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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at 7:00 PM

There’s been a lot of debate about how important the absence of Kevin Love will be in the second round Eastern Conference Playoff series matching the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. Some pundits are suggesting that Chicago should be a series favorite (even a heavy series favorite) because the Cavs don’t have the depth to deal with an injury to a star. The market isn’t buying that at all, with Cleveland priced basically as the Floyd Mayweather to Chicago’s Manny Pacquiao.

Honestly, nobody really knows for sure how the loss of Love is going to impact this series. Under consideration:

*Quant types considered Love to be one of the most valuable players in the whole NBA during his time in Minnesota. Stats suggested he was a super-duper-star. You subtract that kind of guy from a lineup, and it’s going to be worth a few points in the Vegas line.

*On the other hand, in CLEVELAND, Love came nowhere near superstar production. He was often relegated to the arc while either LeBron James or Kyrie Irving ran the show. If Love was open for a trey…he was asked to hit a trey. It’s not all that hard to replace THAT from a lineup! It’s not like he was a defensive influence. Cleveland lost a role player in terms of “crunch time” basketball. Maybe the line shouldn’t adjust much at all!

So, we have the people who think Love is a superstar on one side of the argument…and the people that watched Cleveland closely this year on the other. We will say that the problem with assuming there won’t be much impact misses the angle that Cleveland now has no margin for error. They entered the postseason with a poor bench. No room now for additional injuries or even foul trouble in big games.

Let’s run through JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for these teams from the regular season. That will provide some additional context for the matchup…


Offensive Efficiency

Chicago: 104.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #10 in the NBA)

Cleveland: 107.7 per 100 possessions (ranked #4 in the NBA)

Cleveland is very tough to stop in the halfcourt game. That makes them extremely efficient. Fast break points are gravy. They were closer to #1 if you only focus on the games where LeBron was healthy and the team was trying. Chicago was better than realized this season. Many still think of them as a defense-first team with a lousy offense. More weaponry this year than in the past. And, Derrick Rose does have nights where he looks like his old self. Edge to Cleveland until we see how the loss of Love hurts scoring.


Defensive Efficiency

Chicago: 101.5 per 100 possessions (ranked #11 in the NBA)

Cleveland: 104.1 per 100 possessions (ranked #20 in the NBA)

Chicago’s defensive isn’t even all that great any more! They couldn’t register in the top 10 this year on a per-possession basis. Let that register for a second…Chicago graded out better on offense this year than on defense when you adjust for pace. Pau Gasol still has some issues down low. Can’t help that the head coach plays everybody until their legs are gone. Of course, Cleveland’s defense plays with dead legs even when fresh! LeBron James will likely intensify his effort at key moments of the game. But, Irving can’t defend…and the team as a whole has some issues. Trading for some inside defense did help matters. They were even worse in the first part of the season. Edge to Chicago on this side of the floor…but it’s not likely to feel like a “defensive” series most of the time. We’ll see a lot of easy points as inside defenders try to avoid foul trouble.


Pace Ranking

Chicago: #20

Cleveland: #25

LeBron prefers to run a halfcourt offense where he’s the focal point. That’s usually extremely efficient, so nobody’s going to argue with him. Chicago is a touch faster than Cleveland, but slower than average. We’re going to have a unique framework here of a relatively slow-paced series featuring non-elite defenses. Very tricky for handicappers trying to pick the Over/Unders.


Against the Spread

Chicago: 39-43

Cleveland: 39-43

Both were generally overrated by the markets this year. Cleveland was actually underrated for a long stretch after the trades. But, Love’s injury may prevent the team from reaching that level of production often. No edge to be found here. Be sure you monitor proceedings to see if one develops. It’s certainly possible that the market is underrating the impact of Love’s absence. Of the two, Cleveland is more likely to be overrated going forward.


Monday’s Game One Line: Cleveland by 5, total of 194.5

Home court advantage is usually worth about 3 points in the NBA Playoffs (in recent years anyway). Normally, that would mean Cleveland was 2 points better in neutral court Power Ratings. But, you get the sense that the market is giving the Cavs credit for a big advantage in rest. They swept Boston…while Chicago had a surprisingly tough time with Milwaukee. The market sees Cleveland as the slightly superior team at the moment even without Love. Let’s see what the coming reality does to change those perceptions (if anything).

JIM HURLEY had plenty of times to map out his plans for this series because Cleveland and Chicago were such heavy series favorites in the first round. Now that Game One is finally here…you know he’s going to have something special. You can purchase BEST BETS for both Monday games (this one plus LA Clippers/Houston) right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions about extended service, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

We’re already run JIM HURLEY’S key indicator stats for Memphis/Golden State and now Chicago/Cleveland. We’ll do that for the other two second round series on the next two nights…then we’ll make sure we stay in touch with all four matchups through the week. Here’s the upcoming NOTEBOOK schedule…

Tuesday: Washington at Atlanta series notes (and Game One Stats)

Wednesday: LA Clippers at Houston series notes (and Game One Stats)

Thursday: MLB Notes (no basketball on the schedule)

Friday: Cleveland at Chicago Game Three Preview

Saturday: Golden State at Memphis Game Three Preview

Sunday: Houston at LA Clippers Game Four Preview

Monday: Atlanta at Washington Game Four Preview

Plenty of great NBA Playoff action still ahead as we work our way to crowning a champion. In Las Vegas betting terms…THE WINNING IS JUST BEGINNING!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

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