It was a stumble out of the blocks for the all-new Cleveland Cavaliers. But after four consecutive wins, LeBron James and his supporting cast are starting to justify their position as NBA title favourites.
Now 4.00 to win the championship, there’s no doubt that the Cavs are still not quite the finished article despite the improvements. They’ve benefited from a schedule which has taken them away from their greatest rivals – and also profited from incredibly streaky shooting in the case of their victory over Atlanta.
It’s meant that in this current streak – which started against the Denver Nuggets, who they host tonight – Cleveland have averaged 119.3 points per game, 12 above their season average while giving up just under 108.
And over his last three appearances, James is notching 35 per night, numbers which might not be desirable going forward but necessary while the Cavaliers are finding their feet.
What is encouraging is that the East power-in-waiting are starting to make assists, with James averaging a team-high 6.8 per and Kyrie Irving raising his mark to 5.0, a benchmark which should factor in the success of this team.
It gets harder after Monday with Cleveland taking on San Antonio, Washington and Toronto all in succession before a relatively soft pre-Christmas slate.
But that should allow coach David Blatt to experiment and test his group a lot more, especially defensively, something which can only help down the playoff stretch.
As for the Nuggets, there’s been little sparkle in a 2-7 start in which they’ve coughed up 108.2 per contest, a run that includes their 110-101 reverse to the Cavs on November 7.
And although they should be punching bags again, a similar margin of +9.5 on the handicap offers solid value at 2.55.
Best bet: Go under 209.5 total points in Cleveland-Denver at 2.90