 ATS since their own makeover at the trade deadline. And third, the injury situation for both teams – especially the Clippers – is going to throw all these numbers out of whack somewhat. Proceed with caution.

Clip Joint

If we look at the entire season, there’s little question that Los Angeles has done a better job of cashing in than the Cavaliers. There wasn’t much expectation for the Clippers after they traded Chris Paul to Houston during the offseason, and even less after the Griffin deal. Quite the opposite with LeBron James and the Cavs, the three-time reigning Eastern Conference champions.

That dynamic may still be in play. According to Nate Silver and his motley crew of hoop nerds, the Clippers project as 5-point favorites for Friday’s game, winning 69 percent of the time. Nice. ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, curmudgeonly as usual, only has L.A. at 64.4 percent, but that’s still something like –4.5 using the numbers at Wizard of Odds.

Nance Make ‘Em Dance

Here’s where the injuries come in. Danilo Gallinari (minus-1.5 BPM) is out with a broken hand; he was playing well in his most recent stint off the disabled list, posting a plus-3.5 and canning 42.5 percent of his 3-point attempts last month. The Clippers went 5-2 SU and ATS in those seven games. Avery Bradley (minus-4.2 BPM in six games), who came over from Detroit in the Griffin trade, might be out for the season with a groin injury; Bradley wasn’t playing very well this year, but someone has to step up in the backcourt, and this has been a problem area for L.A. since Patrick Beverley (plus-0.9 BPM) was lost for the year back in November.

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Not sure Tristan ever gets his starting spot back. Nance has been great and, as expected, he's really unleashed in his minutes w/ LeBron.

— nick wright (@getnickwright) March 6, 2018
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The Cavs don’t have a clean bill of health, either. Aside from Kevin Love (plus-1.0 BPM), they’ll also be missing center Tristan Thompson (minus-2.1 BPM) on Friday. But in this case, Thompson’s absence might be a good thing, because Larry Nance Jr. (plus-5.5 BPM in 10 games) gets to start for Cleveland now, as he’s a very special young player on the rise. Let’s put a small sum on this particular version of the Cavs in this particular situation and see what happens.

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