Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
The fourth-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers (50-32) will start their run toward a potential fourth straight Eastern Conference title Sunday when they host the fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers (48-34) as solid home favorites for Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.
The Cavaliers experienced some new obstacles this season, including the addition of a few younger players to help LeBron James this time around in Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and Larry Nance Jr.
NBA betting pick, via OddsShark computer: 114.2-104.1, Cavaliers (NBA picks on every game)
Why the Pacers can cover the spread
Indiana fared well versus Cleveland during the regular season, winning three of the four meetings between the teams both straight up and against the spread, according to the OddsShark NBA Database. The Pacers upset the Cavaliers 124-107 as 10-point road underdogs in the first meeting back on November 1 and proceeded to win two home meetings as well despite closing as underdogs each time.
Why the Cavaliers can cover the spread
Cleveland is a much different team now compared to when Indiana won the first three meetings. In fact, all four meetings were played prior to the trade deadline, when the Cavaliers got rid of veterans Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose and replaced them with Clarkson, Hood, Nance and George Hill.
While Cleveland was disappointing overall from a covering perspective this year at 32-49-1 ATS, the team closed strong by beating the number in 10 of its last 13 games going into the playoffs.
Smart betting pick
Just like in every playoff series he plays, James will be the deciding factor again here. Even though rumors are still swirling regarding where he will end up next season, the four-time MVP remains the best player in the league and will dictate how this series turns out.
Bettors should expect James to make an early statement in this spot, with the Cavaliers proving themselves as the East’s team to beat with an easy win and cover.
NBA betting trends
Indiana is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games.
Cleveland is 10-3 ATS in its last 13 games.
The total has gone under in six of Cleveland’s last nine games.
All NBA odds and betting trends according to Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. Check out OddsShark on Twitter and Instagram or head to YouTube for more betting picks and analysis on this week’s top games. You can also download the free odds tracker app.