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Free Sports Picks: Indiana Hosts Cavaliers, Look to Force Game 7

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Oskeim Sports previews Game 6 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers and provides two free sports picks for Friday, April 27.  Oskeim recommends taking the Pacers as one of his free sports picks.

Postseason fatigue could be a significant issue for LeBron James as his team lands in Indiana for Game 6. Indeed, James led the league in minutes per game (37.2) for the first time since 2006-07 when he was just 22 years old.

“Fatigue is real and, once you hit it, it’s hard to dig yourself out of that hole,” said Steve Magness, an elite performance coach and exercise physiologist.

As a series progresses, teams grow familiar with one another and coaching staffs make defensive adjustments and find matchups to exploit. Fatigue quickly follows, which is a significant concern for the league’s best player. Since 2004, the UNDER in Games 6 and 7 of an NBA playoff series has gone 89-62, a 58.9 percent winning proposition.

That long-term trend supports the theory that players are forced to work harder at the offensive end of the floor in the latter stages of a series, leading to greater fatigue. Consider what James had to do in Game 5 – finishing with a 44-10-18 on 14-of-24 shooting from the field.

James is once again carrying his team’s burden in the playoffs but this postseason could be different in light of his league-high workload during the regular season.

Postseason experience (or lack thereof) also poses an issue for the Cavaliers. If Cleveland wants to become the fifth team in NBA history to make five straight NBA Finals, it will have to rely on three players acquired at the trade deadline who have limited to no playoff experience.

Indiana won three of the 4 meetings with the Cavaliers this season behind guards Victor Oladipo and Darren Collison. Oladipo finished the regular season averaging 25 points on 47.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc.

Collison led the league in three-point percentage shooting with a remarkable 46.8 percent mark during the regular season. In the first four games of this playoff series, the Pacers made 13.2 three-pointers per 100 possessions, which would have been good for second-most in the league during the regular season.

Indiana’s success from beyond the arc in this series highlights the Cavaliers’ subpar defense. First, the Pacers were ranked 25th in three-pointers made per 100 possessions during the regular season so the fact that they are averaging over 13 per 100 possessions in this series speaks volumes.

Second, the Cavaliers owned a 109.8 Defensive Rating prior to their trade deadline deals. Cleveland has posted a 109.0 Defensive Rating subsequent to the trades so the idea that the Cavaliers have suddenly become a better defensive team is a mere fallacy.

Prior to this series, Cleveland’s newer five-man lineups allowed 112.5 points per 100 possessions and a 54.1% effective field goal rate. After taking into account the improved production of these same lineups, the Cavaliers have outscored opponents by just 3.0 points per 100 possessions.

Let’s also note that Cleveland has allowed 5.6 more points per 100 possessions with James on the floor compared to when he is on the bench, which is far worse than his career on/off net differential of double-digits. Shooting variance has hurt the Pacers in this series as Oladipo is shooting 31 percent from the field and 22 percent from beyond the arc over the last four games.

Moreover, Collison, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis are 6-of-24 on spot-up shots in this series, with Oladipo making just 2-of-11 on those attempts. From a technical standpoint, Indiana is 10-2 ATS in its last twelve games versus teams with a winning record, 7-0 ATS in its previous seven games following a loss and 7-3 ATS in its last ten games with one day of rest.

With Cleveland standing at 1-4 ATS in its last five games off a win and 6-14 ATS in its last 20 road affairs against foes with a winning home mark, take the Pacers in Game 6 as one of Oskeim’s Free Sports Picks.

Totals Alert: Since 2005, the UNDER is 569-543-17 in NBA playoff games. The first five games in this series have all landed UNDER the total, by an average of 18.3 points per game. Since 2004, the UNDER in Games 6 and 7 of an NBA playoff series has gone 89-62, a 58.9 percent winning proposition.

Oskeim’s Free Sports Picks for Friday, April 27:

  • Indiana Pacers (-1) (-110) over Cleveland Cavaliers
  • Cleveland Cavaliers/Indiana Pacers UNDER 204 points