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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 24, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Before the season started, many considered a battle between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers as a likely matchup for the NBA Championships. The Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks are trying to make everyone forget that. But, nobody’s going to forget the days on the schedule where Kevin Durant and LeBron James go head-to-head. The most it can happen is twice-a-season if they’re both healthy.

Both are healthy!

And, both the Thunder and Cavaliers are recently showing playoff form now that their lineups are where they want. Durant and Russell Westbrook have been back in the flow for several weeks after missing extended time with injuries. LeBron James took a few weeks off to rest his weary bones (officially listed as back and knee issues). His return IGNITED a rampage involving a few new Cavs players.

This could be a real thriller. And, the side story of “Dion Waiters was traded from Cleveland to OKC” could prove to be relevant from both straight up and ATS angles. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats have to say about the matchup. If you’d like to use these categories for your own day-to-day handicapping, they’re available at the league website as well as ESPN.


Offensive Efficiency

OK City: 101.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #20 in the NBA)

Cleveland: 106.6 per 100 possessions (ranked #7 in the NBA)

Oklahoma City’s offense is better than that NOW of course. Their numbers were hurt badly by the early-season absence of their stars. It’s possible though that Cleveland’s numbers are also better than that now as well. They’ve really clicked on this side of the floor since LeBron James came out of “chill mode” and J.R. Smith provide an additional scoring boost to the James-Kyrie Irving-Kevin Love triumvirate. A potential offensive showcase here is hidden by the full season stats.


Defensive Efficiency

OK City: 100.9 per 100 possessions (ranked #8 in the NBA)

Cleveland: 106.0 per 100 possessions (ranked #26 in the NBA)

Edge to Oklahoma City. And, even though Cleveland is better at rim protection with the acquisition of Timofey Mozgov, defense is still going to be a concern down the stretch and in the playoffs. Irving and Love are poor defenders. The aging James has to pick his spots. J.R. Smith? Funny! Cleveland’s defense should be top 20 by the end of the regular season, but will be a liability in playoff style matchups.


Pace Ranking

OK City: #10

Cleveland: #24

Oklahoma City likes to aggressively attack the basket. Cleveland hasn’t shown that tendency this season because LeBron prefers to pace himself. Remember how slow Miami was last year? Whoever controls the tempo will likely get a leg up in the head-to-head matchup. That’s usually the home team. Though…given how well the Cavs have been clicking, they have to avoid the temptation to run and shoot against this particular opponent. That would play right into Westbrook’s hands in particular.


Against the Spread

OK City: 21-22 (17-26 to the Under)

Cleveland: 18-26 (16-27-1 to the Under)

You can see how poorly the market dealt with early season scoring for these teams. Oklahoma City played a bunch of Unders without its best shooters. Cleveland’s tendency to play at slow paces and not pass the ball around intelligently hurt its potential production too. Pay attention to market totals moving forward to see if oddsmakers can reflect the new realities. The Cavs have surged to cover some spreads with their new lineup after being a sustained disappointment for a couple of months.

We don’t devote much NOTEBOOK coverage to the NBA at this time of year because readers have made it clear they prefer the road to March Madness. But, for TV showcase games like THIS, we’re going to be here for you pro basketball fans. Be aware that JIM HURLEY is all over the NBA on a nightly basis even when we’re mostly talking about the colleges. Wherever there’s a BIG, JUICY WINNER, we’re going to find it!

You can always purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-888-777-4155. Best time to call would be Sunday morning before the first games tip off, or Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Be sure to ask about including the Super Bowl with any longterm basketball package.

One more day of college basketball coverage (Big Monday!) before we jump whole hog into a week of Super Bowl discussion. Here’s this week’s schedule in the NOTEBOOK…representing our more intensive Super Bowl presence ever…

Monday: College Basketball Preview…#17 Texas at #8 Iowa State

Tuesday: Analysis of the Seattle Seahawks’ OFFENSE

Wednesday: Analysis of the Seattle Seahawks’ DEFENSE

Thursday: Analysis of the New England Patriots’ OFFENSE

Friday: Analysis of the New England Patriots’ DEFENSE

Saturday: Super Bowl preview with JIM HURLEY’S key indicators

Sunday: Super Bowl game day notes

Through the week, we’ll look over one of the best Super Bowl matchups in history from all the angles. And, we’ll be encouraging you to keep building your bankrolls with nightly basketball! We can only touch the tip of the iceberg here in the NOTEBOOK. All the COLD, HARD CASH waiting for you below the surface is within your grasp if you link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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