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January 23, 2015 (Posted at 5:00 PM ET)

Sports Profit System is 16-6 in January! Saturday is all about NCAA college basketball.

Take Charlotte Hornets at +10 spread against Cleveland Cavaliers risking 3%

The Hornets travel to Quicken Loans Arena to battle the Cavaliers in an Eastern conference matchup between two playoff hopefuls. 

This is a line that immediately stuck out to us. The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the poster child for the Eastern Conference since the offseason trades. When the news broke that LeBron James would be coming back to his former team, rumors and gossip immediately started as the Cavaliers were dubbed the team to beat and even listed as the favorite for the NBA title! Expectations were high in the offseason; there is no doubt about that. The oddmakers had to buy into all of the hype that surrounded this team and as such, they inflated their lines on purpose given the star power of their roster and the propensity by the general public to want to back them. As everyone quickly found out, there were some growing pains that the Cavs were going to have to go through as they fell drastically short of everyone’s lofty expectations. That is evident in their 17-26 ATS (against-the-spread) record despite going 23-20. The people, the media and the average sports-bettor had expected more from this team and were left disappointed. Over the subsequent weeks, spreads had become more manageable as the new-look Cavs were trying to find chemistry amongst all the superstars on its roster and that is something that is far from solved. 

Fast forward to present day and the Cavaliers find themselves on a 4-game winning streak, averaging over 100 points per game and are now suddenly perceived to be the team that everyone in the offseason expected them to be! That is a mistake and shows the fickle nature of most sports-bettors. This is a squad that is playing better and deserves credit for that but impressions are formed all too quickly for Joe Gambler. This is a team that still has numerous issues and is far from the finished article. There were multiple reasons as to why they have fallen short of expectations this season. A couple of good games does not magically solve their issues on the defensive end of the court. People are quick to forget that prior to their recent 4-game winning streak, they had lost 6 straight! Now they are once again not only asked to win games but to do so by double-digits and to cover ridiculous spreads. The Charlotte Hornets are not a stepping stone as in years past. This team has won 8 of their last 9 and is in the playoff hunt! They are right on the heels of both Miami and Brooklyn and can get into one of the post-season spots as early as tonight. Charlotte has already dropped the first two games of this series to the Cavs which makes this the 3rd and final meeting of the season between these two Eastern conference foes. They no doubt want to avoid the sweep and will be more motivated for this game than their counterparts. 

The Hornets are one of thoe hottest teams in the league. This team is led by Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson as both have been consistent producers this season. Walker is averaging 19 points and 5.3 assists while Jefferson is averaging 17.6 points and 8 rebounds. Meanwhile guys like Gary Neal and Gerald Henderson are under-rated veterans who can step up and shoot the 3-ball extremely well. A big part of the Hornets' recent revival has been due to the fact that they have gotten back to what brought them to the postseason last year; solid defensive play. Charlotte leads the NBA with 95.3 points allowed per game and has even elevated their defensive play recently, holding opponents to just 37.8 percent from the field and 26.9 percent from deep over their last five games! They have won 11 of their last 14 games when holding their opponent to under 100 points. Defense is clearly an area in which Steve Clifford's group will have an advantage over the Cavaliers. The Cavs had not beaten the Hornets by double digits in either of the first two meetings this season and we believe they will have an even tougher time tonight. Cleveland is also coming off big wins over the likes of LA Clippers and Chicago Bulls. Now matching up with a team that is often perceived as "lower-level" and that they've already beaten twice, it would be easy for James and company to overlook them and assume they can win without a full effort. That is a mental mistake and one that rarely goes unpunished in this league. What makes this an even trickier spot for David Blatt's side is that they also have a big game against the OKC Thunder looming ahead! It would be natural for some players to look ahead to that. All those factors mean the Hornets will be the more focused team tonight and that makes covering a double digit spread extremely difficult! 

We all have to wonder as well, how many big name players can the Cavaliers have on their roster and expect to be productive on offense? The addition of JR Smith, Shumpert and Mozgov may appear to be quality additions on an already solid roster, but we believe the way that Cleveland is padding their roster is likely to have a negative effect eventually. Basketball is no doubt a team game; however there is only one ball to go around. We've seen how much Kyrie Irving likes to have the ball, LeBron James wants to be that impact player to put a team on his shoulders, JR Smith has shown his need to chuck up 3 point shots one after another while Kevin Love was nearly a one man show out in Minnesota! With all of these players who are used to being "The Man", the Cavaliers locker room may not be as united as their opponents. Roles are not as clearly defined on that team as they are in Charlotte. Cleveland may have more talent but no player is playing within a true system. A majority are still in it for themselves and that has been clear as Cleveland has had little focus on the defensive side of the ball. With the loss of veteran Anderson Verejao for the season, the Cavs have no solid presence on the defensive end. We feel that his absence has been overlooked by casual fans. He is an under-rated player but is an important piece to this team, especially on the glass, a place where the Hornets will have the advantage tonight. 

There is no doubt that the Cavaliers deserve to be the favorites in this contest. They have been playing well and we respect what they have done with their roster and how they have performed recently. However this line is inflated as we actually handicapped this game at Charlotte +7 and therefore see quite a lot of value in taking double-digits with them! Vegas opened this up at -8.5 but the betting public has bet the favorite all the way up to -10! It appears that the perception of this team has changed after just 4 games, but we believe their issues are not yet over. They may get the win but they are going to struggle to win by double-digits against a solid and defensive minded Charlotte squad. This should be a close game but even if Cleveland does get a big lead, laying this many points in the NBA leaves the door open for a backdoor cover. This game means more to the Hornets than the Cavs and we believe that will show as they challenge for the outright win and keep this within single digits. 

Other notable facts to consider:

  • Cavaliers are 6-11 ATS after a non-conference game this season.
  • Hornets defense leads the NBA having allowed just 95.3 points on average!
  • Cavaliers are 3-17 ATS after scoring 100 points or more in 5 straight games!
  • Hornets are 45-31 ATS vs. teams allowing 99+ points per game over the last 2 seasons.

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