GamBlog LogoPicks Of The Week – January 22, 2008

Matt is back with this week’s picks. Congrats to Matt and his wife on the birth of their first child, a healthy baby boy. But not even the birth of his son could stop Matt from making this weeks picks, so here he is with the picks. As always, have fun with these, these are not gambling picks, just picks for the fun of it.

mjgreg’s GAMBLOG
featuring our picks of the week

NBA Edition

Phoenix Suns (30 – 12) vs Cleveland Cavaliers (23-18)
Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH
Friday, January 25, 2008
7:00 PM EST
FSNOH, WTAM

Back on November 4th, the Phoenix Suns beat the Cleveland Cavaliers by 11 points in the desert. However, you have to remember that was the third game of the season and the Cavs were without the services of Anderson Varejao. The Cavaliers come into this game riding a 5 game winning streak (their longest of the season), while the Suns coming off of a loss have only lost back to back games twice this season. The key for both teams is actually pretty simple. The Cavaliers need to slow down Steve Nash, and the Suns need to contain Lebron James. While the key is simple to recognize, it won’t be nearly as easy to carry out on the hard wood. I see the Cavaliers of the last few weeks continuing to keep up their intensity on the defensive side of the ball and the Suns finding ways to exploit it. That being said, Lebron will keep this game close and give the Cavs a chance to make a run in the 4th quarter. I anticipate the spread being around minus five or six in favor of the Suns. This is a tough decision that I just can’t seem to take my heart out of. I’ll take the Cavs and the points, but will be pleasantly surprised if they pull out the victory.

Official prediction:

Phoenix Suns – 100
Cleveland
Cavaliers – 96 (+6)

mjgreg’s current record ATS is 2-0

Miami Heat logoCleveland Cavaliers (21-18) vs Miami Heat (8-29)
AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami, FL
Monday, January 21, 2008
8:00 PM EST
TNT, WTAM

It’s always fun when LeBron and Wade meet up and square off. Traditionally, their matchups against one another have been highly competitive and a blast to watch. Will this change now that the Heat find themselves in the midst of a 13 game losing streak, or will the challenge of facing his good friend cause Wade to elevate his team to a much needed streak-snapping victory?

Starting Lineups

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Larry Hughes (9.2 ppg, 2.2 apg, 28.8% 3pt, 7.94 PER)
-G Sasha Pavlovic (7.1 ppg, 1.6 apg, 27.6% 3pt, 5.89 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.7 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 7.5 apg, 30.15 PER)
-F Drew Gooden (11.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 0.6 bpg, 13.17 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.3 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 18.01 PER)

Miami Heat:

-G Jason Williams (8.9 ppg, 5.2 apg, 1.4 spg, 12.41 PER)
-G Dwyane Wade (24.4 ppg, 6.7 apg, 25.0% 3pt, 22.17 PER)
-F Dorell Wright (6.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 apg, 14.14 PER)
-F Udonis Haslem (12.6 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 0.4 bpg, 13.40 PER)
-C Shaquille O’Neal (14.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 18.53 PER)

Team Efficiency Stats

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Offense (96.4 ppg, 44.5 rpg, .434 FG%, .717 FT%, 19.1 apg, Efficiency-100.7, Rank-20)
-Defense (98.5 ppg, 41.8 rpg, .461 FG%, Efficiency-103.4, Rank-17)

Miami Heat:

-Offense (93.3 ppg, 38.8 rpg, .460 FG%, .693 FT%, 19.8 apg, Efficiency-99.0, Rank-27)
-Defense (100.1 ppg, 41.4 rpg, .464 FG%, Efficiency-105.3, Rank-25)

Game Notes

The Cavs find themselves playing yet another team that plays no defense. Additionally, the Heat have no offensive identity, they don’t rebound well, and they just don’t win games in general. On paper, this is a team the Cavaliers should beat handily (and there just aren’t many teams I would say that about). But that’s on paper. In real life, on tyhe court, the Cavaliers, and LeBron in general, tend to bring out the best in Dwyane Wade. The Cavaliers have struggled to defend the perimeter all season, and with the Cavaliers sure to focus so much attention on Wade, some open shots will be there. In general, though, this is an offensively challenged team and if Cleveland plays with the kind of defensive intensity they are capable of, they should really be able to limit the Heat’s output in this game.

For the Cavaliers, they will look to get continued good play from the bench. Varejao will be key in helping the Cavs dominate the smaller Heat lineup on the boards, as well as defending Shaq. Daniel Gibson, who has hit a 3 pointer in 25 straight games (2nd only to Mark Price’s 34 stragith in franchise history) and who is 3rd in the NBA in 3 pointers made and 3 point percentage, must continue to get his shots in. LeBron needs to just be himself and stay agressive, while Z and Gooden need to take advantage of some big time scoring chances when Shaq goes to the bench (which he does quite frequently these days). The Cavaliers will lose this game only if one of two things happens…..either Dwyane Wade has a Superman game, which he does from time to time, or the Cavaliers overlook the Heat and don’t come out with energy.

Vegas Line

Miami +3.5
Over/Under 187

San Antonio SpursCleveland Cavaliers (20-18) vs San Antonio Spurs (25-11)
SBC Center, San Antonio, TX
Thursday, January 17, 2008
8:00 PM EST
TNT, WTAM

Ready or not, it’s rematch time. A rematch of the team that crushed the Cavaliers in the 2007 NBA Finals in a heartbreaking sweep. The good news is this game finds the Cavaliers playing some of their best basketball of the season (although, admittedly, that’s not saying a whole lot). The Spurs have won 3 in a row, while the Cavaliers have won 2 straight and 8 of their last 10.

Starting Lineups

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-G Larry Hughes (9.4 ppg, 2.4 apg, 29.3% 3-pt, 8.17 PER)
-G Sasha Pavlovic (7.2 ppg, 1.7 apg, 28.4% 3-pt, 5.81 PER)
-F LeBron James (29.8 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 7.5 apg, 30.36 PER)
-F Drew Gooden (12.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 0.7 bpg, 13.39 PER)
-C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (13.2 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 17.96 PER)

San Antonio Spurs:

-G Tony Parker (20.1 ppg, 6.6 apg, 0.7 spg, 21.13 PER)
-G Michael Finley (10.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 12.54 PER)
-F Bruce Bowen (5.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 7.24 PER)
-F Tim Duncan (18.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 24.78 PER)
-C Fabricio Oberto (5.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, o.3 bpg, 15.79 PER)

Team Efficiency Stats

Cleveland Cavaliers:

-Offense (96.6 ppg, 44.5 rpg, .433 FG%, .717 FT%, 19.1 apg, Efficiency-100.6, Rank-21)
-Defense (98.7 ppg, 41.9 rpg, .461 FG%, Efficiency-103.5, Rank-18)

San Antonio Spurs:

-Offense (97.9 ppg, 41.7 rpg, .458 FG%, .755 FT%, 22.2 apg, Efficiency-107.0, Rank-6)
-Defense (92.0 ppg, 39.4 rpg, .456 FG%, Efficiency-100.2, Rank-5)

Game Notes

As I mentioned, the Cavs are playing well right now. In particular, LeBron James has been on a monstrous tear as of late. In his last 7 games, LeBron is averaging 33.4 points, shooting 52.9% from the floor, netting 9.9 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game. Even more impressive has been LeBron’s 4th quarter performances, where LeBron has turned into an absolute mercenary. Over those same 7 games, in the 4th quarter LBJ is averaging 12.6 points on 56.9% shooting. For the season, LBJ leads all NBA players in 4th quarter scoring at 9.6 ppg (2nd is Joe Johnson at 6.5 ppg). In fact, for the season, LeBron has more double digit scoring 4th quarters (15) than anyone else (2nd is Kobe with 11). Bench production has been up as of late for the Cavaliers as well, as over the last 4 games the bench is averaging 39 points per game, led by strong performances by Daniel Gibson, Andy Varejao, and Devin Brown.

Believe it or not, the Cavs have won their last 3 regular season matchups against the Spurs. Big Z has been a big part of the reason, averaging 15.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game over his last 9 games against the Spurs. The good news ends there. The Cavs have to go from one extreme to the other, going from Memphis’s defense to the Spurs’ defense. The Spurs are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and they boast one of the NBA’s most efficient offenses. The Spurs are great at adapting to any style of game, and they will look to stifle LeBron with Bruce Bowen while taking advantage of the soft defense of the Cav’s perimeter defense. Just as he did in the NBA Finals, expect Tony Parker to look to abuse the Cavs with his penetration. If the Cavs want to have a chance in this game, they must control the boards, cut off Parker’s penetration, and find creative ways to get LeBron going on offense. If the Cavs can run some pick and rolls with LBJ and either Z or Andy early, and then hit Gibson and maybe even Damon Jones for some timely 3 pointers, the Cavs just might be able to find some success. Either way, this game will be a nice measuring stick game to see where the team really is at this juncture of the season.

Vegas Line

San Antonio -7.5
Over/Under 183.5