It must be February in the NBA, because you never quite know which team is showing up on any given night. We called last night’s marginal effort correctly, with Indiana winning the game but never even coming close to threatening with covering the massive 16 point spread against Milwaukee. But the best example of selective effort is the curious case of the Brooklyn Nets. Two nights ago, they no-show in Portland en route to a 44 point loss. Then, less than 24-hours later, they play the back end of a back to back at altitude in Denver and win by 24.
Go figure, right?
So an interesting part of the analysis of any regular season NBA game at this point needs to be more than the analytics, it also needs to include a little gauge of the “effort meter.” It can make for an occasional “bad miss” but will pay some dividends in the long run.
Let’s take a look at an interesting Friday matchup, and check in on one of my favorite teams down the stretch, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Today’s Free Picks:
Utah Jazz at Cleveland Cavaliers -3.5 (Total: 192.5)
I know, you are probably sick of me paying attention to the Cavaliers, given they are no even inside of the pathetic Eastern Conference playoff picture, but as winners of 7 of their last 10, the qualify as one of the hottest teams in the league. That makes them a generally undervalued team as well; a perceived “lousy team” who’s made a nice trade addition and is playing suddenly good basketball.
The Jazz fall into that category as well. Terrible start, add Trey Burke, and since then they’ve been a competent ball club. However, they have been pretty weak on the road. They enter tonoight at 7-20 away from the friendly confines of Salt Lake City.
I like Cleveland in this game, if for no other reasons than they are playing good basketball and they are at home against a struggling road team. But they are going to need to handle their business early. An interesting stat; no team in the NBA is worse offensive efficiency-wise in the final three minutes than the Cavaliers. They are shooting a league-low 33.6% from the floor and averaging an also league-low 6.6 points. Those numbers obviously have to change if the Cavs are going to become a playoff team.
But for tonight, I think they’ll build up enough of a cushion that it won’t bite them tonight.