Cleveland at Washington
Time: 5 PM CT, NBA League Pass
Opening Spread: CLE -1.5
Odds not book-specific
The Cleveland Cavaliers have won its past four games to improve to 22-8 on the season, but it still trails the Conference-leading Boston Celtics by two games in the standings. Cleveland will travel to face the 16-13 Washington Wizards at 5 PM (CT) on NBA League Pass. The Cavaliers are 1.5-point favorites in the game, which has an over/under of 213 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
Cleveland has been on fire. It had a 15-game winning streak snapped by the Indiana Pacers before winning its next four, to total 19 wins in 20 games. The Cavs have continued to do all of this without the departed Kyrie Irving, or without his replacement Isaiah Thomas, who is still fighting a hip injury. The reason, if one is clear and honest, is none other than LeBron James, who has simply done everything on a team without any other real playmakers. James had a triple-double in Cleveland’s 109-100 victory over Utah with 29 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds. James is averaging 9.1 assists per game and no other Cavalier averages more than two (save Dwyane Wade, more on him later).
He also has tallied 28.1 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per night, making it clear there will be no decline, not yet, in his career. Kevin Love has done well as the team’s no. 2 option with 19.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and the team’s second-best PER behind James at 24.5. It is just that beyond James and Love, the rest of the Cavs have been disappointments—and the team is still winning games. That should spell just how good James is, given that Derrick Rose appears to have retired. Dwyane Wade is thriving as a sixth man with 11.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and four assists per game.
The Cavaliers are averaging 111.2 points per game and connecting on 12.3 threes per game while shooting 38.1 percent from behind the arc as a team. Kyle Korea is shooting 44.8 percent from downtown, but the biggest surprise may be James himself who is hitting two threes per game while shooting 40.7 percent from three-point range. The Cavs still need more from JR Smith, who is having the worst season of his NBA career. Smith is connecting on just 38 percent from the floor and 36 percent from three, while Iman Shumpert is struggling even worse at 38 percent and 28 percent, respectively. The Cavs have been great, but how much better will the team be when it adds Thomas’ 28 points per game and puts another real offensive weapon on the court for James to dish the ball to?The fact that Cleveland has been so dominant with its second-best player injured should be reason for alarm for the rest of the NBA.
The Washington Wizards are playing typical Washington ball. That is to say, decent, not bad, but hard to call anything other than mediocre. It is still a two-man team based on the talents of John Wall and Bradley Beal. Beal leads the team in scoring at 23.4 points per game, and he has been more consistent, but outside of that tandem and an emergent Otto Porter, there just is not much to suggest Washington will be anything but what it has been the last half-decade. Wall still needs more help.
The Wizards still have as strong starting-five and one of the league’s weakest benches. Washington continues to fulfill the low expectations and leap the bar of mediocrity, as the league’s perpetual middle-of-the-pack non-contender. The Wiz are a good matchup against Cleveland, but James and company are rolling and do not expect them to stumble unless Beal catches fire atomically.