- Anthony Davis tries to keep up his torrid pace as the Pelicans battle for a playoff spot
- LeBron is trying to keep the Cavaliers above the surging Sixes and Pacers
- We have expert analysis for a jam-packed Friday night of NBA action with nine games on the docket
Get ready for a match-up of the NBA’s (likely) MVP runner-ups this season as the New Orleans Pelicans (43-32, 21-16 Away) visit the Cleveland Cavaliers (45-30, 25-11 Home) on Friday night at Quicken Loans arena.
In this new NBA, unless you’re one of the top two teams in the conference, every game has added value.
The intrigue in this rests in the marquee match-up between the NBA’s current torchbearer of excellence, LeBron James (27.4 PPG, 9.1 APG, 8.6 RPG, 54.8 FG%), and a clear favorite to take the hand-off into the next decade in Anthony Davis (28.3 PPG, 11.1 RPG, 53.9 FG%).
A recent 7-3 surge have pundits again talking themselves into the Cavs as potential favourites for another title appearance. This, of course, is being powered by James, who is replicating his insane month of February – where he averaged a triple-double, at a scoring clip of 30 points per game – with almost an identical March.
Davis has even more of a burden considering the no-name group of castoffs he’s guided to as high as fourth in the brutal West, and his March numbers are staggering: 29 points and 11 boards per, while swatting nearly four shots a game. But even with that top-end production, the Pelicans are just 5-5 in their last ten.
While locked into a playoff berth, a slip by the Cavs could see them tumble down as low as sixth, where they’d have to contend with Joel Embiid and the upstart Sixers without home court advantage.
A sudden downturn by New Orleans could send them tumbling right out of the playoff picture. The stakes are high.
Straight-Up Pick: Pelicans
You can be sure of one thing: the scoreboard lightbulbs are going to be pushed to the max. New Orleans and Cleveland are two of five teams in the league averaging over 110 points a game. Wouldn’t you know, they are also in the bottom five in the NBA in points allowed, again, one of only five teams allowing over 110 points per game. This will be a track meet between a pair of teams that like to outscore their opponents.
New Orleans gets the edge here as Kevin Love tries to work his way back from the concussion protocol, hopefully in time for this game. The Cavs are a more potent unit when Love is in the lineup. Since returning from a broken hand, the team is 4-0 and averaging a blistering 124 points a game. That’s elite. When he left the Heat game after taking an elbow to the mush, the team faltered and scored just 79. That’s not just bad, that Phoenix Suns bad. A win in Charlotte brought them back to their formerly high-octane selves, but the competition level is a lot higher in this one.
Not having Love (or love at 100-percent health) to keep Davis occupied on the defensive end will only leave the Brow fresh to inflict damage on the other end of the court, where not enough able bodies can contain him (really, who can?). The Pelicans pump in 52 points a game in the paint. The Cavaliers surrender 46 a game. The math is not in Cleveland’s favor.
Expect LeBron to shoulder even more of the load to lead the Cavs, but not enough to lift them past the more desperate team.
Friday Straight-Up Picks
New Orleans-Cleveland is certainly the main event, but there are a bevy of undercard match-ups worth keeping an eye on, including a couple of outside-looking-in teams out West trying to work their way into the playoff picture.
Chicago Bulls vs Orlando Magic: Bulls
Philadelphia 76ers vs Atlanta Hawks: 76ers
Phoenix Suns vs Houston Rockets: Rockets
Denver Nuggets vs Oklahoma City Thunder: Thunder
Minnesota Timberwolves vs Dallas Mavericks: Timberwolves
Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz: Jazz
Milwaukee Bucks vs Los Angeles Lakers: Lakers
Los Angeles Clippers vs Portland Trail Blazers: Trail Blazers
As we get closer to Friday tip-off, be sure to check back for a complete set of betting lines for these games. You’ll also be able to place your bets through one of our many sportsbooks. Not sure exactly how to lock in your bet? Our Betting on NBA Basketball Guide will give you the means to bet like a pro!
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