Cavs win (and cover) when they need it

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN City newsletter) 

Keyed by a couple of Kyle Korver three-pointers, Cleveland pulled away late to beat Indiana and even up their Eastern Conference series. The latest from the NBA and NHL playoffs right now in VSiN City.

NBA Playoffs: Cleveland still not in form, but back on serve vs. Indiana

The Cavs and Pacers split two games in Cleveland…then split two games in Indiana. The pre-series underdog Pacers actually lead the composite scoreboard by 13 points. But Cleveland is well-positioned with two possible home spots in what amounts to a best-of-three series. 

Let’s see how LeBron James and company evened things up…

Cleveland (-2) 104, Indiana 100

2-point Pct: Cleveland 52%, Indiana 47%

3-pointers: Cleveland 12/34, Indiana 12/33

Free Throws: Cleveland 22/26, Indiana 8/13

Rebounds: Cleveland 44, Indiana 48

Turnovers: Cleveland 10, Indiana 8

Pace: 91.5 (for the series, 92.3, 91.8, 91.1, 91.5)

Weird series in that Cleveland’s defense still hasn’t impressed, but all four games have gone Under the market total. Still slow as molasses. Both offenses were well clear of a point-per-possession Sunday night. Scoreboard totals have landed on 178, 197, 182, and 204 against market prices that started around 213 and have only dropped down to 206.

The biggest key was obviously free throw shooting. LeBron James attacks the basket. Sometimes you have to foul him. Cleveland was plus 14 points from the charity stripe in a game it only won by four points. 

Game 5 will be Wednesday in Cleveland.

NBA Playoffs: Milwaukee, Washington score equalizers Sunday; San Antonio delays the inevitable

A lot of entertaining basketball Sunday. We’ll run the numbers in the order games were played. 

Milwaukee (-6) 104, Boston 102

2-point Pct: Boston 45%, Milwaukee 56%

3-pointers: Boston 10/29, Milwaukee 10/23

Free Throws: Boston 20/25, Milwaukee 18/24

Rebounds: Boston 43, Milwaukee 36

Turnovers: Boston 8, Milwaukee 9

Pace: (89.3, for the series 96.5, 93.2, 88.7, 89.3) 

Milwaukee did justify the high market price back in Game 3, but barely won Game 4 despite shooting 56% on deuces and a sharp 10 of 23 on treys. Frankly, it’s hard to see from those numbers how it was close! Boston created extra scoring opportunities on rebounds. The Celtics move to 26-12 against the spread the last 38 games, as the market continues NOT to believe in the point spread power of head coach Brad Stevens. 

Interesting progression in Pace Factor so far. Two super slow games in Milwaukee. We’ll have to see if that’s things slowing down because “playoff mindset” is kicking in, or it’s something about the home/road dynamic. Important to remember that whoever wins the series is playing MUCH worse defense that the scoreboards are suggesting. Boston had been playing great defense through the season, but allowed 116 and 104 points on 89 possessions per game in Milwaukee. 

Game 5 will be Tuesday in Boston.

San Antonio (plus 5.5) 103, Golden State 90

2-point Pct: Golden State 44%, San Antonio 42%

3-pointers: Golden State 7/28, San Antonio 15/29

Free Throws: Golden State 15/17, San Antonio 14/19

Rebounds: Golden State 61, San Antonio 34

Turnovers: Golden State 16, San Antonio 8

Pace: 87.9 (for the series, 96.6, 94.1, 94.7, 87.9) 

You don’t often see a team win rebound differential by 27 in a LOSS. Golden State grabbed 24 offensive boards, but couldn’t turn that into enough points to finish the sweep. Emotional effort from the Spurs. And, kind of a three-quarter speed no-show for the Warriors. The drop in pace factor is largely a result of all those offensive rebounds. Those extend possessions and swallow clock. 

Golden State will be a heavy favorite to wrap things up Tuesday night. 

Washington (plus 1) 106, Toronto 98

2-point Pct: Toronto 44%, Washington 47%

3-pointers: Toronto 7/18, Washington 7/17

Free Throws: Toronto 23/30, Washington 21/31

Rebounds: Toronto 41, Washington 40

Turnovers: Toronto 18, Washington 13

Pace: 98.9 (for the series, 98.1, 102.8, 98.2, 98.9) 

Felt like a blown win for Toronto fans. Raptors were up by eight after the first quarter and 11 at the half. Washington would tie before the final stanza. Toronto scored just 18 points in the fourth quarter, after scoring only 42 in the second half of Game 3. Disappointing in crunch time. 

You can see that turnovers became an issue again for the Raptors. Second straight game with exactly 18. They also lost the ball 17 times back in the opener. First Under of the series, with a sequence of 220-249-225-204 finally staying below a market estimate in the mid two-teens. 

Washington has knotted things up, but still has to break serve on the road to have any chance to advance. Game 5 won’t be played until Wednesday night. 

NBA Tuesday Previews: Two games in the wild West, with Houston and Utah hoping to grab 3-1 series leads 

A relative respite from the busy recent schedules, even though only one of the opening round matchups has concluded (New Orleans swept Portland). Let’s review what’s happened to date in Houston/Minnesota and Oklahoma City/Utah…

Houston at Minnesota (8 p.m. ET. on TNT, Houston leads series 2-1)

Game 1: Houston (-10.5/215) 104, Minnesota 101

Game 2: Houston (-10.5/216.5) 102, Minnesota 82

Game 3: Minnesota (plus 5.5/217) 121, Houston 105

Game 4: Houston (-5.5/219) at Minnesota

Many indicators suggested that this series would be a squash. It could still end 4-1 for the heavily favored Rockets. But Minnesota beat the market by 7.5 and 21.5 in its two covers. Weird that Houston’s blowout win was in the game James Harden played horribly. 

Here’s what happened in Minnesota’s upset this past Saturday…

Minnesota (plus 5.5) 121, Houston 105

2-point Pct: Houston 55%, Minnesota 48%

3-pointers: Houston 15/41, Minnesota 15/27

Free Throws: Houston 16/25, Minnesota 16/22

Rebounds: Houston 39, Minnesota 41

Turnovers: Houston 10, Minnesota 7

Pace: 94.5 (for the series, 93.3, 97.2, 94.5)

Houston averages 15 treys per game. Minnesota averages 8! So, the Timberwolves needed an extreme outlier to score the upset. Very sharp game for Minnesota, with a low turnover count and sharp three-point shooting. Rockets will likely pick up their defensive intensity off a loss. 

Oklahoma City at Utah (10:30 p.m. ET on TNT, Utah leads series 2-1)

Game 1: Oklahoma City (-4.5/205) 116, Utah 108

Game 2: Utah (plus 3.5/208.5) 102, Oklahoma City 95

Game 3: Utah (-5/209) 115, Oklahoma City 92

Game 4: Utah (-5.5/209.5) vs. Oklahoma City

That’s two double-digit covers for the Jazz after the disappointing opener. And, much better defense. We had noted before the series that OKC actually had the better regular season rebound rate than Utah despite the Jazz’s well-earned reputation for defense and rebounding. Jazz lead that category 144-125 through three games, and have held OKC to 48% or less on two-pointers in each outing. 

A lot to like about the way Utah is playing as the initial series underdog. You can tell the market now sees Utah as the slightly superior team on a “neutral” court in those point spreads. Utah was 5 and 5.5 at home, OKC 4.5 and 3.5. Here’s what happened in the last meeting. 

Utah (-5) 115, Oklahoma City 102

2-point Pct: Oklahoma City 46%, Utah 63%

3-pointers: Oklahoma City 14/28, Utah 13/34

Free Throws: Oklahoma City 14/19, Utah 18/27

Rebounds: Oklahoma City 33, Utah 48

Turnovers: Oklahoma City 17, Utah 19

Pace: 96.4 (for the series: 99.2, 98.3, 96.4)

An absolute “defense and rebounding” squash for the Jazz inside the arc. Oklahoma City had to make half of its treys at high volume just to lose by 13! Very bad signs for the Thunder in terms of winning this series…they lost G2 at home at a pace that should have been out of Utah’s comfort zone, and they would have been bullied even worse in G3 if not for the trey outlier. 

NHL Monday Previews: Drama in Toronto and Columbus as hosts try to extend series 

Toronto was supposed to be home playing golf already. Maples Leafs were a huge underdog on the road in Game 5 Saturday, staring elimination in the face.

Boston at Toronto (7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, Boston leads 3-2)

Game 1: Boston (-160/6) 5, Toronto 1 (Shots: Boston 40-27)

Game 2: Boston (-175/5.5) 7, Toronto 3 (Shots: Toronto 33-28)

Game 3: Toronto (-110/5.5) 4, Boston 2 (Shots: Boston 42-30)

Game 4: Boston (-115/6) 3, Toronto 1 (Shots Toronto 32-21)

Game 5: Toronto (plus 170/5.5) 4, Boston 3 (Shots Boston 45-21)

Game 6: Boston (-130/6 Under -120) at Toronto

Boston is still a heavy favorite to advance, sitting at -130 on the road, and probably around -180 or so at home in a seventh game if it goes that far. That’s now five straight games where the loser won shots on goal, which is a credit to how hard the trailers have been playing. 

Washington at Columbus (7:35 p.m. ET on CNBC, Washington leads 3-2)

Game 1: Columbus (plus 130/5.5) 4, Washington 3 in OT (Shots: Washington 30-27)

Game 2: Columbus (plus 140/5.5) 5, Washington 4 in OT (Shots: Washington 58-30)

Game 3: Washington (-115/6) 3, Columbus 2 in OT (Shots: Washington 45-35)

Game 4: Washington (even/5.5) 4, Columbus 1 (Shots Washington 33-24)

Game 5: Washington (-165/5.5) 4, Columbus 3 in OT (Shots Columbus 42-29)

Game 6: Washington (-115/5.5) at Columbus

Four overtime games in five. Washington is back in the driver’s seat after dropping the first two thrillers on home ice. Similar to Boston in that the caps are road favorites in G6, and will be home favorites in G7 if it goes that far. Washington is still plus 37 in shot attempts, despite losing flow of play initiative the last time out. 

Those are the only two series still in action. No games on the NHL schedule Tuesday. Both Game 7’s will be Wednesday if needed. Already advancing to the second round: Vegas Golden Knights, San Jose, Nashville, and Winnipeg in the West…Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay in the East.  

MLB: Updating profit/loss for the Magnificent Seven

The busy playoff schedules have forced us to cut back on baseball coverage. We did want to start the new week with a look at how “The Magnificent Seven” has performed to date. Those are the seven teams that betting markets had projected for at least 90 wins during the 2018 regular season. Only one team has a losing record thus far…but the group as a whole is down despite Boston’s historic start.

Boston 17-4…plus 12 units

Houston 16-7…plus 2 units

Cleveland 11-8…minus about 0.5 units

NY Yankees 11-9…minus about 4.5 units

Chicago Cubs 10-9…minus about 4.5 units

LA Dodgers 10-10…minus about 6.5 units

Washington 10-12…minus 8 units

Even though the seven are 26 games over .500, they’re down 10 units against very high money lines. They’d have to go 10-0 to start the new week just to get back to break even. For many of these teams, any loss is like TWO losses in financial terms because they’re often laying prices in the range of -200. 

We’ll dig deeper into baseball once a few more teams are eliminated from the pro basketball and hockey playoffs. 

Popular VSiN contributor Dave Malinsky found dead 

Worst fears were realized when searchers found the body of sports betting writer Dave Malinsky Friday afternoon at Mt. Charleston. Here’s a link to coverage from the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Malinsky was a regular contributor to VSiN, appearing multiple times weekly. Deepest condolences to everyone touched by Dave throughout his distinguished career. That’s a very long list.

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