Opening Game: Sunday, April 17 at 3 PM
Series Price: CLE -1693; DET +827
Game One Spread: CLE -10.5
Game One Total: 201
Betting odds c/o Bookmaker
The Cleveland Cavaliers secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs again this season, hoping to repeat last year’s Eastern Conference Championship as it hosts the Detroit Pistons in opening round play. The Cavs finished the season 57-25, 13 games ahead of the No. 8 seeded Pistons, and it is Cleveland who will be 10.5 point game 1 favorites as well as series favorites at -1693 odds on Bookmaker.
The Cavs finished the season 33-8 at home this year, but Cleveland lost three of its final four games in the regular season. Even so, Cleveland was able to hold off the Toronto Raptors to snag homecourt advantage throughout the first three rounds of the postseason. Not until the Cavs reach the NBA Finals, will it have to face playing a team with the homecourt edge. Cleveland was just 24-17 on the road this season, so that disadvantage may loom large if it faces either the San Antonio Spurs or Golden State Warriors in the Finals. Both teams were grossly dominant on their homecourts this season.
But first the Cavs must get there, and that means defeating a tough team coached by Stan Van Gundy. The Pistons closed the season as winners of four of its last six games, including a 112-110 victory over Cleveland in the season finale. The series finished knotted 2-2, but it is hard to know how much to read into that given that the Cavs were mailing in the season finale game.
LeBron James did not even play.
Detroit is a dangerous team, though, particularly since acquiring former Orlando Magic swingman Tobias Harris at the trade deadline. Harris averaged 16.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in 27 games as a Piston, starting 25 of those contests while playing 33 minutes a night. His role on Orlando had waned and Detroit seemed certain to plug him back into as a main artery in the offense.
Only Reggie Jackson boasts a higher scoring average, and it was Jackson’s emergence that made it so easy to part ways with Brandon Jennings (and Ersan Ilyasova) to acquire Harris. Jackson averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game this year while posting the second-highest PER of any Piston (19.6).
The Pistons main cog though is Andre Drummond. He averaged 16.2 points and a league-high 14.8 rebounds per game this season and is the one player who could consistently give the Cavs trouble. Though The Cavaliers have Timofey Mozgov, a strong defensive center, Drummond is considerably stronger than even Mozgov and should be able to have his way down on the blocks. The x-factor is fouling the Pistons big man as Drummond shoots just 36 percent from the free throw line. Cleveland may or may not get into the “hack a Drummond,” mode, but if the game is close and the Cavs need to make up some buckets, expect Drummond to be finding his way to the line with regularity.
The Cavs are still a team structured around its Big Three, even if it is unlikely to enter next season that way. LBJ averaged 25.3 points per game, while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love chipped in another 35 points per game. The Cavs still have other options outside its core, too, with J.R. Smith and Mo Williams both combining to average another 20.4 points per game. Tristan Thompson is one of the best reserve bigs in the league, and after the Cavs most likely part ways with Love he will become the starter his max-contract dictates he should be. For the team being, his eight points and nine rebounds off the bench only make the Cavs that much more difficult to encounter. Cleveland has more depth than most credit them with.
Bottom Line: Cavaliers in 5