It’s the first mega clash of this NBA season: the title favourites against the reigning champions when the Cleveland Cavaliers host the San Antonio Spurs tonight.
Does it mean much in the course of a long campaign? Not really. Will it offer us some insights to what might lay ahead if these two end up squaring off once again in mid-June? Absolutely.
Because in many senses, the Spurs represent exactly where the inconsistent Cavs would like to reach: three stars but unity trumping individualism, sharing the ball on offense, and – most of all – success.
San Antonio – 4.50 to repeat – are 6-4, just one win better off than their Eastern rivals, and by their own admission not quite at full stride so far.
But they know exactly where they should be. Cleveland hasn’t forged its own identity yet despite the sketch drawn out by coach David Blatt.
Offensively, they’re everything we expected them to be, sitting 4th in scoring with 106.7 points per game but LeBron James averaging 27.1.
But the Cavaliers are 20th in rebounding, 15th in assists and 24th in points allowed with 104.3 per game, an inexcusable number given the talent at Blatt’s disposal.
James wants to play less minutes down the stretch but that’s unlikely against the Spurs. The former MVP also admits there needs be better returns mentally, with San Antonio 2.00 to be first to 20 points.
In the visitors favour is that they’ve had two days off and were able to run their bench in Tuesday’s thrashing of the 76ers, a trait which could push the scoring above 207.5 total points, which available at 2.50.
And while Cleveland are available at -4.5 on the handicap at 2.23, it would hardly be a shock if the champs show their class.
Best bet: Back San Antonio at -2.5 on the handicap over Cleveland at 2.45