NBA Betting on ESPN: Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

Kyrie Irving will lead the charge with LeBron on the shelf for a week.
Kyrie Irving will lead the charge with LeBron on the shelf for a week.

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors
Time: 10:35 PM ET
Spread: GSW -12.5
Total: 207

Betting odds courtesy of Bovada

LeBron James is sitting out for one week according to Jonathan Fiegan of the Houston Chronicle, but the Cleveland Cavaliers will do its best to take on a very tough Golden State Warriors team at the Oracle, one of the toughest arenas to play in.

The Warriors are 28-5 this season and will be 12.5 point favorites against Kyrie Irving and company according to NBA oddsmakers at Bovada.

With LBJ sidelined, Irving will absorb most of the load offensively. The one and done Duke product is posting 21 points and 5.1 assists per game this season, while performing efficiently enough to warrant a 19.7 PER.

It hasn’t been enough to allow the Cavs to thrive though, and Kevin Love is partly to blame. The once unstoppable rebounding machine has been very mediocre this year. He’s averaging just 17.7 points and 10.4 boards per game, and is hardly the 20/20 machine he was at times during his tenure as a Minnesota Timberwolf. Love must improve his play to give the Cavs a legitimate ‘Big 3,” which is what it will need to contend with any of the tough teams in the West, should Cleveland make it out of the East, to begin with.

The Cavs parted ways with Dion Waiters this week, replacing him with the ever-underachieving, moronic J.R. Smith. Smith said he embraces the role of taking as many bad shots as he can manage, essentially, by stating he planned to launch it up with James there to dish him the ball. As to whether Smith improves the Cavs chances in the East at all is rather dubious, but Waiters was under-performing in his own right, scoring just 10 points per game with his playing time reduced to a paltry 23 minutes per game.

In the post, the Cavs have been rather weak. Anderson Varejao still can’t play big minutes following the blood clot in his lungs, and Tristan Thompson, for all his skill, typically looks a little confused on the court. The Cavs have no other premier options on the interior, and Shawn Marion has devolved in the way most assumed he would following the loss of his once-impressive athleticism.

The Cavs are still a team mostly reliant on James, though, and with him sidelined it’s easy to see why the team is a double-digit underdog to a tough team like the Warriors.

The Warriors lead the Pacific Division and got 40 points from Klay Thompson Wednesday night in its victory over the Indiana Pacers. Thompson could potentially have an equally devastating impact on the Cavs tonight. Smith is not known as a good defender at the 2-guard spot, and Thompson heats up quickly. Expect the Warriors to exploit Smith’s often lackadaisical defense.

Irving and Stephen Curry could be a battle worth watching. Curry is far and away the better point guard, but both will push the pace and it should be an intense one-on-one battle. Both Irving and Curry are better offensive players than they are defensive players, so they will induce nightmares on the other when the ball is in their hands.

Curry is averaging 22.9 points per game and eight assists, while posting one of the highest PERs in recent point guard history (27.0). The gunner knocks down 39.2 percent of his threes, often contested, as he hoists 7.6 per game. His backcourt mate Thompson hits 44 percent while knocking down three a game. Together, the backcourt tandem averages 44.5 points per game, accounting for 40 percent of Golden State’s 109 points per game.

Given the dominance of the Warriors’ backcourt, it will only make things easier on Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala to exploit the Cavs weak interior ‘D.’ As the Cavs continually enter the penalty, the foul trouble will be problematic in the frontcourt, as will be the penalty free throws that result from it. Thus, do not be surprised if the Warriors cover and make this one an utter 20-plus point blowout.

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