Hornets, Warriors on move as Cavs slide

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It has been a tumultuous week in the NBA. The Association is learning what it is like to play a season in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic as positive tests run rampant among rosters, forcing multiple postponements.

Despite that, the year rolls on. On Tuesday, the league unveiled new protocols in an attempt to contain the outbreak, essentially forcing teams into faux bubbles for the next two weeks with new restrictions. Commissioner Adam Silver has been adamant that postponing the league year is not in the cards, so we can continue with our weekly observations, and there are some good ones …

The Hot Hornets

When the Charlotte Hornets took the floor Jan. 6 in Atlanta for a meeting with the Hawks, they were stuck in the middle of a three-game slide in which they had posted a -15.3 net rating! However, once the final buzzer had sounded at State Farm Arena, the Hornets had a 102-94 victory in hand, and Charlotte has not lost since. The Hornets are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four games and have outscored their opponents by 11.1 points every 100 possessions. That is the second-best net rating in the league over the last week, behind only the Portland Trail Blazers. So what changed?

Well, Charlotte is playing smaller now due to the loss of Cody Zeller to injury. P.J. Washington has been playing center for James Borrego. When Washington is in at the 5, Charlotte has posted a + 12.3 net rating. One of the best lineups with Washington playing center has been when Devonte Graham, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and Miles Bridges are on the floor as well. When those five play together, the Hornets have posted an eye-popping + 34.7 net rating. 

It is not really surprising to see Charlotte flourish on offense. I wrote in the NBA Betting Guide that the Hornets’ brand of basketball on offense, an emphasis on avoiding mid-range shots, would really evolve with Hayward on the floor. What has been surprising is the defense. Charlotte is switchable with Washington at center, and it has helped immensely when guarding the opposition. Lineups with Washington are allowing just 1.050 points per possession. It’s incredible.

It also helps that LaMelo Ball has emerged as a true contender for the Rookie of the Year Award, becoming the youngest NBA player to post a triple-double over the weekend. Charlotte closed with a win total of 25.5 and needs just 20 wins over its final 61 games to cash the Over.

Cleveland’s Caught In The ‘Under’ Tow

Remember when Cleveland was 3-0 to start the season? Neither do the Cavaliers. Since their undefeated start, the Cavs have gone 2-7 SU and ATS. After a loss Tuesday against Utah, they are 1-5 SU and ATS in their last six. It was evident at the beginning of the season that Cleveland’s start was unsustainable, but this slide is more about health than a team regressing to the mean.

Kevin Love has been out for this entire 2-7 skid. Darius Garland has missed the last six games with a shoulder injury that has him listed as day-to-day. Collin Sexton has missed their last four games with a bum ankle. When any team is missing this much talent, one can expect a dip in production. However, what is happening with Cleveland is flat-out incredible.

Tuesday night’s 117-87 loss to Utah marked the 10th consecutive Under for the Cavaliers. Their offense without that trio of scorers has been abysmal. During this 10-game run to the Under, Cleveland is averaging just 99.8 points every 100 possessions. The Cavs really miss the scoring presence of Garland, who was having a phenomenal season before his injury. With Garland off the floor, Cleveland has a -9.0 net rating, averaging just 97.5 points every 100 possessions. The Cavs will need him to snap this streak.

It is quite the trend for bettors to follow, but now that we’re this deep, we should start to look for an opportunity to bet an Over with Cleveland. These totals are getting insanely low. On Tuesday, the total closed 208.5 at some shops, and the game finished with 204 points. Should this team’s health remain where it has been for the last 10 games, we can expect the offensive woes to continue. But how low is too low for a total?

Warriors' Winning Ways

On Tuesday, the Golden State Warriors were playing the Indiana Pacers in their first game as home favorites. Crazy, right? This was the Warriors’ seventh game at home this season but the first in which they had closed as the favorites. The Warriors lost 104-95, but it is still worth noting their form thus far.

Since losing the first two games and heading into the Pacers game, the Warriors were 6-2 SU and 5-3 ATS, with wins over the Trail Blazers, Clippers and Raptors among their victories over this stretch. They outscored opponents by 4.2 points every 100 possessions, but the real story is the play of Draymond Green. Since Green returned from injury, Golden State was 4-2 SU and ATS with a + 3.9 net rating. With Green on the floor, the Warriors’ defensive rating improves by 5.3 points every 100 possessions. His presence has forced many who thought Golden State was a lottery team to rethink their predictions.

The market is already starting to correct itself, and that is apparent with this closing number Tuesday night against Indiana. Golden State’s power rating has improved during that eight-game run, but the real test comes over the next week. The Warriors will have three road games in the next seven days against the Nuggets, Suns and Lakers. If they emerge with two wins, we can safely assume the Warriors will be well on their way toward a playoff berth many thought was a long shot.

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