Feb 21 Marquee NBA Action: The Battle for 3rd Best
Cleveland Cavaliers @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma CIty, Oklahoma
February 22, 2016 12:30PM PST
At 49-5 with two-thirds of the 2015-2016 NBA season in the bag, the Golden State Warriors are miles ahead of the rest of the league. A mere three wins behind, the San Antonio Spurs hold title to the number two spot. Further down the road, the Cavs (39-14) and the Thunder (40-15) are slugging it out for 'third best' honors. As such, we expect fireworks akin to that exhibited last night at Staples Center when OKC hosts Cleveland this afternoon.
We give the Thunder about a 2 point edge, essentially attributable to home court advantage, but conviction is too low to justify going out on a limb and picking the Cavaliers to cover. Alternatively, we see sufficient value in the totals arena to warrant a position. Specifically, our work anticipates an aggregate score in the 212-213 range. We are therefore betting the UNDER.
We have remarked before that OKC is a virtual UNDER machine. The Thunder's O/U record of 21-33-1 on the season corroborates this contention. In fact, Durant, Westbrook and company are currently riding a five game UNDER streak. Moreover, the OVER has collected only once in OKC's last dozen outings.
Conversely, in aggregate, the Cavaliers have exhibited no bias of note with regard to totals (Cleveland's O/U record is 26-27 this year), however, this present situation does not bode well for the prospect of a scoring explosion from Cleveland. To wit, the Cavs O/U record is 11-15 when traveling, 1-5 when the opposition is favored to win and 0-5 when cast as road, dog. Thus, betting trends sync with our simulation-based outlook and call for a relatively low scoring affair in OKC this afternoon.
We expect the payday for the UNDER will coincide with the Cavs imposing their style of play on the game. For instance, the Thunder rank 9th in possession per game, while Cleveland is 28th by this measure. A deliberate, clock-chewing tempo is right up Cleveland's alley (and would jibe nicely with our UNDER prognostication), but would probably disrupt the more run-and-gun style of offense that the Thunder embody.