Feb 19th NBA Action: Denver Nuggets @ Cleveland Cavaliers
Updated: Feb 20, 2021
Season-to-date record: 39-40-1, 49%
Betting on offense: Nuggets/Cavs o223
The Cavs have dropped eight in a row, and the case can be made that their losing was only interrupted by the postponement of a meeting with the Spurs slated for Wednesday. Against this backdrop, Cleveland will host the 15-13 Nuggets Friday. We expect the Nuggets to breeze past the Cavs, as was the case nine days ago when Denver beat Cleveland 133-95 at home. However, the more compelling play, in our estimation, is on the OVER.
For one, a consistently profitable history-based system highlights a play on an exceeding total this afternoon.
Regular season NBA games featuring home teams that lost their last three (or more) but that have enjoyed at least two days off tend to overshoot scoring expectations when the opposition is from the other conference.
This system has delivered a 12% long term return on investment, including a perfect 2-0 run so far this year, and has submitted only five seasons since 2004 where the cover rate was below 50%.
From a different angle, personnel availability issues for both teams fit also with our expectation for higher than expected scoring. For Denver, most notably, Paul Millsap and Gary Harris are out Friday, while Andre Drummond and Taurean Prince will be inactive for Cleveland.
Millsap's real plus-minus (RPM) on offense and defense round to zero, so his absence, per se, is not especially impacting. However, JaMychal Green has played in Millsap's stead recently, and Green's presence is generally good for about an extra point for the opposition per 100 offensive and defensive possessions versus when Millsap is on the floor, per ESPN's statistic. But as the undersized starting forward has missed the last couple of games, this adjustment might be baked into the cake already.
For the Cavs, it appears the organization is poised to part company with Andre Drummond. The 11th year big man has been inactive the last two games, as the transition to the Jarrett Allen-era is underway in Cleveland. Both Centers boast slightly negative defensive RPM's. However, Allen is about a point better than Drummond on offense, per 100 possessions, according to this measure. Thus, the game total should be about a point higher per 100 possessions with Allen in for Drummond. Given that this situation is also a couple of games old heading into Friday's play, we note the strong potential that the betting total reflects this news too.
Likely not discounted in the current line, the Nuggets' Gary Harris's RPM on offense is worse than -2 points per 100 possessions, while Harris's defense ranks in the vicinity of +1 per 100 possessions. Thus, Harris's absence adds about a point to the opponents expected score -- and the aggregate total -- per 100 possessions.
Further, if Facundo Campazzo assumes Harris's minutes (as was largely the case prior to the PG's return in earlier this month), we figure the expected total should rise by roughly another point per 100 possessions, as the former Real Madrid floor general's RPM is essentially zero on offense and about -1 on defense.
(The Nuggets and Cavs combine for 205 possessions per game, on average.)
So far, money bet on this O/U is skewed heavily in favor of the UNDER (70% of the total handle, per the Action Network). However, the number is up from a reported open at 222 to current levels of 223/223.5. By our accounting, based on RPM, the betting total should have moved 3-4 point higher on news of Gary Harris' unavailability. As such, we perceive value with the OVER and are wagering accordingly.