The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t get much time to come to grips with Kevin Love’s hand injury – an ailment that will rob the star forward of the next 6-8 weeks. Instead, the Cavs return home after getting shelled by the Detroit Pistons and have to try to defend their turf against the surging Miami Heat.
The former squad of both King James and Dwyane Wade, Miami has somehow stayed alive despite several injuries on the year and enters tonight’s road tilt atop the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference.
Solid form during a 6-4 run over their last 10 games is a huge reason why, while the Heat are getting strong inside-outside play from the likes of Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, James Johnson and Hassan Whiteside.
The question, of course, is if Miami’s current two-game winning streak can hold strong on the road against a seemingly more talented Cavaliers team. Cleveland is down one of their best players, but they’re still 18-6 on their home floor this year and have responded well (18-5) when favored this season.
Should bettors roll with the Cavs (mild -2-point home favorites) or latch on with Miami? Let’s break this one down a little further to find out:
Miami Heat (+2, -105) @ Cleveland Cavaliers (-2, -115) Total: 215
First off, I hate this spread. If you love Miami here, there is literally no reason to bite on it. Just take their Moneyline (+115) and run. If you don’t, you’re risking the Cavs dropping a tight one at home. And really, even if you do like Miami, you need to note that the Heat simply don’t offer elite betting value.
Of course, it’s tough to completely dismiss the Heat. They have tough two-way presence in Whiteside down low, Goran Dragic can tear any defense apart as a creator and shooter and Josh Richardson is blossoming before everyone’s very eyes.
Miami has had something of a mental hold over LeBron James ever since he left South Beach, too. The Heat dominated the season series last year (3-1) and have won 7 of the last 12 meetings. Cleveland did win game one of this year’s season series (108-97) back in November, though.
I don’t think there is any denying Miami has been in better form and that they’re also the superior defensive team. Miami lulls you to sleep with a slow pace, they grind games out and they play efficient defense (7th in the NBA). The Cavs are basically the polar opposite. They don’t defend at all (dead last) and they’re inside the top-15 in terms of pace.
So far, the betting arrow seems to point toward Miami. However, sometimes it feels like Vegas paints things the way they think bettors will see it (or at least want to). Miami feels like the better team on paper right now, but they’re still on the road and they aren’t the team with LeBron James.
Eventually, Isaiah Thomas is going to shake the rust off and King James is going to put his foot down and stop the bleeding. Tonight would be a pretty good night to make that happen. Miami isn’t just looking good, after all. They’re threatening the Cavs for the third best record in the Eastern Conference.
It doesn’t get pretty from here if the Cavs lose tonight. Not only would Miami even the season series and jump past the Cavs in the standings, but a defeat would also pull the Milwaukee Bucks closer to sneaking past Cleveland for the Central Division crown.
Suddenly the Cavs aren’t just talking about losing a top-three seed. That’s plenty bad, but this brutal stretch could quickly turn into them dropping down to a five-seed or (gulp) much worse.
I don’t buy that LeBron James is going to allow this to happen. Losing Love obviously hurts Cleveland, but there has been a rift in this organization for a while. For one reason or another, a big piece to that negative puzzle has been Love, even though he brings elite passing, rebounding and outside shooting to the table.
Love is an asset and Cleveland would prefer to have him, but his absence also opens the door to IT2 busting out, Dwyane Wade taking on a bigger role and guys like Jeff Green and Jae Crowder being able to step up.
More importantly, it really puts the pressure on James to elevate his game and, in turn, his team. Miami is a good team that defends and can grind games out, so I fully anticipate a good, close battle here. That and the fact that Cleveland is a horrific 5-17-1 against the spread as home favorites this year, is why I’m not looking at the point spread for even a second.
Whether this game is decided by one or two points – or whatever – doesn’t matter. One way or another, Cleveland needs to get a win here tonight and considering they tend to take solace in playing in front of their home crowd in The Land, I won’t hesitate to back them as a straight up bet tonight.
It’s true the Cavs haven’t been easy to trust, but they have been good at home and King James isn’t fun to bet against when he’s angry. The value is obvious at -135 at Bovada, too. I just can’t pass it up.