Cleveland at San Antonio
Time: 7 PM CT (TNT)
Spread: SAS -5
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Cleveland Cavaliers are now tied with the Boston Celtics for the best record in the Eastern Conference. That increases the gravity of what will not be a “meaningless regular season game,” not with playoff seeding on the line.
Similarly, their host, the San Antonio Spurs, are still in pursuit of the Golden State Warriors, trailing by just 2.5 games with 10 games remaining including tonight’s on San Antonio’s slate. The Spurs are 5-point favorites at home where it has posted a 28-7 mark thus far this season.
San Antonio has continued “doing San Antonio things.” Gregg Popovich most recently “demoted” Pau Gasol the bench, and the results have been spectacular. Gasol is finding plenty of open triples and knocking them down at a league-leading rate, since the All-Star break.
Over San Antonio’s past 10 games, Gasol has tallied averages of 13 points and seven rebounds per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the field. He has hit at least one three over the last five games while connecting on 58.3 percent of his looks during that span. In San Antonio’s most recent 106-98 win over the New York Knicks, Gasol had 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three assists in just 26 minutes.
The choice to move Gasol to the second unit moved Dewayne Dedmon into the starting lineup, and he has thrived in that role as well. Dedmon is not much of an offensive threat, but he is doing all the little things that are keeping the Spurs rolling. Dedmon has averaged 5.2 points and 6.4 rebounds on the season, but his defensive impact is what the Spurs really value: Dedmon averages 1.3 steals/blocks in just 17 minutes a night, and he can finish when the Spurs guards dump it into him at the hole. Dedmon boasts a 64.8 percent field goal percentage on the season, while also having developed a pretty effective mid-range jumper over the past two seasons.
The Orlando Magic’s mistake has been San Antonio’s reward, as Dedmon was often unused in Orlando, in what could only be called a disastrous rebuild in central Florida. The Spurs are sort of the anti-Orlando, in making discarded talents into effective role player threats. We have seen that motif time and time again through the works of Gregg Popovich, who has solidified his position as one of the greatest coaches of all-time.
Even with the legendary Tim Duncan retiring before the season, the Spurs have maintained the focus, discipline, leadership and defense required to keep the machine ticking. And for all the talk of a Cleveland Cavaliers and Warriors showdown being inevitable, it will not happen without the Dubs first getting past this Spurs team. The fight for homecourt advantage via that No. 1 seed remains crucial, and the Spurs are going to keep the pressure on the Warriors until the season’s final day, undoubtedly.
The Cavaliers have struggled recently as winners of just five of its past 10 SU. Accordingly, the hot Boston Celtics have climbed the standings to tie it up at this point. With LeBron James struggling as only he could (see: not actually struggling), the Cavs appear to be cruising without heavy concern over whether it obtains that No. 1 spot in the East, or not. Most recently, Cleveland fell 127-115 to the Washington Wizards, and it has lost 3 of its past 5, including losses to the Denver Nuggets and L.A. Clippers.
There is no reason for Cavs fans to play the role of apologist: this is still a team that has had a great season and will be ready for the postseason, but the immediate future will be tough. The Cavs close the season by playing 7 of its final 10 games against 2017 playoff teams, including the Boston Celtics on April 5th. That matchup comes just a week before the final game of the regular season, and it will play a heavy role in determining Cleveland and Boston’s fates with regard to the seeding.