Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Detroit Pistons
NBA Point Spread Pick: Cleveland -5.5 (March 9th 2017)
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Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue (sinus infection) missed Monday’s loss at home to Miami but is expected to join the club in Detroit prior to tonight’s tipoff. On the injury front, the Cavs announced Wednesday that Andrew Bogut (fractured left tibia) has been ruled out for the postseason after being injured just 58 seconds into his team debut on Monday but shooting guard J.R. Smith (8.6 PPG) returned to practice on Wednesday for the first time since fracturing his thumb on Dec. 20 (he is listed as questionable against Detroit).
The Cavs haven’t played like defending champs lately, as they head to Detroit having lost four of their last six games. That includes dropping both ends of a back-to-back against streaking Miami on Saturday and Monday. All of a sudden, Cleveland’s status atop the Eastern Conference is a little more precarious, as Boston pulled within 2 1/2 games of the Cavs, after shocking the Warriors last night in Oakland.
Detroit is tied with Chicago for seventh place in the East as it enters a stretch in which five of its next six games are at home. While Detroit lost for just the third time in eight games when it dropped a 115-98 decision to Indiana last night, the defeat did drop the Pistons two games behind the Pacers in the battle for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. Head coach Stan Van Gundy was highly disappointed with the defensive intensity against Indiana. “They destroyed us,” Van Gundy told reporters. “We didn’t play defense at all. They scored on anything they wanted and we didn’t guard at all.”
These two teams have met twice this season, each winning at home. However, Cleveland does catch Detroit playing on the second end of a back-to-back. All things considered, this is a “more than fair price” on the Cavs, who are coming off back-to-back losses and have lost three in a row just twice this season. Take the road favorite.
Detroit Pistons vs. Toronto Raptors
NBA Point Spread Pick: Toronto -6.5 points (February 12th 2017)
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The Raptors reached the Eastern Conference finals last year and were actually tied at two-all with the Cavs, before losing. However, the Cavs were blown out in the final two games of the series and any serious thought that the Raptors were somehow in Cleveland’s class should be dismissed quickly by noting that Cleveland’s four wins over the Toronto in that series came by margins of 31, 19, 38 and 26 points!
Toronto plays host to the Pistons on Sunday at Air Canada Centre. The Pistons come in off a 103-92 home loss to the Spurs on Friday. Detroit has a formidable frontcourt led by center Andre Drummond (14.7-13.8) plus three quality players in Harris (16.4-5.1), Morris (14.2-4.5) and Leuer (11.1-5.6). Harris is the team’s leading scorer but recently, Leuer has been starting. The backcourt features PG Jackson (15.5-5.6 APG), SG Caldwell-Pope (14.1) and Ish Smith (8.4-4.9 APG) coming off the bench. Despite this solid seven-man rotation, the Pistons rank only 24th in points scored at 101.5 PPG, a clear indication that there is little or no depth on the bench.
Depth is an issue often for Toronto, as outside of an All Star starting backcourt featuring DeRozan (27.9-5.3) and Lowry (23.0-4.7-7.0) plus center Valanciunas (12.3-9.9), head coach Casey really can’t count on the remainder of his roster to do much. Making matters worse, DeRozan has fought nagging injuries throughout the year (he recently missed four games with an ankle injury) and as we saw often in last year’s playoffs, shooting slumps appear all too often with Lowry. He’s a workhorse (37.7 MPG is tied for the most) but he’s shooting just 33.3 percent over the past four contests!
Toronto was 22-8 through Dec 26 but is just 10-12 since. The 32-22 Raptors have fallen three games behind the Celtics in the Atlantic Division and are now also behind the surging Wizards, leaving them with just the No. 4 seed. The winner of the 4 vs 5 matchup gets the Cavs in t shecond round, something Toronto can’t afford! The good news here is that the Pistons are a poor road team (9-18 SU & 10-17 ATS) and don’t figure to be able to match the Raptors basket-for-basket here on their homecourt, where Toronto averages 112.7 PPG. An added bonus is that the Raptors have not played since Wednesday (a disappointing 112-109 loss at Minnesota), their first three-day break of the season. Lay the points with Toronto.
Sacramento Kings vs. Detroit Pistons
NBA Point Spread Pick: Pistons -6.5 (January 23rd 2017)
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Detroit is worth a look here at home against the Kings. The Pistons have been a major disappointment so far this season, but they are coming into this one having won 3 straight and will be playing their 3rd straight at home. I don’t see Detroit overlooking this game against the Kings, despite the fact that Sacramento has lost 5 straight and 8 of their last 9 overall. That’s because the lone win during this stretch for the Kings was a 100-94 victory at home against these Pistons. A game in which Detroit managed to blow a 18-point lead. Those kind of losses don’t sit well and this one is fresh in the minds of the Pistons. Give me Detroit -6.5!
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