NBA: Cleveland halfway to perfection, Orlando up next

NBA: Cleveland halfway to perfection, Orlando up next

It's easy to forget about the Cavaliers these days, since they've gotten less air time than Kevin Garnett lately. Denver has received a great a lot of love for playing so well to close the season and in the playoffs, that Cleveland has been taken for gran


2009-05-21

It's easy to forget about the Cavaliers these days, since they've gotten less air time than Kevin Garnett lately. Denver has received a great a lot of love for playing so well to close the season and in the playoffs, that Cleveland has been taken for granted since they have only played eight games in the last 32 days. However, that changes starting Wednesday and they will place their 8-0 postseason record on the line against Orlando. Cleveland is a hefty 8.5-point favorite and backed by nearly 2/3 of bettors on the BETTING TRENDS page.

How about a quick refresher on LeBron James and the Cavs, shall we. Cleveland was the best defensive team in the NBA holding teams to 91.4 points per game during the regular season. They went and improved on that figure in the NBA Playoffs, holding Detroit and Atlanta to 78.1 PPG. While some may argue the Pistons had already quit and the Hawks were too injured to compete, coach Mike Anderson sent his guys out and they've won by 15.8 PPG and registered 7-0-1 ATS record.
Can Orlando derail the James Gang and not only win a game or two but win the series?

Yes they can, but it will take a little magic and playing like they have in closeout games in the postseason to do so.
Start with the Cavs have to be rusty. They haven't played since May 11; does it take one, two, three or all four quarters for Cleveland to get back in sync? This is Orlando's golden opportunity to take charge and they are 15-6 ATS as an underdog this season, with average score dead even.

On defense, coach Stan Van Gundy's best strategy would be to play sagging man up. James is at his best when he has the ball and is creating. Whether it is driving for thunderous dunks or being attacked by defenders, leaving open jump shots for plethora of Cleveland long range shooters, James can be lethal. Give James distance to operate, just cut off lanes to basket and stay within a step of Cavs shooters to contest. If LeBron makes 10 jump shots from 15 or more feet, the Magic lose, but at least force the weakest aspect of his game. When James takes flight for the rim, Dwight Howard will be waiting, that gets interesting.
On offense, spacing and shooting are what Orlando has to work. The offense should resemble Duke's 4-1 approach. Let Howard work the paint, but have all other players start offense three feet out further to prevent Cleveland's sagging man to man from being as effective, especially on weakside. This gives Hedo Turkoglu more room working off screens to drive and be triple threat player and keeps Howard freer to work against slow-footed Zydrunas Ilgauskas and smallish Ben Wallace, who lacks quickness today to overcome shortcomings.

Van Gundy has to wise up and get Courtney Lee on the floor, especially when Wally Szczerbiak is on the floor at guard. Lee has shown the last two months a proclivity to get to the rim and wobbly Wally should be no match to guard Lee one on one and could draw fouls on Cavs big men trying to play help. The Magic continue to thrive on the road at 31-17 (30-18 ATS) and are 31-13 ATS after a game where they made 12 or more three point shots, like they did to Boston.

This all sounds good IF (note large letters) Orlando executes, which they have been far from clean in doing so in the playoffs. Cleveland is as good as record states in having the best numbers in the NBA. If you dismiss Game 82 of the regular season (Cleveland did), the Cavaliers would be on 13-0 and 11-1-1 ATS since Apr. 4, that is serious hoops friends.

Cleveland has to make offensively challenged Howard work for points and limit him to 12-15 boards and three or less rebounds on offensive glass. It says here Turkoglu will likely get his points, instead, work on Rashard Lewis and make him crack. Coach Anderson has enough players to shake down Lewis mentally and they can pester Rafer Alston into bad shots and turnovers. Keep Mickael Pietrus in check and that -800 series wager at Sportsbook.com is less imposing, though difficult to swallow.

The opener has Cavs as nine-point pick with total of 184.5. Cleveland is 30-14 ATS as a home favorite this season and 16-4 ATS when playing four or less games in 10 days. They are 12-4 ATS at Quicken Loans Arena after five straight games allowing a shooting percentage of 42 percent or less and 39-22 UNDER versus teams outscoring their opponents by six points a game in the second half of the year.

Orlando comes in 21-8 ATS versus good shooting teams, making 46 percent or more of their shots and is 19-10 UNDER off a road win this season. The Magic must play extremely intelligent and take advantage of almost every situation presented to them. Orlando starts the series with 2-1 edge this season over Cleveland with three covers. In fact the Magic is 5-0 ATS over the Cavs.

TNT has the East Finals starting at 8:35 Eastern with the top exact series wager, Cleveland in five.

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