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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 4:00 PM

They only play twice each season…and it’s currently a longshot to be a preview of the NBA Finals because Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have such a tough pathway in the Western Conference. So, be SURE you check out Sunday afternoon’s potential thriller when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the Cleveland Cavaliers visit the Oklahoma City Thunder at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC.

You’ll be watching some of the greatest athletes in the history of the league! But, fate has limited the number of times they run into each other. It was great that Miami and OKC met in a Finals back when LeBron’s talents were in South Beach. How many more times will this collection square off? Heck, Kevin Durant may be wearing another uniform next season. Sunday’s showcase game could be THE LAST TIME that the combo of Durant and Westbrook face LeBron!

That should have your attention. Let’s see what JIM HURLEY’S key handicapping stats have to say about the matchup…


Adjusted Offensive Efficiency

Cleveland: 106.9 per 100 possessions (#4 in the NBA)

Oklahoma City: 109.9 per 100 possessions (#2 in the NBA)

Obviously, with the great weaponry on hand, you know that we have elite offenses. These two plus the Warriors and Spurs know how to get points on the board in a very efficient manner. LeBron’s teams typically use the halfcourt game because it’s so hard to stop he and his teammates out of sets. OKC uses more pace, though they’re also a handful to stop. You have to hope the Thunder get impatient and force up bad shots.


Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

Cleveland: 100.9 per 100 possessions (#8 in the NBA)

Oklahoma City: 101.6 per 100 possessions (#9 in the NBA)

A bit of a concern because “defense wins championships” in this league…and neither has been playing championship caliber defense this season. Being in the top third is fine for coasting into the playoffs. It’s not enough once you’re in the playoffs. Cleveland is still favored to win the weaker East. Can they stop either Golden State or San Antonio in the Finals? Oklahoma City is a longshot to reach the Finals because they just don’t quite have enough in the much tougher West. Be sure you spend some time evaluating these defenses during the telecast. It will help you pick winners come playoff time.


Pace Ranking

Cleveland: #28

Oklahoma City: #9

Important difference here…because we have a fast host taking on a very slow visitor. Remember, there are only 30 teams in the NBA. Cleveland walks it up (outside of a few TD passes from Kevin Love) to take advantage of LeBron’s ability to score or draw fouls. Oklahoma City isn’t as fast as the racehorses any more…but they still like showing off their athleticism. Controlling pace will be the key to winning Sunday’s matchup. Cleveland will try to keep it slow. OKC will try to pull the Cavs out of their comfort zone. Anticipate this element properly, and you’ve probably got the pointspread winner.


Against the Spread

Cleveland: 23-27-3

Oklahoma City: 22-33

One of the most under-reported stories of the season is how poorly OKC has done against the spread. Friday night’s home loss to Indiana dropped them to 22-33 for the season, a very poor 40% mark. This is a good team…but an overrated team because they consistently can’t play to expectations. New head coach Billy Donovan is having some transitional issues from the college level with play calling and team defense. Most importantly, the team just isn’t playing like champions even though bettors want to believe they’re still in the hunt. Of course, Cleveland always has trouble covering spreads in volume because they’re priced like champions…while playing at a very slow pace. Tougher to win blowouts that way.

An interesting handicapping challenge because neither team has been a money-maker…but somebody’s going to GET THE MONEY on Sunday. Most likely forecast…that’s going to be JIM HURLEY and his clients! Whether this game qualifies for the Sunday selection slate or not, clients will be getting the BEST BETS on the board.

You can purchase the final word for Sunday right here at the website with your credit card. If you have any questions, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155 before the early games get started. Be sure to ask about “rest of the season” packages that take you through March Madness and/or the NBA Playoffs. The hoops schedule is going to be jam-packed for WEEKS now that the NBA All-Star Break is over.

Back to the colleges tomorrow here in the NOTEBOOK! Look for these big game previews from both the colleges and pros coming up over the next several days…

Monday: Virginia at Miami in the ACC

Tuesday-Wednesday: Villanova at Xavier Wednesday in the Big East

Thursday-Friday: Cleveland at Toronto Friday in the NBA (Eastern Finals preview?)

Saturday: North Carolina at Virginia in the ACC

Sunday-Monday: Kansas at Texas Monday in the Big 12

Big TV games every day…and BIG MONEY if you hook up with THE BIGGEST name in sports handicapping…JIM HURLEY!


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Jim Hurley on twitter @vsm_hurley

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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