Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, November 3, 2014 at 8:00 PM
It was assumed before the season started that LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to be the best team in the Eastern Conference. But, how would they stack up if they had to play in the West? Are the Cavs truly one of the best teams in the whole league? Or, just the watered down Eastern Conference?
Our first glimpse at the answer to that question comes Tuesday Night when the Cavs visit the Portland Trailblazers in a game that will be televised nationally by the NBA Network. Portland was a solid playoff team last season (before running into the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs), and will provide a great early litmus test for LeBron’s new team.
After a surprising debacle on opening night against the Knicks, Cleveland did pass its first Eastern Conference litmus test on the road at Chicago the next night. Did they finally figure out how to play after being too lax in their opener? Or, is Chicago destined to be a disappointment too!
It’s a bit early in the season to place too much weight on JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for basketball. But…both the Cavs and Blazers have played legitimate schedules that will provide some insight. So, let’s see what the numbers are showing through two games for Cleveland, and three for Portland.
Cleveland: 103.4 per 100 possessions (ranked #14 in the NBA)
Portland: 101.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #18 in the NBA)
Some respected pundits thought Cleveland would have a chance to make history with this year’s offense. There’s still time for that. But, the early returns are that there will be a learning curve before LeBron and Love can figure out how to blend in with Kyrie Irving and other Cavs who were in the rotation last season. Cleveland should be getting better. It is a stunner that they’ve only been league average out of the gate. Portland has been a bit worse themselves. They don’t have LeBron James!
Cleveland: 105.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #22 in the NBA)
Portland: 100.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #9 in the NBA)
There were a lot of concerns about Cleveland’s defense entering the season. LeBron has been showing signs of wear and tear on that side of the ball. Love is notorious for being soft inside. Irving can’t guard anybody! Through two games, those concerns are justified. Cleveland couldn’t stop a New York team that’s still in the early stages of learning the triangle offense. They let Derrick Rose do whatever he wanted until he sprained his ankle. Portland has defended well thus far, and will have the stronger of the two defenses Tuesday Night.
Expect a slow game. Cleveland only runs when Love can throw a touchdown pass on an outlet. Plus, the Cavs are in night one of a back-to-back and don’t want to wear themselves out with Utah on deck. Portland prefers to work the ball around for good shots themselves. This is going to be a halfcourt game unless Love unleashes several Hail Mary’s that connect.
Against the Spread
Cleveland: 1-1 (failed vs. NY, covered at Chicago)
Portland: 1-2 (covered vs. OKC, failed at Sacramento and vs. G-State)
Extremes for the Cavs, and disappointment for Blazers backers. Portland beat shorthanded Oklahoma City, but was clearly outmatched by Sacramento (bit surprise) and Golden State (not so much, as GS has been priced like champions so far. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the market to pin down the current level of play for both squads.
JIM HURLEY will get his clients on the best Tuesday Night options from the NBA and college football (two MAC games on the card!). You can always his BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about combination packages that include football and basketball.
More basketball on deck tomorrow, as we preview what’s become a very intense Western Conference rivalry!
Tuesday: NBA Preview…Cleveland at Portland
Wednesday: NBA Preview…LA Clippers at Golden State on ESPN
Thursday: NFL Preview…Cleveland at Cincinnati
Friday: College Football Preview…a few potential blockbusters to choose from
Saturday: College Football Preview…most likely Ohio State at Michigan State in the Big 10
Sunday: NFL Preview…Chicago at Green Bay
Monday: NFL Preview: Carolina at Philadelphia
Here in the NOTEBOOK, we’ll be monitoring LeBron James and the Cavs closely along with all the excitement from college football and the NFL. He’s the best in basketball…but THE BIGGEST NAME in SPORTS HANDICAPPING will always be JIM HURLEY!
Be sure to follow:
Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley
Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters