Trends Point to Value on Home Underdog


Hawks vs. Odds Riders

Hawks Odds -2.5
Odds Riders +2.5
Over/Under 225.5
Time 7:30 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.

On Friday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers host the Atlanta Hawks in the final matchup of the Eastern Conference Play-In Tournament to determine the No. 8 seed.

The Cavaliers fell into an early hole in the first play-in game against the Brooklyn Nets. They were down by 20 points after the first quarter and 14 points going into the half. They kept clawing away at the Nets, but were never able to regain the lead. However, they walked away with the cover of the 9.5-point spread, to the delight of Cavaliers bettors.

The Hawks dominated the Charlotte Hornets with a 132-103 win at home on Wednesday night. Despite a poor shooting night from Trae Young, the Hawks were able to get contributions from all over the board with six players scoring in double figures.

At the time of this writing, the Hawks are -2.5 favorites on the road. This really represents the market sentiment on these two teams all season long: An overvaluation on the underperforming Hawks and undervaluing the scrappy Cavaliers.

Home teams have prevailed in all four play-in games thus far. Can the Cavaliers make it five in a row? Let’s dive into the matchup below to see if we can find any betting edges.

Do the Hawks Have Another Postseason Run?

The Hawks surprised the league last season with a late-season surge and an impressive run to the Eastern Conference finals, giving the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks a run for their money. They completely outperformed expectations and established themselves as a team to be feared going forward.

Or so we thought.

The Hawks barely squeaked into the No. 9 spot — they appeared destined to be in 10th, but were able to move into ninth by finishing the season strong and winning eight of their previous 10 games.

In addition, they had that home-court advantage for the first play-in game, which was crucial. However, this game will be on the road and they perform exponentially worse on the road. They are 16-25 straight up on the road and 14-27 ATS. It is an awful sight.

Scoring hasn’t been the issue, either. Atlanta’s Offensive Rating is second (115.4) in the league, per NBA Advanced Stats. However, their Defensive Rating is 26th (113.7) and they’ve been letting teams walk all over them.

The Hawks are missing a big man of their own in John Collins, who has been sidelined for 17 consecutive games with a myriad of injuries. The Hawks have not declared him out, but head coach Nate McMillan has mentioned that he is unlikely to play if the Hawks advanced.

Lou Williams, a valuable veteran bench contributor, will be out as well. In addition, Bogdan Bogdanovic is questionable tomorrow. He is one of the Hawks’ most reliable scorers behind Young.

Even though the Hawks have been playing well, I think they will be overrated by their success in their previous game against the defense-inept Hornets team.


Health Is Key for Cavaliers

Jarrett Allen is the X-Factor here for the Cavs. His status for Friday’s game is up in the air as he recovers from a broken finger that has caused him to miss the past 19 games. Reports state that he is doing everything in his power to play in Friday, but he is still listed as questionable and is a true game-time call.

Rajon Rondo provided some solid minutes down the stretch. With Rondo, his experience and playmaking was a huge benefit for the Cavaliers. Alongside Garland, he’s allowed to play off-ball and create havoc for opponents.

The Cavs have gone 7-12 in those games and the On/Off numbers shot that the Cavaliers allow their opponents to score 3.2 points more per 100 possessions when he is off the court, per Basketball Reference. If he returns for this game, I am much more bullish on the Cavs.

The Cavs have been stellar at home. They went 25-16 (61%) straight up and 23-17-1 (57.1%) against the spread at the Quicken Loans Arena. This will prove to be even more important as home-court advantage has really mattered in these play-in games and the raucous crowd will provide some additional energy for the home team.

Even without Allen, they still have some strong defenders, led by standout rookie Evan Mobley, and Darius Garland on offense, who has made a tremendous leap this season. He led the comeback effort against the Nets and scored 34 points on 13-for-24 shooting. Their defense should provide a much taller task against the Hawks than the Swiss cheese Hornets defense.

Both teams play at a slower tempo, and I like the Cavs to thrive more in a half court setting with the better defenders.

Hawks-Riders Pick

Money and action all seem to be favoring the Hawks in this matchup, but I am going to be backing the Cavaliers here. The home-away splits greatly favor the Cavaliers and they have a chance of getting Allen back into the lineup. The Hawks are dealing with a myriad of injuries on their own.

Without Collins to deal with, expect Mobley (and potentially Allen) to be able to help on Young and their other scorers.

I think this narrative is consistent with theme all season long. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been criminally underrated and the Hawks are continually put on a pedestal. This is no different here.

The Cavaliers have the home-court, injury and rest advantage. The value is on the Cavs here — bet them at the spread and don’t be afraid to add some on the moneyline.

Pick: Cavaliers +2.5

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