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Last defense for James, Cavs?

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

April 17, 2018 10:12 PM

LeBron James in a must-win situation highlights a star-studded night in the NBA Playoffs that also features Russell Westbrook and James Harden. But only LeBron is down 1-0 in his series! A taste of NBA and NHL drama (with extra Cheddar) right now in VSiN City.

NBA Preview: LeBron James may be used to trailing in the playoffs, but not with a defense this bad

Everyone in Cleveland is putting on a brave face. But this past Sunday’s home loss to the Indiana Pacers cast some serious doubts about the Cavaliers’ chances of repeating as Eastern champ. Let’s start with our key indicator stats from the regular season.

Indiana at Cleveland (7 p.m. ET on TNT, Indiana leads series 1-0)

Indiana: 9.0 made treys/game, #12 offense, #12 defense, #19 rebounding

Clevel.: 12.0 made treys/game, #5 offense, #29 defense, #22 rebounding

Cleveland had the second-worst defense in the NBA during the regular season when you adjust for pace. And the Cavs were also a bottom 10 rebounding team. Yes, they were dealing with chemistry issues that weren’t fixed until the trade deadline. And, yes…LeBron James has learned how to coast until it’s time to win. But what’s worked in the past is less likely to work in 2018 because:

*This defense is the worst collectively he’s ever played on, even when they try hard

*LeBron is older than he’s ever been

*Cleveland is more trey-reliant than in the past (a fickle stat)

*Talented Toronto is the most serious threat the Cavs will have faced in the East in a while

*Getting to face Toronto is no longer even a sure thing 

A quick recap of the game stats.

Indiana (plus 7) 98, Cleveland 80

2-point Pct: Indiana 49%, Cleveland 50%

3-pointers: Indiana 11/28, Cleveland 8/34

Free Throws: Indiana 15/25, Cleveland 12/20

Rebounds: Indiana 44, Cleveland 46

Turnovers: Indiana 11, Cleveland 16

Pace: 92.3

Cleveland had trouble slowing down Victor Olapido, who scored 32 points in 37 minutes in a very slow affair. The rest of the Pacers struggled to contribute. But the final score suggests that a strategy of “we’ll let Olapido get his points and shut down everyone else” isn’t going to work here. Heck, nothing much will work when you only score 80 points. But if Cleveland had matched Indiana in treys, it still would have been a decisive home-court loss. 

Keys to watch Wednesday night…Cleveland disrupting Olapido, getting better looks on treys, and committing fewer turnovers. Plus, overall, Cleveland showing a sense of urgency. “Don’t worry, we got this” has already reached its wall.

Cleveland is favored by either -8 or -8.5 depending on the store as of Tuesday evening. That’s up from -7 in the opener. A steep price for a team that was overrated all season by the marketplace, against a visiting underdog that was underrated all season. The Over/Under is down to 209 after 212.5 proved too steep to reach Sunday. 

NBA Preview: Feisty Utah may not have the horses to race with Oklahoma City

There’s a lot to like about the Utah Jazz, particularly if you respect defense and rebounding. But the athletic talent of the Oklahoma City Thunder might be presenting a challenge that the Jazz aren’t quite up to. 

Utah at Oklahoma City (8 p.m. ET on NBA Network, OKC leads series 1-0)

Utah: 10.8 made treys/game, #15 offense, #2 defense, #5 rebounding

OKC: 10.7 made treys/game, #8 offense, #10 defense, #2 rebounding

Utah doesn’t have many matchups where it enters as the lesser rebounding team. That’s the case here…which erases what is normally an important strength. That stellar Utah defense, led by Rudy Gobert is great at protecting the rim. It may not be able to protect all the different threats OKC’s offense brings to the table. Study the Game 1 box score from that perspective.

Oklahoma City (-4.5) 116, Utah 108

2-point Pct: Utah 51%, Oklahoma City 48%

3-pointers: Utah 11/28, Oklahoma City 14/29

Free Throws: Utah 15/20, Oklahoma City 20/23

Rebounds: Utah 42, Oklahoma City 46

Turnovers: Utah 14, Oklahoma City 17

Pace: 100.2

That’s 116 points scored in just 100 possessions for the host. OKC managed almost 50% from inside the arc while also dropping in 14 treys at a sharp clip. Russell Westbrook and the Thunder shooting stars did their best to play keep away until they got an open look. Utah was able to force 17 turnovers…but allowed way too many open looks in the process. 

You can see OKC won rebounding. It also earned more trips to the free throw line with its aggressiveness. To bounce back in Game 2, the Jazz must do a better job of protecting the arc, while hoping OKC’s turnover count stays high and shooting cools off. The current line is Oklahoma City -4, with a total of 206.5. Just slight adjustments from 4.5 and 205 this past Sunday. The market lost a touch of respect for Utah’s defense given that lift to the total. 

NBA Preview: Houston should shoot better than 10 of 37 on treys in second try vs. Minnesota 

The final game played this past weekend was almost a shocker…as heavily favored Houston had to sweat #8 seed Minnesota. Tough to win big when you miss 27 treys. Look how much worse than par making 10 was for the Rockets…

Minnesota at Houston (9:30 p.m. ET on TNT, Minnesota leads series 1-0)

Minnes.: 8.0 made treys/game, #4 offense, #22 defense, #16 rebounding

Houston: 15.3 made treys/game, #2 offense, #6 defense, #10 rebounding

Normally, you’d see an edge of about 15-8 instead of 10-8 for the Rockets in this spot. Five fewer treys means 15 fewer points. Unless the #22 ranked defense in the NBA has found the secret to making the Rockets miss treys, we can assume a return to normalcy the rest of the way. That means Houston starts about plus 21 on the scoreboard because of projected trey volume, and Minnesota has to make up for that with the much worse defense and slightly worse rebounding.

Houston (-10.5) 104, Minnesota 101

2-point Pct: Minnesota 47%, Houston 63%

3-pointers: Minnesota 8/23, Houston 10/37

Free Throws: Minnesota 23/28, Houston 16/23

Rebounds: Minnesota 47, Houston 37

Turnovers: Minnesota 13, Houston 11

Pace: 93.3

Minnesota did let Houston shoot a whopping 63% on deuces. But nice hustle on the boards to chase down so many long-range misses from the Rockets. 

We want to make sure you see that low pace number. If you’ve only been casually following the NBA down the stretch, Houston has been playing VERY slow basketball to accentuate its offensive skill sets. Houston isn’t a run-and-gun team like classic Mike D’Antoni teams of the past. 

Houston is -10.5 again in this rematch. The total only dropped from 215 to 214.5 after that opening Under. It’s assumed we’ll see better than 18 of 60 on bombs. Weird to see such high totals for such slow paces. This sport continues to evolve before our eyes. 

NHL Wednesday Previews: A grand slam of Game 4s on a busy midweek ticket

Only San Jose can wrap up a series Wednesday night, holding a 3-0 lead over disappointing Anaheim. Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Nashville are all looking to take commanding 3-1 leads in series they were heavy favorites to win. Let’s take ‘em in schedule order.

Pittsburgh at Philadelphia (7 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, Pittsburgh leads 2-1)

Game 1: Pittsburgh (-185) 7, Philadelphia 0 (Shots: Pitt 33-24)

Game 2: Philadelphia (plus 170) 5, Pittsburgh 1 (Shots: Pitt 35-20)

Game 3: Pittsburgh (-145) 5, Philadelphia 1 (Shots: Philly 27-26)

The Penguins made up for that Game 2 shocker very quickly. We’ve yet to have a competitive game here, with Pittsburgh winning by a combined 12-1 crushing, sandwiched around a flat home spot. Philly must hold serve just to force a best two-of-three where it won’t hold home ice. Pittsburgh is -145 with a total of 6 (Over -115). The market respects Pittsburgh’s 94-71 edge in shots.

Tampa Bay at New Jersey (7:30 p.m. ET on Golf Channel, TB leads 2-1)

Game 1: Tampa Bay (-215) 5, New Jersey 2 (Shots: TB 32-31)

Game 2: Tampa Bay (-215) 5, New Jersey 3 (Shots: NJ 44-25)

Game 3: New Jersey (plus 120) 5, Tampa Bay 2 (Shots: NJ 41-36)

Game effort from the outmatched Devils. Tampa Bay was -340 to win the series at the outset, and is -150 to confirm command in this bounce back spot. The Over/Under is 6 (Over -120) after scoreboard sums of 7, 8, and 7. Might be some empty-netters late if the home dog has to go to desperation mode from behind. How confident are you that Tampa Bay can get to three goals with the #1 goals-per-game offense in the league facing the #17 defense? Combo of TB and Over worth thinking about in that light. 

Nashville at Colorado (10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports, Nashville leads 2-1)

Game 1: Nashville (-300) 5, Colorado 2 (Shots: Nashville 31-27)

Game 2: Nashville (-300) 5, Colorado 4 (Shots Nashville 33-30)

Game 3: Colorado (plus 140) 5, Nashville 3 (Shots Colorado 33-32)

Here, Nashville was a monstrous -600 to win the series initially. Slight leads in goals (13-11) and shots (96-90) suggest the market underestimated Colorado’s potential competitiveness. Very tight since Game 1. Nashville is -165 or -170 in Game 4, depending on the store. The Over/Under is 6 (Over -115).  

Anaheim at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET on Golf Channel, SJ leads 3-0)

Game 1: San Jose (plus 120) 3, Anaheim 0 (Shots: SJ 34-25)

Game 2: San Jose (plus 120) 3, Anaheim 2 (Shots: SJ 35-30)

Game 3: San Jose (-140) 8, Anaheim 1 (Shots: Anaheim 46-36)

Wild mix of Anaheim launching shots and committing penalties in the last game. San Jose was 4 of 8 on Power Plays! Anaheim was -125 to advance at the beginning of the series, and now has virtually no shot after an 14-3 scoreboard debacle through three games (two of which were at home). Felt like Anaheim threw in the towel in the second period the other night. San Jose is up to -175 to finish off the sweep…suggesting the market got that “towel tossing” vibe as well. Over/Under is 5 (Over -130).  

VSiN News: Partnership announced with Cheddar

VSiN continues to grow! We’ve started providing daily sports betting updates to the live and on-demand video news network Cheddar Big News. Click here to read more about Cheddar, which includes broadcasts daily from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. 

VSiN is proud to represent the cutting edge in sports betting media. Our growth is a direct result of loyal VSiN City readers like you spreading the word. Thanks!

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