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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 7:00 PM

You know this was a game that the NBA wanted to use as a November showcase….the defending World Champion San Antonio Spurs visiting the Cleveland Cavaliers early in LeBron James’ return season…on ESPN…and the Spurs aren’t scheduled in a back-to-back!

Sorry, Greg Popovich…you can’t ruin everything by resting your veteran stars in a fatigue situation. There is no fatigue situation! Barring injury news between the time we right this and game time…we’re going to see two important teams squaring off with about as much as intensity as you can have this early in the season.

Is it a preview of the 2014-15 NBA Finals? That’s a fairly soft maybe right now. San Antonio is in a killer conference that has several worthy candidates. If everyone’s at full strength, the Spurs still deserve the nod based on what they showed last summer. An injury to any of their key contributors could be enough to help launch somebody else to the championship round. For Cleveland, things seem even shakier at the moment:

*There’s no DEFENSE, and defense wins championships! (Even if you’re just talking about an Eastern Conference championship).

*There’s no DEPTH, which means LeBron James is having to do way too much on his own already. No way this team is fresh for the postseason the way things are going now.

*The EAST is DEEPER, which means a few teams are likely to be better suited than the Cavs to run through the brackets unless Cleveland makes some high impact personnel decisions that divide up the workload more favorably.

This huge Wednesday meeting will give us a chance to study both teams. Let’s see how they’ve been performing so far in JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats that can be found for all teams in the stat section at ESPN’s website.


Offensive Efficiency

San Antonio: 99.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #23 in the NBA)

Cleveland: 110.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #2 in the NBA)

Cleveland has great offensive weaponry, that could turn into something historically special if they can every figure out how to complement each other. It’s been very difficult getting James, Kevin Love, and Kyrie Irving all playing well at the same time. They’re all possession finishers. Neither is very good at standing around while somebody else controls the ball. Even with that, they’re grading out well in this stat. San Antonio has sputtered too often out of the gate, perhaps having trouble getting motivated for the new season. We know they’re almost unstoppable when all the parts are clicking.


Defensive Efficiency

San Antonio: 98.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #5 in the NBA)

Cleveland: 108.3 per 100 possessions (ranked #26 in the NBA)

Cleveland’s defense has been a pathetic joke, even though they haven’t faced a lot of strong offenses. They made the struggling Knicks look sharp in their season opener. They made the 2014 Celtics look like Bob Cousy’s or Larry Bird’s bunch this past Friday Night. It’s scary to think what Cleveland’s defense would have done against last year’s playoff version of the Spurs.


Pace Ranking

San Antonio: #22

Cleveland: #20

Cleveland has mostly been slow as molasses this season, trying to score out of the halfcourt. They ran like crazy in Boston the other night…only to find themselves needing a miraculous fourth quarter to steal a victory. Perhaps they’ll keep experimenting with pace. But, teams who lack depth shouldn’t run, or they’ll just kill their own legs. Probably a halfcourt game here unless a coach tries to get cute. Note that Cleveland has been trending faster than #20 would suggest. They were down at the bottom of the league before this past weekend.


Against the Spread

San Antonio: 3-6 ATS

Cleveland: 4-4 ATS

Cleveland’s generally been overpriced, but has the ability to play to their price when LeBron has big games (or they hit 19 treys in a game!). San Antonio was very slow out of the gate…seemingly having read too many press clippings about how they had “solved” basketball in last year’s playoffs. Their early season opponents disagreed! Well, until that statement win at Golden State that reminded everyone of what the Spurs are capable of.

There’s an 11-game NBA card Wednesday, plus some interesting college basketball matchups. So, there’s no guarantee at press time that Spurs/Cavs will be in NETWORK’S selection mix. JIM HURLEY doesn’t force plays just because they’re on TV! You can purchase the final word during the day Wednesday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours.

It’s back to football tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK when we preview Kansas City/Oakland in the NFL. Friday and Saturday are reserved for the highest profile college football games. Prime time pro football coverage resumes Sunday and Monday with the matchups on NBC and ESPN.

Amazing week in the world of sports, with so many high profile teams playing important games. When champions are in action…you need to hook up with WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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