With just 15 games left in the regular season the Cleveland Cavaliers (45-22) got a key part of their team back on Thursday, with power forward Kevin Love returning after undergoing knee surgery on February 14.
The defending NBA champion Cavaliers got 10 points in 20 minutes from Love in a 91-83 win over the Utah Jazz, as they fell just short of covering the 8.5-point spread on the NBA betting lines at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.
Cleveland is 2.5 games ahead of the Boston Celtics (43-25) for the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and the team had covered the number in three straight prior to its latest victory. Still, the Cavs have been disappointing to back overall against the spread this season, going 31-34-2 ATS overall, including 14-18 ATS on the road.
The Cavaliers are actually one of three division leaders with a losing ATS mark, along with the Jazz and the Golden State Warriors.
This weekend, Cleveland will hit the road for the first two games of a four-game trip versus the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers at the Staples Center on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.
The Cavs have won four of the past five meetings with the Clippers both straight up and ATS, seeing a four-game series winning streak end with a 113-94 loss as 3.5-point home favorites on December 1. Against the Lakers, they have won five in a row (3-2 ATS), with the over cashing for totals bettors in each of the last seven according to the OddsShark NBA Database.
The important thing to keep in mind for Sunday’s game obviously is that Cleveland will be playing on back-to-back nights. The Cavs have dropped six of their last seven games under that scenario (2-5 ATS), and they will be playing an inferior opponent in the Lakers.
In other words, do not be surprised to see head coach Tyronn Lue rest LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Love in the second game of the back-to-back.
On the other hand, look for them to go all out against the Clippers because they have won five consecutive times in the first game of a back-to-back, covering the spread in all of them, along with nine of 10 SU and ATS dating back to December 9.