The surprising Cleveland Cavaliers continue their six-game road trip with a stop in San Antonio take on the Spurs. The Cavs are 3-1 on the trip as they continue to be one of the more surprising teams in the NBA this season. San Antonio comes into the matchup in a downward spiral, having lost 8 of 9 games. Game time is set for 8:30 pm EST.
The Young & RestlessThe Cleveland Cavaliers never got the memo that youth is wasted on the young. The Cavs have won two straight games and are 3-1 on their current six-game road trip with wins over Portland, Sacramento and a shorthanded Utah team. Cleveland, the 7th youngest team in the NBA, have surprised all the critics with a 24-18 start led mostly by its young stars.
The Cavs took full advantage of a depleted Utah team on Wednesday, defeating the Jazz 111-91. Utah was without the majority of its front-court, specifically Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, forcing the Jazz to start 6'5" Royce O'Neal at center. As a result, the length Cavs out-rebounded Utah 50-32 and outscored the Jazz in the paint, 60-36.
"We didn't change," Cavaliers coach JB Bickerstaff said. "That's the most important thing. We didn't start messing with the game. We took all 48 minutes of it seriously."
Two of the standouts in the Jazz game were rookie Evan Mobley and 3rd-year point guard Darius Garland. Mobley scored 15 points with 11 rebounds and a career-high 7 assists. Garland came through with his first career triple-double with 11 points, 15 assists and a career-high 10 assists. Mobley has been one of the NBA's best rookies this season. He is averaging 15 points per game with 8 rebounds and nearly 3 assists per game. Mobley is also shooting the ball at 51% from the field and leads the Cavs in blocked shots. With fellow guard and former first round pick Collin Sexton out for the season with an ACL tear, Garland is having a breakout season. He leads the team in scoring at 19 points per game, in assists at 7.6 per game and is first in 3pt field goals and second in steals. The third year pro is quietly becoming the team leader on and off the court.
Cleveland is averaging 107 points per game, up nearly 4 points from last season. The team is shooting the ball at 47%, up 2% from last season and good for 8th in the NBA. The Cavs are 15th in the league in 3pt field goal percentage, an improvement from last season as well. The Cavs are hitting 12 long balls per game, 2 more per game than last season. Defensively, the Cavs are allowing only 102 points per game which is 2nd in the NBA and a testament to their front-court length. Last season, the Cavs allowed 112 points per game. The Cavs are 9th in the NBA in offensive rebounding % while just 18th in defensive rebounding %.
Struggling SpursSan Antonio is going through its roughest patch of the season. The Spurs have dropped four straight games and eight of nine to fall into a tie for 13th place in the Western Conference at 15-26. During the skid, San Antonio's defense has been non-existent. In the 8 losses, the Spurs have allowed 119 points per game. The Spurs 128-124 loss to Houston was the Spurs' first home game after 7 straight road games.
Dejounte Murray continues to be the Spurs shining star during a difficult season. Against Houston, Murray scored a career-high 32 points to go along with 11 assists and 10 rebounds for a triple-double. Bryn Forbes had a season-high six 3-pointers in scoring 21 points, and Keldon Johnson added 18 points in defeat. The Spurs allowed 39 first-quarter points against the hot shooting Rockets before mounting a comeback that would ultimately fall short.
"Giving up 39 points in the first quarter makes it pretty difficult," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "You're digging out of a hole all night. Even if you come back — we took the lead — you still have a lot taken out of you to get to that point and it showed, especially after a long road trip."
The Spurs recent 1-6 road trip featured several players lost to health & safety protocols due to COVID-19. Johnson and Devin Vassell were cleared to return for the Spurs, but Doug McDermott, Tre Jones and Derrick White remain in the protocols.e.
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The Spurs are 9th in the NBA in scoring at 110 points per game. They are 24th in the league in points against, allowing 111 per contest. Not surprisingly, from a Popovich-coached team, the Spurs are #1 in the NBA in assist/turnover ratio at 2.1 per game and a solid 11th in opponent's assist to turnover ratio. The Spurs will not beat you with the long ball, ranking just 29th in the league in 3pt field goals per game. The Spurs are 12th in offensive rebounding percentage compared with Cleveland's 9th ranking and are 23rd in defensive rebounding percentage.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
It's time, if you haven't already, to take the Cleveland Cavaliers seriously. They are six games above .500, are 3-1 on their current Western Conference road trip and have a long, versatile frontcourt that has given opponents fits, despite their young age. San Antonio, Friday night's opponent, is in a free fall at the moment. The Spurs struggles are due both to a depleted roster due to COVID and a frontcourt that is long time removed from the days of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Cleveland can beat teams in different ways but, as of late, has been able to stifle teams with its defense. In the Cavs' last four games, their opponents are scoring just 99 points per contest. This is a trend that is growing from last year's team. The 2020-21 Cavs were allowing 112 points per game but this year's team has dropped that down to 102. Center Jarrett Allen's ascension is one big reason as is rookie Mobley. The duo has become an effective 1-2 punch at protecting the rim for the Cavs. This will be especially crucial against the Spurs, a team that relies more on shots inside the arc than most teams. San Antonio is just 29th in the NBA in 3pt field goals so they will undoubtedly try and get to the rim vs. Cleveland. Allen and Mobley will make life difficult for Spurs' players attacking the rim. Another large factor in this game is San Antonio's roster, which is still depleted due to COVID-19 issues. Cleveland, despite the recent loss of Ricky Rubio, comes in healthy and with a day of rest since the win over Utah. I like the fact that Cleveland was able to pull away from Utah in the late 3rd and early 4th quarter, giving the starting five more times to rest.
Two points is not nearly enough to drive me away from Cleveland on the road, even against a Gregg Popovich coached team. Lay the points (-2) and go with the Cavs.
Full-Game Total Pick
This one is a bit tricky. San Antonio's defense has been extremely poor over this current streak, giving up an average of 119 points per game. This should serve a Cleveland team well that scores an average 112 points per game. However, Cleveland's defense, in recent wins, has been as stingy as San Antonio's defense has been generous. Cleveland is giving up an average of 99 points in their recent wins. On the season, they're only giving up 102 so I don't expect a high-scoring San Antonio performance, especially since the Spurs do much of their scoring inside the arc. Cleveland will get up early and pull away for victory but their defense will keep San Antonio from putting up a high enough number to get close to over.
Take the under, 224.