The 24-7 Cleveland Cavaliers visit the 19-14 Charlotte Hornets tonight in a matchup between two of the Eastern Conference’s top four seeds (7:05 p.m. ET Saturday). It should be a good battle that pits Cleveland’s fourth-ranked offense against Charlotte’s fifth-ranked defense.
This is the third game of the season between the Cavaliers and Hornets. Cleveland won the first two contests by seven and 11 points, respectively, but both of those contests took place in Cleveland. The Hornets will get a chance to prove how playing at home affects their ability to beat the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions.
Here we preview this NBA game, highlighting some of the main influences on the outcome, and conclude with our predictions and betting picks.
Can Kevin Love Get Clean Looks Against Charlotte’s Tough Defense?
Kevin Love (pictured) is finally realizing his potential in his third season with the Cavs. He has upped his scoring average six points since last year and has been considerably more efficient shooting the ball.
That said, Love has been much more effective on offense in Cleveland wins than losses. The veteran power forward is averaging 26.2 points per 36 minutes with a 62.7 true-shooting percentage in wins, and just 20.7 points per 36 minutes with a 55.5 true-shooting percentage in losses.
He has been reasonably effective in the first two matchups versus Charlotte (17 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 22 points on 7-of-12 shooting), but Marvin Williams is a very strong defender and won’t make things easy for Love. He’s the type of versatile defender who can close out well on Love’s outside shots while also capably contesting his looks inside.
If Love is inefficient or hardly gets involved in the offense, the Hornets will have a good chance at the upset tonight. Though this preview needs to weight up all considerations before siding with that likelihood for our betting picks’ predictions.
Will Nicolas Batum Keep Up His Jack-of-All-Trades Play?
One of the biggest strengths of the Cavaliers’ current rotation is its wing defense. DeAndre Liggins, LeBron James and Iman Shumpert can all lock their men down on the perimeter.
The trio will meet their match in the Hornets’ Nicolas Batum, who is on a hot streak despite a cold shooting start to his season. In his last five games, Batum is averaging 20.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 8.2 assists and 1.8 steals per contest on a 62.7 true-shooting percentage.
It helps Charlotte point guard Kemba Walker when Batum can ease his burden by making plays as a secondary playmaker. Having both of those guys as big offensive threats also makes the Hornets’ offense less predictable and more dynamic.
That elite stat line Batum has accumulated over the past five games has, admittedly, come against five teams that are .500 or under. With the Cavaliers’ strength defending the perimeter, the French swingman have to play really well to keep up his hot streak.
How Well Do the Hornets Execute Their Defensive Strategy?
It has become common knowledge that the most efficient shots in the NBA are shots within a few feet of the rim, three-pointers and free throws. When defending, squads want to keep those shots to a minimum, which is a lot harder in practice than in theory.
Charlotte has, therefore, elected to focus more on limiting opponents’ points near the hoop and the free throws that come from those attempts. The Hornets’ opponents shoot the seventh-fewest shots per game within five feet and shoot the fourth-worst percentage in the league from that range. Hornets opponents also take the fewest free-throw attempts in the NBA, but they also attempt the third-most three-pointers.
That strategy will be put to the test against the three-point happy Cavaliers. Cleveland makes the second-most three-pointers in the NBA and gets more than one-third of its offense from that range.
Can Charlotte adjust this strategy to be a little bit more aggressive running the Cavs off the three-point line? If not, Cleveland might go nuts from the outside.
Our Preview’s Cleveland Cavaliers vs Charlotte Hornets Betting Picks & Predictions
Charlotte comes into Saturday’s matchup playing five straight games against sub-.500 teams, and they could be in for a rude awakening against the best team in the Eastern Conference. The Hornets will enjoy being at home this time against the Cavs, but Cleveland is still considerably better and has a three-point attack that will be tough to stop, along with great perimeter defenders.
With that in mind, what follows are this preview’s Cavs vs Hornets picks. The USA-facing offshore sportsbooks have been slow to price up their odds on this NBA game, but now they finally have so here are my betting predictions:
- I expect the Cavs to win by nine points. So I like the look of betting on Cleveland -2.5pts @ best odds of -107 with BetOnline Sportsbook on the spread. It is -110 with Bovada and 5Dimes.
- Cleveland could jump out to a big lead, but the Hornets will speed up the pace in the second half to try and catch up. Expect a points total of around 219. So I think this is worth a wager going over 212pts with Bovada or BetOnline @ -110. It is over 212.5pts with 5Dimes for the same odds.