Last night’s NBA pick was not successful, as the Oklahoma City Thunder produced a weak performance on the road against the Orlando Magic. Russell Westbrook was the only OKC player who really showed up, while the league’s second best defense allowed the Magic to pour on 121 points.
Aaron Gordon went nuts with 40 points and it was clear from the beginning that what originally felt like a strong pick wasn’t going to work out. The Magic, who had previously lost 9 consecutive games, ended their skid and handed OKC their third straight defeat.
That was a sorry display, but it’s onward and upward for me. The loss dropped my season NBA picks record to 7-4, but I’m still in good shape and anyone following me has hit the green more often than not. The aim is to get back on track with a win on Thursday, as the NBA schedule produces a calm five-game slate.
The main game I’m looking at goes down in Atlanta, where the Hawks host LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Philips Arena. Cleveland comes in as heavy favorites, opening with a -7 point spread. That’s grown to -8 at some sites like Bovada, but you can still get a little extra value at -7.5 at BetOnline and a few other spots.
Is that spread something the Cavs are a lock to cover? Let’s break this matchup down to find out.
Cleveland Cavaliers (-7.5) @ Atlanta Hawks (+7.5) Total: 215
I know the Cavs haven’t been amazing against the spread this year (8-12-1), but this still feels like one of the best bets available on a small NBA betting slate. Depending on where you bet, backing the Cavs to cover in Atlanta offers solid value (-110) and there is a lot of logic supporting it.
The first thing to consider is that the Cavs are on fire these days. Cleveland has won nine straight games since a slow start. They’re now 14-7 and could be one more win from taking back the Central Division from the Detroit Pistons.
During that hot run, the Cavs have done good work in repairing their shaky ATS numbers. Cleveland has beaten this exact spread in four of their last five outings and their previously atrocious defense has looked a lot better. During that five-game run, their opponents have topped 99 points just one time.
Cleveland is clearly turning a corner right now and they should smell blood when they head to Atlanta to battle the Hawks. Dennis Schroder remains Atlanta’s only real scoring threat, while the Hawks have been one of the worst teams in the NBA this year with a paltry 4-16 record.
Things haven’t been much better for Atlanta at home, where they’re just 2-7. The Hawks like to push the pace a little bit, but they have the league’s 24th most efficient offense and don’t look like a serious problem for Cleveland’s defense. That’s even more so the case given the strides the Cavs have been making on that end of the court.
In the past, Atlanta could hang their hat on slowing things down and/or defending at a high level. That hasn’t been the case at all this season, as the Hawks are tied for 25th in defensive efficiency. Atlanta’s ability to defend only lessens with the absence of big man Dewayne Dedmon, who is out with a fracture in his leg:
Hawks say Dewayne Dedmon out 3-6 weeks with left tibia stress reaction.
— Michael Cunningham (@MCunninghamAJC) November 29, 2017
The only thing the Hawks have going for them is they’re at home and Cleveland’s defense was previously atrocious.
Cleveland’s defense is on the mend, though, while the Cavs have shown well (7-3) on the road. The ATS data doesn’t benefit the Hawks, either. Cleveland’s against the spread numbers have been improving, while Atlanta unsurprisingly hasn’t fared well (2-5) as a home underdog.
The Hawks have actually had the edge in this series, which is probably the only thing that’s cause for pause. Atlanta won a shootout earlier this year in Cleveland and have won three straight in this series. That’s mildly troubling, but previous year’s data doesn’t really apply given how different the Hawks are this season. That, and Cleveland should be interested in returning the favor and their focus on defense has been better.
Ultimately, there’s no real reason to trust the Hawks. They offer upside as a home underdog, but they’re not a good team and they haven’t been great against the spread. This isn’t even that gaudy of a line, so I have no problem riding the Cavs until they fail me. They’ve been working out great and this is absolutely a game where they should cover. Just make sure you’re betting somewhere where you can take advantage of the mild bump at -7.5 instead of -8.