Cavaliers vs Raptors – NBA Pick for January 11th
The Oklahoma City Thunder barely showed up in Minnesota last night, as they fell to the Timberwolves and handed me my third consecutive defeat. The loss drops my season NBA picks record to 37-23-2 on the year.
The road has been rocky lately, as I’ve been burned by the Thunder and Cavs in two of my last three picks. Both teams got housed in Minny by the T’Wolves, so perhaps there’s a lesson to be learned there.
Thursday’s NBA betting slate looks quiet at first glance, as bettors only get four games on the docket. One of them – a fun duel between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers – gets started early with the contest going down in London.
That really gives me three outs here, so I’ll keep it simple and back the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James and company are not in great form (4-6 over their last 10 games) and just got embarrassed in Minnesota in their last game, while they also have to go to Canada to get a tough road win against the Toronto Raptors.
Despite all of that seemingly working against them, the oddsmakers (and I) still like them tonight. BetOnline offers the best spread (-3.5) you’ll find, as they’re favored thanks to Toronto almost certainly being without top point guard Kyle Lowry (back) and big man Serge Ibaka (suspension).
That makes DeMar DeRozan a one-man show and dramatically impacts Toronto’s odds of pulling out a win. The Raptors are tough on their home floor (14-2), but literally just lost at home to the Miami Heat in their last contest.
Could the Cavs hand the Raptors their second straight home loss? Let’s break this matchup down to find out:
Normally this would look like an awesome spot to roll with Toronto, either with the +3.5 spread (+4 elsewhere) or a fun +140 Moneyline (at 5Dimes). However, their normally efficient offense (5th in the NBA) and stingy defense (4th) take huge hits with the absence of Lowry and Ibaka.
Ibaka provides outside shooting and rebounding that Toronto will understandably miss, while he’s also a tenacious defender who can alter and block shots inside. He’s a key two-way component to this team and in his stead will be the young Pascal Siakam, who has impressed in brief duty, but is an obvious downgrade.
Lowry is the bigger loss and he’s been listed as doubtful to suit up after hurting his back and tailbone two games ago. He hasn’t officially been ruled out, but it’s not looking good:
Raptors haven't officially ruled him out, but it doesn't sound like Kyle Lowry (tailbone) will play vs Cavs tonight
— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 11, 2018
Delon Wright filled in admirably for Lowry in his last game and still gives Toronto a solid presence at the point, but these two absences create huge holes at both ends of the floor.
Offensively, DMR will be tasked with shouldering a huge scoring load, while the Raptors probably can’t hope to snuff out a dangerous Cleveland offense with their present roster.
That might be even more so the case with Isaiah Thomas being integrated in Cleveland’s offense. He’s still on a minutes cap and got ejected from his last game, but won’t be suspended. He’ll surely be looking to redeem himself, while providing a bigger impact on offense for the Cavs.
The same goes for everyone in Cleveland. The Cavs haven’t been very reliable (11-10) away from Ohio this year, but their last thrashing by the hands of the Timberwolves was inexcusable. King James will certainly come ready and odds are he’ll light a fire under a talented Cavs team that simply has to perform better.
It might start with big man Kevin Love, who turned up lifeless in his return to Minnesota. Love won’t have to deal with the harassment of Ibaka’s defense, which should allow for him to get open looks and also effectively clean the glass.
Overall, the value is obvious on both sides of this one.
Toronto is a really fun home underdog at 5Dimes tonight and they’ve obviously been insanely good on their home floor. Their elite play at home extends to the ATS data, as well. Toronto is a strong 22-17 overall against the spread, but a solid 9-7 ATS at home.
The Raptors have also shown well as underdogs (6-3 ATS), but that’s a small sample size and this is actually their first game of the year where they’re picked to lose at home.
In any other setting, I’d probably listen to that data and consider backing the Raptors. After all, the Cavs have been shockingly horrendous (5-26-1) ATS as favorites this year and a disastrous 2-11 against the spread when favored on the road.
The good news is Cleveland does answer the call when favored usually. They struggle ATS and have difficulty on the road, but when favored, the Cavs have gone a very strong 21-11 on the year, overall.
I hate the ATS data here and I have respect for Toronto on their home court, even if they’re down two very key bodies. Because of that, I won’t pick against the spread.
That being said, this is a series Cleveland has dominated for some time (3-1 last year, 8-2 in last two playoff series) and they badly need to put their last debacle behind them.
The Cavs are too good to keep playing this poorly and they’re being handed a perfect chance to get a big road win against a good team with Lowry and Ibaka sidelined.
As long as Lowry stays out, I like the Cavs to snap back and get this win tonight. The good news is you’re not losing much value (-150 at BetOnline) by betting on the Moneyline and you’re assuming less risk.
You can consider Toronto to beat the spread at sites with fatter lines, but a straight up pick favoring Cleveland still feels like the best bet on the board.