Game: Cleveland Cavaliers @ Charlotte Hornets
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Odds: Cavaliers +4.5, Hornets -4.5
If there were two big surprises in the NBA this season, they would probably be Cleveland and Charlotte. The Cavs are 31-21 and currently fifth in the Eastern Conference. They are just 1.5 games out of first place though. The Hornets are 28-24 and in eighth place, just 4.5 games back. Charlotte is the highest-scoring team in the NBA while Cleveland is the NBA’s best defense. Which one prevails tonight?
Also surprising is the fact that both teams are among the best against the spread. Cleveland is 30-19-3 ATS and Charlotte is 31-21 ATS. The Hornets have been good for bettors at home this season going 15-7 ATS at the Spectrum Center and against teams in the East Charlotte is 21-10 ATS. Bettors love backing the Cavs as underdogs this season. Only Miami (72.2%) has a higher cover percentage as an underdog than Cleveland (69.2%, 18-8-1 ATS). The Cavaliers are especially strong as a road underdog where they are 11-5-1 ATS.
The issue for the Cavs tonight is the status of guard Darius Garland. Cleveland’s leading scorer (19.8 ppg) has missed the last two games with a back injury and is most likely out tonight. Garland is an important piece of the Cleveland offense. With him on the floor, Cleveland’s offensive rating is 114.0. Without Garland, the Cavs offensive rating drops to 106.5 which is the same as Houston. The Rockets are ranked 27th in offensive rating to give you some perspective.
Cleveland has lost three straight road games, including Wednesday night’s 115-104 defeat to the Rockets. Ironically, the Cavs also gave up 115 points in a loss at Detroit on Sunday. Those are the highest point totals allowed in Cleveland’s last six games. In the other four, the Cavaliers held opponents to 99 points or less. Not surprisingly, those four games were all victories for Cleveland.
Charlotte has lost two straight to the Clippers and Celtics. The Hornets didn’t come close to their 114.3 points per game average in either defeat. That comes after having put up 158 points in a win over Indiana just last week. As prolific as the Hornets are this season, bettors backing the Over haven’t done all that well. The Over is just 26-25-1 in Hornets games this season.
The Cavaliers trend toward the Under, of course. The Over/Under is 20-31-1 in Cavs’ games this season. Remember, Cleveland gives up just 102.5 points per game. The Cavs rarely see totals higher than 218. In games with a total of 218 or higher this season, the O/U is 5-10.
Charlotte doesn’t see too many totals less than 218. In fact, they have only seen one since December 15. The total has gone Under in 14 of Charlotte’s last 20 games and in five of the last six Cavs-Hornets matchups. Without Garland in the lineup, Cleveland has managed just 93 and 104 points in its last two games.