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By Josh Jacobs
No. 1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. No. 8 Detroit Pistons
Series Price: Cleveland -3000, Detroit +1500
Series Format: Detroit, 2-2-1-1-1
Skinny: Detroit has made a rough transition from last year to this season. Losing in the Conference Finals (two games to four) against the now champion, Boston Celtics was a tough pill to swallow. But the trouble didn’t end there.
Closing out the 2008 regular season with a 59-23 record, the Pistons found themselves squeezing into the playoff bubble this year. Without veteran point guard, Chauncey Billups, who headed to Denver in the much discussed Iverson deal, Detroit closed out 2009 three games below .500 (39-42). The team from the Motor City now finds itself heading into the conference quarterfinals to face the No. 1 seed in the East.
Is this the year that LeBron James slips the championship ring on? His Cleveland team was able to pull ahead of Boston for the No. 1 spot by sheer performance. In the last 25 game, the Cavaliers have generated a blistering 22-3 record, going on to cover a mere 12 games.
Defense has been at a premium for this team. Outrebounding opponents, 42.3 to 38.9 RPG, snatching away 7.3 versus opponents’ 6.3 steals per game and packing the ball for 5.3 blocks per game have all been part of the master plan. What this has equated to is the NBA’s best defensive unit, holding teams to scoring just 91.1 PPG.
It’s also very easy to overlook the supporting cast behind James. Mo Williams, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Delonte West have all cleared double-digit scoring numbers this season. Defensively, both Ilgauskas and Ben Wallace have come together for 2.6 blocks per game.
This will be only the third meeting between these two organizations. It was in 2007 that the Pistons lost to the Cavaliers, 4-3 in the conference finals followed by Detroit taking a 4-3 win against Cleveland in the 2006 Conference Semifinals.
Gambling Notes: The first order of business is letting the masses know that total wagering could be your best bet in this series. We’re talking about an 8-0 record on the ‘under’ in the last eight head-to-head meetings and an 11-3 ‘under’ performance in the last 14 quarrels. In this year’s tip-offs, the Pistons have struggled to find the bottom of the net. In the four meetings, Detroit scored 80 points or lower three times and has averaged just 80 PPG versus Cleveland’s 89.3 PPG scored.
As profitable as total wagering has been we can’t overlook the tradition of point spreads. While the Cavaliers are 6-10 ATS in the last 16 played during the regular season the postseason has been where the money is it.
In the only two series gatherings during the playoffs (2005-06 and 2006-07 season), the Cavaliers have stepped up their barrage at the counter. In a total of 13 games spanning from the conference finals down to the conference semifinals, Cleveland is a staggering 11-2 ATS. Books had installed the Pistons as favorites in every game during the ’05-06 sequence. Things didn’t change much from the boards in Las Vegas casinos in the 2007 playoffs as parlors continued to overwhelmingly favor Detroit by placing them as the favorites in all but two contests in the six playoff contests.
Outlook: Is this Cleveland’s year? There’s that feeling circulating around the club that LeBron James and company will finally get the job done. He’s (James) got the supporting cast around him to do so. The tide seemed to shift as the Cavs were put out to pasture by the Pistons in seven games during the ‘05-06 playoffs only to come back the following season, winning in the conference finals, 4-2. From the ‘under’ run in the totals department we get the heavy feeling that defense will be of the utmost importance.
Even though the Pistons finished the regular season as the eighth best defense in the league (94.7 PPG), a steady decline has taken place over the last few years. Case in point; Detroit held opponents to scoring 90.1 PPG (No. 1 ranked defense) last season, 91.8 PPG during the ’06-07 campaign and 90.2 PPG in ’05-06.
The team to take over as the No. 1 defense in the NBA? Yep, it’s the Cavaliers and this could very well be the difference between who advances and who steps down prematurely.
The largest discrepancy in the stats sheet centers on Cleveland’s 100.3 PPG versus Detroit’s 94.2 PPG. Mix in the departure of Chauncey Billups to Denver and Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey are going to have their hands full when it comes to outscoring their opponent in this best of seven series. And let’s not take the benching of Allen Iverson for the postseason too seriously. His 17.4 PPG in a Pistons’ uniform wasn’t Iverson like and the decision to add him to the active roster for the playoffs is in response to league rules (must have no less then 13 active players on the playoff roster).
Future Advice: Books aren’t predicting a close, first round experience as LVSC has opened Cleveland as a ‘chalky’ -3000 (bet $3000 to make $100) favorite in the best of seven. Detroit is catching a +1500 price (bet $100 to make $1500).
The numbers have been on the decline for the Pistons this season and the competition scarce at the tail end of the Eastern Conference. Detroit should be happy just to catch a last minute flight to the playoffs this year. The series price is justified and although anything is possible in postseason play, this season certainly has the feeling that it’s the Cavaliers time to shine. But as chatter around the office here indicates, imagine how books would be burnt if LeBron James were somehow removed from playing (injury, personal problems, etc.)? Another words, his value to not only the club but on the wagering line is a lot to measure.