The first full day of NBA action post a wild trade deadline is here, and one of the 11 games on the schedule features the Cleveland Cavaliers heading to New Orleans to take on the Pelicans. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting the point total in this one.
One of the only teams to make zero moves at the trade deadline was the Cavs, as the 4th-place team in the Eastern Conference decided to move forward with their current roster. Cleveland went 7-3 over their last ten games and had the best NET rating in the league at 12.7.
Cleveland has arguably been one of the best defensive teams in the league this season, and this recent stretch has driven that point home, as they sit at the top of the league in defensive efficiency rating. They have managed to hold their previous three opponents to 103 points or less and most recently held the Pistons to 85 points.
Their offense, at times, has been nonexistent, but their defense has been able to bail them out in most situations. Over this recent ten-game stretch, they have managed to be more consistent, with an offensive efficiency rating of 118.2. Their opponent tonight has put together two straight solid defensive performances, but over that same ten-game span, they still rank 15th in defensive efficiency rating.
New Orleans has shown their first signs of life since the Zion injury over their past three games, turning a ten-game losing streak into a three-game win streak. Their output on both ends of the floor was a disaster, but with their 131-126 win over the Lakers, they managed to score more than 113 points for the first time since January 13th.
That win seemed to spark some energy into the offense since they scored 136 and 116 points in their last two games. Their last three opponents did rank 18th or worse in defensive efficiency over the past ten games, so tonight, they will be truly tested on that end of the floor for the first time since the win streak.
The point total in this game can currently be found at 224, and I’ll be taking the under as my play in this one. The under is 8-2 in the Cavs' last ten games and is 6-0 in their previous six games following a win. New Orleans has also had the under go 7-1 in their last eight games when they play on two days' rest.
Over their three-game win streak, the Pelicans have gotten 48% of their scoring from inside the paint, but in that same span, Cleveland ranks second in the league in opponent paint scoring per game. The Cavs have held their last three opponents to an average of 41.3 points in the paint per game, which is the most interior defense New Orleans will have faced since the win streak.
On the flip side, the Cavaliers have gotten 49.6% of their scoring from inside the paint over the last ten games, and in that stretch, the Pelicans are 10th in opponent paint scoring. With Cleveland running at the 3rd slowest pace in the league over the past ten games and both sides having the ability to limit interior scoring, I like this game to go under.