Teams with title aspirations square off in Oklahoma City on national television today. It should be an entertaining matchup between the 33-22 Cleveland Cavaliers and 32-25 Oklahoma City Thunder (8 p.m. ET on TNT).
Cleveland overhauled its roster at the trade deadline to rejuvenate an aging and unmotivated roster. George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. arrived to replace Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Iman Shumpert. The first glimpses of the new players were overwhelmingly positive — the Cavs blew out the Celtics on Sunday with great effort on both sides of the ball.
Oklahoma City has been streaky this season, with four winning streaks of at least three games and four losing streaks of at least three games. Right now, it’s working through some injuries to Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony, and defensive-minded wing Andre Roberson is also out for the season. It is still unclear whether Westbrook and Anthony will play today and that is delaying the American oddsmakers from posting their betting lines.
We’ll learn more about whether Cleveland has truly changed. So what factors will be at play in the game? We’ll preview those and then offer up our Cavs vs OKC predictions and picks.
What Will the Statuses of Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony Be?
As of Monday evening, Westbrook and Anthony were still questionable to play against the Cavs due to injuries suffered against the Golden State Warriors last week. Westbrook sprained his left ankle, while Anthony rolled his right ankle.
If neither can go, OKC might be the underdogs. The Thunder wouldn’t have nearly enough offensive balance to deal with the Cavs and their new acquisitions. Paul George has been great as of late (28.6 points per game on a 62.3 true shooting percentage), but he needs better support than just guys like Steven Adams, Raymond Felton and Jerami Grant.
Even if Westbrook and Anthony decide to play in a limited role or are just not 100 percent, it will help plenty. However, having them back at close to 100 percent is obviously most ideal.
Will the Momentum from the Cavs’ Sunday Win Over Celtics Continue?
Momentum is a real factor in NBA basketball. Once teams play well, their confidence and energy often increase and lead to more great basketball.
Cleveland rolled over the Boston Celtics on the road on Sunday, leading by as many as 26 points and finally winning 121-99. The new Cavaliers played very well in their first game, pumping in a combined 49 points between the four of them.
The Cavs clearly had a pep in their step on Sunday. All year, other teams have out-hustled Cleveland and made the team look a step slow. That certainly wasn’t the case in the Cavs-Celtics game. The question is this: was it just an emotional high in the first game for the newcomers? Or was it just the beginning in a transformation of the Cavs’ culture?
Will Jerami Grant Continue to Play Strong, Aggressive Basketball?
Whether Westbrook and Anthony are out or not, OKC needs offensive production from its bench. The Thunder often don’t get much scoring from players not named Westbrook, Anthony, George or Adams. In fact, no one else on the team averages more than 7.8 points per game.
However, Grant has been very active on the offensive end as of late. In just 23.4 minutes per game over his last eight contests, he has averaged 12 points per contest on 57.9 percent shooting. A sign of his aggressiveness in that stretch is his 5.1 free-throw attempts per game, which is up from 2.3 per game in the 48 games prior to this eight-game stretch.
Grant is a major defensive asset with his versatility, too. There’s a good chance he will get a lot of minutes today trying to limit the likes of LeBron James, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr. and Jeff Green. Can he continue to make a large impact on both ends with improved offensive play?
Our Preview’s Cavs at OKC Betting Picks & Predictions
The Cavs’ win over the Celtics on Sunday looked pretty convincing. The squad’s energy and defensive effort stayed high for all four quarters, which never happened with the old roster. I’m going to ride the wave here with my predictions and pick a solid win for Cleveland.
- Until we see the Cavs prove otherwise, they are a different team than they have showed thus far this season. As mentioned earlier in this preview, the betting sites are hanging fire until they know the injury situation. I am expecting the bookies’ spread to make OKC one-point favorites. If that is anywhere near the case the place your bet on the Cavaliers with any of the likes of 5Dimes, Bovada or Intertops.
- The potential injury status issues of Westbrook and Anthony, both offensive-minded players, are a major factor here. I think the betting lines, when they come, will be around 223 or 224 for the total points. Cleveland’s defense has also turned over a new leaf, I believe. Bet on this game going under.