Last night there was potential for Eric Bledsoe to look REALLY bad and to have to eat an enormous slice of humble pie. Bledsoe sparked a national conversation after asserting that Kentucky would beat the 76’ers in a seven game series, and beat them handily. Vegas retorted with an initial fictitious line of Phily -16.5. Even DeMarcus Cousins weighed in picking Kentucky over Philadelphia.
So of course, Phoenix and Bledsoe traveled TO Philly last night, certain to face a focused and motivated bunch of slighted Sixers… Phoenix won the game 122-96 but Nerlens Noel did give Bledsoe a nice hip-check thirty seconds in to the game. So there was that…
Meanwhile, the Bucks failed epically in their first big test against Toronto and the Cavs failed badly against Washington. The Bulls got housed for the second night in a row, prompting the Ron Burgendy-esque statement, the Raptors and the Wizards are the best teams in the East??
Hey guys, I just read the teleprompter.
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Let’s get to Today’s Free Pick:
Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers -3 (Total: 207.5)
Ok, ok, time to put my money where my mouth is. Generally I don’t like betting on a team on the second night of back-to-back roadies, but given as the Cavaliers also played (perhaps it should be “played”) last night, fatigue and rest should be too much of a factor. The Raptors had an easy time against the Bucks in what amounted to a glorified scrimmage, and it isn’t like the trip from Toronto to Cleveland is circumnavigating the globe. Let’s call the fatigue factor even.
But it’s hard to call these teams even. To this point, Toronto has been vastly superior. Yes, there is the mental aspect of the Cavs wanting to make a statement against an Eastern Conference contender, but you could have made that same argument last night against the Wizards and it had no effect. So let’s just look at some team numbers: Toronto ranks second in the NBA in offensive efficiency, behind only Dallas. Cleveland is a respectable ninth. In DEFENSIVE efficiency, Toronto ranks seventh, behind only Washington in the East. Cleveland ranks 24th, sandwiched in between Philadelphia and Denver. Folks, this is a BAD defensive team facing off against one of the most efficient offenses in the NBA.
It’s so tempting to back Cleveland at home. They do have the potential to break through at any time. But I don’t think it’s tonight. The numbers say Toronto is significantly better at this point of the season. Is the Cavs ceiling higher? Sure, if only by virtue of having LeBron. But on Nov 22nd, it is no contest who the better team is. I’ll take the better team AND points tonight.