Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 11:00 AM
Many in the sports world were shocked Tuesday night when LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers upset the Toronto Raptors to win Game One of their second round Eastern Conference series. Now, James and his teams have been winning playoff games forever. It’s not the victory that was a shock…but rather the inability for up-and-coming challengers to maintain their composure when it’s time to take the torch.
Toronto had double digit leads on multiple occasions, and never actually trailed in regulation. Yet, the Raptors clearly shrunk in the moment, seemingly TERRIFIED of having to execute when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Whether you love LeBron or hate him, you have to admit that he doesn’t shy away from the moment. Yes, when he was younger, and battling injuries, the execution might not have been there. His teams keep making the finals…and those rosters weren’t championship material without him. He’s not afraid of high pressure situations.
Toronto? What a choke job! Have you ever seen so many crunch time possessions where nobody on a high quality team wanted to be “the guy” to take the shot? How can you run out of timeouts because you don’t know what to do against a poor opposing defense? The plan of attack is to hope somebody gets an offensive rebound and a put back?
Toronto was not ready to win, even as a 7-point favorite on its home floor…as a rested #1 seed hosting what should have been a very tired #4 seed. A win was served on a silver platter. The Raptors dropped the platter, slipped on the food, and fell flat on their backs.
The same thing happened the night before to Philadelphia. The young Sixers had become virtual co-favorites in the East with Toronto thanks to a very impressive stretch late in the regular season and vs. Miami in the first round. But, when it was time to execute against a good opponent in a high-pressure situation, the Philly youngsters kept forcing up bad shots. It wasn’t a choke job because Philly didn’t blow a late lead. Still, a clear lack of maturity and knowing how to perform under stress.
Even though this isn’t a vintage Cleveland Cavaliers squad in the wake of the Kyrie Irving trade (where a high impact star was traded for parts that didn’t fit the machine), LeBron James could STILL find himself in the league finals because he knows what to do late in close games while teams like Toronto and Philadelphia are still learning.
*Cleveland was a series underdog to Toronto, returning anywhere from +160 to +200 depending on when you bet, but now has home court advantage against a shell-shocked unit that shrivels under pressure. Las Vegas sports books have now made Cleveland a slight in-series favorite to advance (odds centering around -130, with the Raptors at +110 down a game).
*Cleveland would have been a series underdog to Philadelphia, with the Sixers having earned home court advantage in that hypothetical matchup. Now, the Sixers aren’t a sure thing to reach the Eastern finals…and the Cavs would have a “late-game poise” edge in that matchup as well.
*Cleveland might be a market toss-up with Boston, or a slight favorite. Oddsmakers would have to adjust their reads on both teams if each advances. It’s a good matchup for the Cavs because LeBron would be the most dynamic offensive threat on the floor by a mile in that possible series.
JIM HURLEY isn’t ready to pencil in the Cavs for the league Finals just yet. But, he is paying very close attention to what’s happening on the fly in the East. The market just missed Game One scoreboard results by 20 and 8 points. And, those results were caused by favorites freezing. The stats don’t matter…the trends don’t matter…game plans don’t even matter if favorites have that much fear in their eyes in crunch time.
You can bet NETWORK’S on-site sources and scouts will be watching practice and media sessions very closely this week. What’s learned there will guide be factored into our computer simulation software to create the most accurate projections anywhere. For JIM HURLEY and his clients, that means BIG, JUICY WINNERS!
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LeBron James is certainly the best player of the current era, and can make a very good case for being the best player of all time. There’s no debate in the world of sports handicapping. JIM HURLEY IS THE BEST OF ALL TIME! Still at the top of his game three decades in…still representing the cutting edge of market analysis and investment success.
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